Let the Phone Gather Dust; Brush off the Spreadsheet Instead

Posted by Stephanie Miller 

“What’s all the fuss about?” A marketer asked me the other day during an industry event. When you generally follow best practices for deliverability, she said, you usually can get into the inbox. Then, if a big block does occur, you just call Return Path to get it lifted. “There is enough wiggle room, right?”

Um, no. Not really.

Our smart client Nathan Murphy at Classmates.com got it right when he said the other day, “If I do my job well, I should never be in the position of having to contact an ISP because of a delivery problem. I feel that some people in the industry view email delivery as a reactive role and not preventative.”

Can Return Path get blocks lifted for our clients because we know their practices and program integrity and feel comfortable representing them? Sure. Once. Maybe twice. But not repeatedly. If the practices that caused the block are not changed or corrected, then no one can convince the email receivers or the anti-spam community that your practices are sound.

We’ve found that those “pesky” complaints (recorded when a subscriber clicks the “This is Spam” button) are actually a great source of feedback data. Scour them for clues around the type of subscriber (demographics, time on the list, activity, customer status) as well as source and type of message. Then, adjust your program to correct any practices that drive disproportionate complaints. Do the same analysis on what drives response. Do more of this!

Sometimes hard business decisions are required. We must balance complaints against response because sometimes the same message scores high on both measurements. Recently, one of our clients found that the best performing promotions (generating the highest revenue) also drove the most complaints. So we tested the timing of that promotion, sent it to only those subscribers who were active clickers, and also made the link to the preference center more prominent. We were able to boost response slightly, but more importantly found that complaints dropped below the ISP threshold.

There is no grand secret to great email marketing. It really is all about the subscriber. When we send relevant, interesting and engaging messages — we reach the inbox and drive more revenue, too. It’s hard to think about doing something different when so many of us are sprinting each week just to get the messages out the door. Our experience shows that even a little bit of data analysis will be well worth the effort. Let me know if we can help or if you’d like to brainstorm on where to start.

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