Dennis Dayman, Chief Privacy and Security Officer at Oracle Eloqua sat down with Brian Hansford from Heinz Marketing for a conversation on how to drive the best performance in email deliverability and customer engagement, while avoiding those dreaded spam traps.
Summary Intro: Email deliverability requires ongoing management and use of special tactics. The days of batch-and-blast email sends are over. Anyone using a marketing automation platform has a series of considerations to ensure sending the right messages to the right people, while avoiding spam traps and damage to company reputation.
Hansford: Can you give us an overview how you manage email deliverability at Oracle Eloqua?
Dennis Dayman: Eloqua’s Grande Guide to Email Privacy and Deliverability outlines what we do in practice, and what we recommend for our customers. The first two steps outline in the Grande Guide are really important areas of focus.
Step 1: Manage Your Reputation
- Know your Sender Score
- Authenticate your IP address
- Gain customer permission and control issues that cause complaints
Step 2: Manage Your Email Distribution Lists
- Validate List Sources
- Perform IP Warming when launching new campaign efforts
- Manage hard and soft bounces
- Segment active and inactive recipients
Hansford: What is your number 1 hot button area to focus on with email deliverability?
Dayman: List management.
Don’t think for the customer. Marketers should ever assume that subscribers or visitors will want new information or want you to share their information further than what they signed up for in the past or what you promised them. Give them control over their own information. When you do this, customers stay more loyal. Send what you promised to send and send when you promised to send. If you have a need to keep them informed of new information then do so through quarterly newsletter, surveys, or start monitoring their “Digital Body Language”
Holding on to large sums of dead/stale data or contact points. Too many marketers think that quantity over quality of a list is the way of thinking. They don’t realized that those sort of list can be causing issues for them. If more than half of that list is dead, blocking, or complaining then it’s impact delivery of the other half. Clients need to be willing to remove non-active clients to flip the model to quality over quantity in list management. At the same time, your metrics will be positioned more favorable to your processes.
ISPs punish senders with shoddy email lists. Avoid buying lists as they typically include spam traps, which are fake addresses used only to catch spam, and addresses of people who haven’t given permission to receive marketing messages. These people are more likely to complain and less likely to buy anything.
It can be time consuming, but you’re probably better off building a list of real customers and prospects who have agreed to receive email from you. When you ask customers for email addresses, have them specify the types of email they want to receive. If they agree to a newsletter but not marketing messages, honor the request — or risk dinging your reputation. Also consider segmenting your list by type of customer to make it easier to send relevant messages.
Hansford: Is your Sender Score important?
Dayman: Sender reputations are based on your behavior as an email sender and consider complaints, hard bounce rates, blacklistings, inactivity, volume consistency and unsubscribe capabilities, to name a few. Although marketers may use the term synonymously with “sender reputation,” sender reputation is a Return Path trademark. According to senderscore.org, sender reputation “measures a sender’s behavior and the impact those behaviors have on email recipients and the sender’s brand and email deliverability.”
A recent Return Path study shows that email sender reputation, and not content, is the major factor that determines whether your email reaches the inbox. Studies show that 83% of the time, sender reputation is the cause of filtering. Although mailbox providers use different standards to determine what triggers filtering, they all hinge on your email reputation. By compiling the same data for every email sender, and making it public for both senders and receivers, the playing field becomes more level. Think of it as a credit score for your email program. Everyone sees what the standards are, who is failing them, and what to do about it.
All scores are based on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is the worst, and 100 is the best possible score. A score represents that IP address’s rank as measured against other IP addresses, much like a percentile ranking.
Hansford: How often do you monitor your Sender Score?
Dayman: To be honest, you look at it before, during, and after any campaign. Before allows you to ensure that there are no current negative issues that you could be adding to it to make things worse. As the campaign is running, you should be review ALL stats like bounce and complaint rates and not JUST Sender Score to ensure there is nothing wrong with things like relevancy or list source. This way if you are seeing a huge drop in it you can pause the campaign and look at what could be causing the overall drop in score. Again, is it related to spam complains or spam traps. Each has a different source causing the issue. Your Sender Score will continue to change depending on your email sending habits and the responses of your recipients.
Hansford: What are the most important tools you use in Eloqua to help make decisions on improving deliverability ?
- Generate reports that provide insight into bounces, complaints, and unsubscribes.
- Keep bounce rates under 3%. Monitor bounces by contact list, by email/email batch/email group and by those sent by automated email systems.
- Keep complaints under 0.01% by monitoring spam unsubscribes (i.e., contacts that reported your email as spam).
- Keep unsubscription rates below 1% by monitoring unsubscribe trends:
- How does this email campaign’s unsubscribe rate trend against average performance? If there is a variance, pinpoint how this email differed from others in terms of list quality, content, etc.
- Is my unsubscribe rate trending upward? If so, investigate a possible frequency or relevancy problem.
Look at the inactivity reports. If you’re not tracking who is active and inactive in your database, you’ll keep sending emails to people who don’t engage and your metrics will get skewed, making it hard to understand the effectiveness of your communications. After all, the more you know about your prospects, the better you will be at sending targeted, relevant emails. Again, re-engage inactive contacts by confirming subscription status one or two times per year.
Hansford: How do you look for Spam Traps and ensure they are removed?
Dayman: Watch the “Digital Body Language” of your subscribers—how they are engaging, or not engaging, with your emails. But by tracking not just spam complaint rates but also open rates and clickthrough rates over time and by campaign, you can gauge when your emails are losing relevancy for your audience. Also, ensure that your running inactivity filters on your list to see just who is interested in you brand. See if people are clicking AND converting to your website for information by combining your activity metrics of email and website. Spamtraps aren’t likely to convert like that.
Also, it goes without saying, but don’t buy list and confirm email address by foxing people to type it in twice on the form and send them a welcome email confirming the email address is valid. If not one clicks on the welcome email, then do NOT put that assets into the main database until they do. Even if you have to send a second confirmation to them. If your giving a free PDF away when someone is giving up their contact intonation, don’t give it to them on the submit of the information. Send a Personalized URL (PURL) so that you can track the click and confirm the email address is valid. Lots of people give fake email address for free information.
Ensuring that your content is relevant to subscribers and is in line with their expectations is the easiest and most effective way to minimize spam complaints. Granted, continually tracking engagement and tweaking content is more difficult than the “set it and forget it” mindset of some email marketers, but it pays off, not just in improved deliverability but in improved response as well.
Hansford: What are your Top 3 recommendations for managing deliverability in 2014?
- Prioritize quality over quantity with email lists.
- Segment consumers wants based on their digital body language to reduce deliverability complaints. Basically send each customer they own personal email based on their interactions with your brand.
- Dedicate time for careful analysis of campaign results, metrics.
Hansford: Any other important advice you want to share with the community?
Dayman: Again, biggest thing is looking at subscribers as a person and not a number. Think quality over quantity when it comes to list management. List quality and content relevance are critical. Companies must look at their prospect lists on a regular basis to ensure e-mail addresses are current and relevant, and should segment their lists so targets receive only the type and frequency of e-mails they specified. A simple quarterly reminder of what they requested with offers for additional types of e-mails is fine. But by not adhering to prospects’ requests, companies jeopardize their reputation and may end up in the junk mail folder because of complaints.
When marketers should pay close attention to prospects’ “digital body language,” or the way they interact with the company. By looking at signals such as whether a person has visited the Web site, requested a phone call or information, downloaded materials or attended a webinar, marketers can make better decisions about how best to market to these individuals and what e-mail offers to make.
Poor quality data is the biggest barrier to effective email marketing, according to the new Econsultancy/Adestra Email Marketing Census 2013. Half (50%) of respondents stated that the quality of their email database caused problems with their email campaigns, meaning that it has been the most common barrier for three years running. A further 43% cited a lack of strategy as a key problem, followed by lack of time (41%) and poor segmentation (39%).