Email Marketing

B2B Email Deliverability: Your Reputation Matters

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B2B marketers struggling for growth in today’s economy know they need to get maximum results for their email marketing efforts, but too many do not understand the critical role deliverability plays in the process of turning prospects into revenue-driving customers. All the creativity and planning that goes into a targeted email marketing campaign is meaningless if your emails don’t reach their intended inboxes. Every undelivered email is a lost lead, and the money you spent to acquire that lead gets wasted.

In other words, email deliverability is critical to the success of your lead management programs. The world of email deliverability has changed quite a bit in the last few years. It’s no longer good enough just to avoid certain words in your copy. The technology used by your email service provider can play a big role in optimizing delivery, and the most important factor today is your email sending reputation.

Georgebilbreyreturnpath To learn more about email reputation, I posed the following questions to George Bilbrey, president of Return Path, the world’s leading email services company. (Disclosure: Marketo uses Return Path’s technology to monitor and manage our own reputation as well as that of our clients.)

What is the current state of deliverability for commercial email senders in the B2B space?

About 1 in 5 commercial emails do not make it into the inbox. Among our clients, that ranges from below 50% to close to 100%. The difference between the best delivery rates and the worst are the reputation of the sending mail server.

What is the economic impact of poor email deliverability?

In the simplest terms, whatever you hope to gain from your email marketing efforts (brand recognition, increased sales, client retention) is reduced by whatever percentage of email doesn’t make it to the inbox. But the impact can be worse. Imagine your salesperson has a great call with a prospect and then promises to send follow-up information by email. That email gets junked or blocked. Now the prospect thinks your salesperson is a flake. Or the client who thinks their account rep never returns email because it gets caught in their spam filter. Scenarios like these happen every day to businesses across the country and around the globe.

What’s the best way to maximize your email deliverability?

In one word: reputation. More than 80 percent of delivery problems today are caused by the sender’s email reputation. Senders with a good reputation get delivered. Senders with a poor reputation don’t. Simple as that.

What are the key elements to ensuring a good reputation?

First and foremost, keep your complaint rate low. If recipients mark your messages as spam that is going to lower your reputation substantially. Also, keep spam traps off your list. Our Reputation Benchmark Report found that servers that send to just one spam trap had deliverability rates 20 points lower than servers that don’t hit traps. We found the same for servers that have high unknown user rates, so keep your file clean. And definitely watch blacklists. We have found that even blacklists that aren’t used by ISPs or other receivers are important to monitor — not because they cause blocking but because they predict it. Permission is important, too, but it’s not a simple linear relationship (e.g., confirmed opt-in doesn’t automatically confer a good reputation). Permission influences complaints. Email recipients complain about email they don’t recognize. So, a confirmed opt-in process can be helpful, since recipients are less likely to mis-remember opting to receive your messages.

How can a company manage and improve its reputation?

Knowing what your reputation is today is the first step. We have set up a site where any sender can find out their Sender Score: www.senderscore.org. Your Sender Score is a number between 1 (bad) and 100 (good) that is a representation of your reputation based on the factors that ISPs and other large-volume receivers consider important. It works similar to a credit score. Having a high Sender Score doesn’t guarantee inbox delivery, but it strongly correlates to good deliverability.

Note: For more information on email deliverability and sender reputation issues, sign up for the Return Path blog at www.returnpath.net.