Keeping your reputation clean in 2010

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Reputation is becoming increasingly important for marketers—especially in the e-mail world. This year, said James O’Brien, director of marketing with e-mail compliance company LashBack, there will be several “hot-button” issues when it comes to e-mail reputation. Marketers will need to manage them or face deliverability issues, he said. “If anything, the e-mail landscape will grow much more complex for b-to-b marketers since more corporations are using filtering technology and they are looking at more data points.”

Here are four reputation-related issues you may find yourself thinking about in 2010.

1) Your privacy policy: When someone subscribes to your e-mail program, you probably send them a copy of your privacy policy or direct them to it online. However, most marketers forget to notify subscribers when that policy changes, O’Brien said. This means your customers may not be on the same page as you are when it comes to how you use their data. “If you’ve collected a lot of data under a certain policy, how will it affect you if you’ve updated it and want to do a mailing based on your new policy?” he asked. Your best bet is to notify everyone on your list when you make any policy changes, he said.

2) The disposability of data: The longer it’s been since a customer or prospect has interacted with your e-mail messages, the more likely it is that the data associated with that person is worthless. A tough pill to swallow, yes, but marketers will need to understand this in order to maintain the integrity of their reputations, O’Brien said. “Positive interaction increases your reputation; but, if you’re constantly sending to addresses that aren’t interacting with you, the opposite is also true,” he said. “Positive user interaction will have the highest impact on deliverability. But tactics like adding old data around holiday time to boost Q4 numbers will backfire as bounce rates, complaints and ignoring will increase greatly from the older data.”

3) The increased importance of unsubscribes: Providing an unsubscribe option is mandated, but companies still are not doing everything they can to make it easy, and most still use an all-or-nothing approach. This may cause you to lose subscribers—or worse, garner spam complaints. There are several best practices to consider, O’Brien said. “Invest in a granular unsubscribe preference page, where a clear global opt-out is the prominent choice to comply with the law, but other options are apparent on the page, including choices for users to decrease frequency and opt out of only your commercial e-mail. Do not send opt-out confirmation e-mails and do not require a log-in for unsubscribing,” he explained.

4) The return of address book requests: A few years ago, companies asked e-mail subscribers to add them to their address books to ensure delivery. This strategy has fallen out of practice, but it’s still a smart one, O’Brien said, especially in the b-to-b world. “Teaching users to utilize some of the basic functions of e-mail platforms will grow in importance in 2010, as will ensuring, if you are a sender or receive, that you are requesting your sending domain to be safe-listed at the enterprise and user levels,” he said. “This can be accomplished through a call to your system administrator to add a key vendor to your own safe list or advising recipients of your e-mail to add your corporate ‘from’ line address to their address book and to their enterprise-level safe list as well.”

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