Improving your e-mail delivery rates

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E-mail deliverability continues to plague business marketers. “E-Mail Marketer Insight” asked Dave Lewis, VP-alliances and market development at StrongMail Systems, an e-mail delivery software company, for advice on how b-to-b marketers can improve their success rates in delivering e-mail marketing messages.

In addition to his post at StrongMail, Lewis co-chairs the Email Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC) working group that is responsible for outreach to the receiver community and the evaluation of reputation systems.

BtoB: What should b-to-b e-mail marketers do in order to ensure deliverability and avoid being labeled as spam?

Dave Lewis: There are three critical areas to examine:

1. Results data. Start with your results. Look at your bounce rates—not just at the high-level blocked, hard or soft bounce—but at the level that actually tells you why your e-mail isn’t being delivered (blocked due to excess traffic, blacklist) and where it isn’t being delivered (specific domain). Examine open, click and complaint data this way, too. Your bounce and other data can be invaluable diagnostic tools in isolating and correcting practice deficiencies. If your current system or [e-mail] provider can’t offer this level of visibility, find one that does, because you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

2. Content relevancy. Relevancy is the current buzzword in e-mail marketing, but for b-to-b marketers, it’s essential. It’s hard to make a cogent argument that your e-mail should be exempt from the corporate filters if it isn’t relevant to the recipients. Think in terms of business relevancy. Many companies have blanket policies on blocking e-mail that isn’t. CAN SPAM applies to you, too; so be sure that you offer an opt-out and promptly honor all such requests.

3. Brand identity. Assuming that your e-mail is relevant and wanted, you’ll want to be sure that both recipients and domain administrators know it’s from you. Make certain that your brand is clearly identified in the “from address” and reinforced in a subject line that signals relevance and importance.

BtoB: What are the solutions currently available that can help e-mail marketers with delivery?

Lewis: There are now a variety of tools available in the marketplace. Companies such as StrongMail offer very granular reporting to help them proactively manage their lists and practices. Others such as Habeas, Pivotal Veracity and ReturnPath provide tools for scoring content against commonly used b-to-b spam filters and monitoring blacklists. Deliverability consulting, reputation checks, ISP remediation and “safe-listing” services are also available. The suitability of these products and services for individual b-to-b marketers depends on their volumes, criticality of mailings and severity of issues.

BtoB: What is the biggest challenge to getting companies to embrace sender accountability standards?

Lewis: The industry needs to do a better job of articulating the endgame and the benefits to all legitimate e-marketers. E-mail authentication is important, but authentication is a first step, not a destination. Coupled with reputation, the endgame is about restoring trust and reliability to the e-mail medium for legitimate communication and commerce, and the benefits that accrue to all legitimate marketers when that’s achieved.

Dave Lewis is VP-alliances and market development at StrongMail Systems (

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