Campaigning season is off to a roaring start, and it seems as though someone steps up to the plate with a bid for the presidency almost every day. So as we all gear up for the TV ads, billboards, Facebook posts, debates and more, it is surprisingly clear that one of the latest candidates may have some troubles with her existing email list. Carly Fiorina -- a household name in Silicon Valley and the world of printer technology -- may be faced with some challenges as she preps her campaign and begins reaching out for donors using her existing email list.
CNN reported on her announcement and in the article quoted Marty Wilson, an executive VP at the California Chamber of Commerce, who managed Fiorina's 2010 Senate campaign. He said that one potential obstacle for Fiorina will be her efforts to build up a national donor base when she hasn't had to raise money for a political campaign since 2010: "She's a very talented candidate and connects well with voters. The problem is after 2010 she was no longer a candidate. So mail lists and email lists tend to atrophy when they're not in use."
So here are a few tips for Ms. Fiorina -- and anyone else preparing an email campaign -- as she preps her platform, prepares her messaging and heads out onto the email campaign trail.
1. Clean up your existing email list
Mr. Wilson was right when he said that email lists tend to atrophy when they're not in use. So the smartest thing that Ms. Fiorina can do first and foremost is to use her connections in the world of technology to ensure that her email list is as clean as can be.
Keeping her list clean and updated is one of the most effective ways to reduce spam complaints and maintain a favorable reputation. Removing dormant or unengaged users before they hit the "report spam" button is important. While the time frame to purge dormant email addresses differs from organization to organization, it's important that all email marketers have a plan to remove inactive addresses the minute they determine inactivity.
2. Create the proper "bounce" infrastructure
Infrastructure is key here, so before Ms. Fiorina and her team hit the send button, it is important that her email infrastructure is set up properly.
She needs to make sure that her system receives and categorizes bounces properly. This will make certain that her team is capturing and appropriately acting on the bounces in the right way. There are several types of bounced messages (unknown users, mailbox full, policy block, network congestion, etc.). Each of these should be acted on differently. Some should be retried; some should be scrubbed from the list and others tested a few times before being removed. Of the utmost importance, remove unknown user bounces immediately to keep in high ranking with your ISP.
3. Get to know your sender reputation and keep it clean
Reputation is everything when it comes to running for president, and if this campaign is anything like those in the past, reputations will be challenged. Sender reputation is also a key factor with ISPs, so keeping that reputation clean is just as important.
In the past, content was the driving force behind delivery. As technology improves, delivery filters focus both on sender reputation and content. The most important factor is percentage of complaints-to-send volume, but on top of that, ISP's look at total email volume sent, unknown user rate, reject rate and listings on third-party blacklists when evaluating email.
Ms. Fiorina and her team should pay careful attention to her sender score. The sender score is an indication of the trustworthiness of an email sender's IP address and is used by email providers and filters to determine additional email filtering criteria.
4. Be transparent when users opt in
The most important step Ms. Fiorina must take in order to ensure good delivery is to remember her constituents -- especially those she is looking to influence and draw onto her side. Targeting is key here, and making sure that the people Ms. Fiorina are mailing actually want to see her name in their inbox is the best way to ensure that possible voters engage with her messages and do not unsubscribe or complain about her practices.
Transparency upfront at the time a user opts in is key when working to engage and keep in good standing with potential voters. Remember, unlike other channels, the voters are in control here. With the click of the "report spam" button, the potential supporter -- who was once your friend -- can immediately shut down communication and have an adverse effect on your reputation. And in the race for the White House, reputation is everything.