Is Your Reputation Putting Your Email Marketing At Risk?
Did you KNOW that you had an Email Reputation? How about the fact that 83% of the time, sender reputation is the cause of emails not being delivered (according to Return Path, experts in email deliverability solutions)?
If you answered no to either of these questions, then you need to keep reading. Your email marketing future may well depend on it.
Email marketers have, according to studies conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), reported consistent decline in return on investment from email campaigns for the years between 2005 and 2009. The most dramatic fall happened between 2006 and 2007, when ROI figures dropped over 20%, but slight decline continued into 2008 (Each dollar spent resulted in $45.06 in return, compared to $45.65 in 2007), a slightly larger drop into 2009 ($43.52 earned for each dollar spent), and there's no reason to believe that the trend won't continue.
While email marketing is still a very viable strategy (who wouldn't want 43 dollars and change back for evey dollar spent?), the consistent decline in ROI points to the fact that fewer emails are being opened by potential consumers.
The question is, "Why?"
The facts are that email users are becoming more and more selective in what emails they open. Additionally, service providers are becoming more and more energetic in their efforts to prevent unwanted email from arriving in their subscriber's inboxes. Combined, these two factors are resulting in the drop in ROI that email marketers are experiencing. Fewer marketing messages are actually getting to the prospects inbox, AND, fewer prospects are opening the ones that do.
This means that you, as an email marketer, need to be very aware of two important aspects of how your email is percieved:
- How does your email "look" to a prospect's spam filter (either on their own system or their service provider's), and
- How does your email "look" to the prospect themselves?
The question of how your email looks to the prospect is a topic for another discussion, so let's concentrate on how your email might fair against spam filtering.
If Your Email Was An Airline Passenger, Would It Make It Past Security Screening?
Whether your email survives filtering put in place by service providers and email recipients themselves is determined by not only the content of your emails, but also by your email reputation.
Email reputation is something that many marketers don't even consider. Many don't even know it exists. Regardless, if your email reputation falls to that of a spammer, your emails are in grave danger of being block by service providers before they even get to your prospects inbox.
The factors that determine your email reputation vary depending on the filtering criteria, but there are two primary areas to be considered.
First, what is your ISP reputation? In her book, "Web Copy That Sells, Second Edition", (ISBN-13:978-0-8144-1304-3), author Maria Veloso states that ISP reputation, "...is your track record with ISPs that monitor whether the emails you're sending are addressed to accurate, live email addresses, that there is a consistency in the From addresses and IP address(es), and that your e-mails are opened by and clicked on by recipients."
In other words, ISPs are monitoring to see whether or not YOU are paying attention to the quality of your email list and that you are not in the practice of having many different "personas" all sending email from the same IP address or addresses (which will usually be your autoresponder's mail service address or addresses). They're also checking to see whether your emails are being opened and interacted with by recipients, instead of getting quickly tossed into the trash.
The implied rules here are:
- Be consistent with who you claim to be when sending email from a particular source (i.e. single autoresponder service),
- keep your list clean (by employing double opt-in, for example), and
- provide value in your emails so that users will open them, read them, and access any attached or embedded content.
Big Brother IS watching, so it pays to pay attention.
The second factor to consider: What's your personal reputation with recipients? Again, Veloso states that recipient reputation, "...represents your track record with your e-mail recipients and incorporates such factors as including a readily identifiable sender in the From field, ensuring the appropriate frequency of e-mails, providing relevant content, sending only to people who opted in or subscribed, providing an easy way to unsubscribe, and honoring unsubscribe requests on a timely basis."
The clear message here is to respect your intended recipient's inbox. You can do this by:
- Ensuring that your From address is, as much as possible, identifiable to the recipient,
- making sure that your email messages contain benefit and value,
- being careful that the content is relevent to the subject or theme of the list you're sending it to,
- commit to never sending unsolicited email, and
- making absolutely certain that the procedure for opting out of your list is clearly stated and simple to accomplish.
With regards to people who choose to leave your list, it's important to realize that your reputation won't suffer if someone opts out of your list, however, it WILL if a subscriber can't easily do so. If opting out of your list takes much more effort than it would take to click the "Spam" button, then you're probably going to suffer for it far beyond the pain of losing a subscriber.
Your email reputation can be a make or break factor in your use of email as an effective marketing tool. To ensure that email continues to be a valuable resource, stay vigilant concerning your reputation and give your subsciber's what you promised when they signed up.
It's all about trust. Make sure you don't abuse the trust they've given you by agreeing to recieve your emails.