You Go Ken: The Deliverability Myth that ESPs Perpetuate at Their Peril

Posted by Matt Blumberg 

Matt Blumberg
By Matt Blumberg
CEO & Chairman

This week Ken Magill has a great column about the myth that ESPs control deliverability. He’s been on this topic for a few weeks now, and this particular column was inspired by a call he got from an ESP sales representative.

The point he makes, which we make a lot, is that deliverability is controlled by the marketer – by the actions the client company takes in relation to the email program. These actions include data collection, data hygiene, frequency and relevance. He makes a great analogy by saying that “… an ESP touting high deliverability rates is somewhat akin to touting high response rates.” Now let’s be clear about something. Many ESPs do help their clients with response through their Strategic Services departments. But it’s pretty well understood by clients that that kind of help is separate from the ESP technology and is a separately paid-for service. ESPs generally don’t just say, “hey, our average open rate are higher than industry averages” as if the technology itself were incurring some magical response effect.

I think that service providers actually do themselves a disservice when they hang their hat on deliverability. Because most of the levers are out of their hands, they set up impossible expectations for clients who will only be unhappy to hear that there is no magic solution to getting to the inbox. ESPs absolutely should celebrate the many things they do that can help with inbox placement rates (IPR) – working with a deliverability monitoring company to track campaigns accurately, firing clients who spam, keeping up-to-date with infrastructure requirements and authentication protocols. But overemphasizing their delivery rates is only going to create un-meetable client expectations leading to churn as clients hop from ESP to ESP hoping for a quick fix.

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About Matt Blumberg

Matt Blumberg founded Return Path in 1999 because he believed the world needed email to work better. Matt is passionate about enhancing the online relationship between email subscribers and marketers so that both sides of the equation benefit. It is with great pride that he has watched this initial creation grow to a company of more than 400 employees with the market leading brand, innovative products, and the email industry’s most renowned experts. Before Return Path, Matt ran marketing, product management, and the internet group for MovieFone, Inc. (later acquired by AOL). Prior to that he served as an associate with private equity firm General Atlantic Partners and was a consultant with Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. from Princeton University. You can learn much more about Matt by reading his email marketing and entrepreneurship blog Only Once – one of the first CEO blogs on the Internet. Last year he wrote a book, Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business.

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