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Legitimate marketing messages may end up being tagged as spam, says ESPC

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Your valid messages may end up flagged as spam more often than you think, according to a recent survey conducted by the Email Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC).

According to the survey, which was conducted online and completed by more than 2,200 respondents, if people don’t recognize a sender, they may just report a message as spam—79% of respondents said that’s what prompted them in the past to hit the spam button. And some 20% are using Report as Spam buttons as a way to unsubscribe from messages and newsletters that they know they’ve signed up for.

The survey also illustrates that people are much more sophisticated when it comes to e-mail than they’ve been before. The majority of those surveyed (73%) said they’ve used e-mail for five years or more, and more than 80% check their messages at least once each day. Eighty percent deletes messages without ever opening them up. If they don’t like the subject line or don’t know the sender, their message is gone.

“People are savvy about the way they use and manage their e-mail,” said Trevor Hughes, executive director of ESPC. “We are all tyrannical editors of our in-boxes; we go through and weed out with speed and great ease. This is a shot across the bow for marketers.”

You can use this information to boost your open rate, Hughes said. For example, 53% of responders said that they would be more likely to open a message if it bore a trust mark, while 35% said they weren’t sure one way or the other. The take-away, Hughes said, is that e-mail recipients are looking for people to help them make decisions about whom they should trust. “If you’re a marketer—especially one who sends sensitive messages such as legal or financial-related messages—you may want to consider engaging one of the few seal-type services out there,” he said.

One of the easiest options is simply putting your messages through the same procedures they would pass through if they were to come into your mail server, said Dave Lewis, co-chairman of ESPC’s receiver relations committee.

“Every company out there is a sender and a receiver of mail. It’s important for everyone to look and see what filters are being used by your own company and make sure your messages will pass muster there,” said Lewis, who is also VP at StrongMail. “You have to own the issues personally.”

One final suggestion: Hughes said it’s crucial for marketers to be communicating with e-mail software and services vendors, requesting they add unsubscribe functionality to their offerings.

“The survey shows that 90% of respondents would appreciate and use an ‘unsubscribe’ button if it was available, and 80% would use a ‘report as fraud’ button,” he said. “That’s as strong of a call that we could have expected. This speaks to the desire to have more sophisticated tools. B-to-b marketers need to engage companies to standardize these general buttons.”

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