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INtelligent Direct: The Rules of Email Engagement

For anyone sending “eBlasts” on a marketing automation (MA) platform, listen up! You’re in for a world of frustration and deliverability woes. Why? Because marketing automation platforms, although technically capable, are not designed to batch and blast. They are not designed to replace your email service provider (ESP). There … I said it.

For years, I’ve been speaking and doing webinars on how to queue your organization up to migrate marketing communications from an ESP to a marketing automation platform. In a perfect world, all of your subscribers, members or constituents are engaged with your brand. They’re engaged with all communications you send, they don’t hit the spam complaint button and they don’t unsubscribe. But this isn’t a perfect world. It’s messy, and for those of us who do deliverability consulting to help marketers get their message received, it’s getting messier every day.

You still need both an ESP and an MA platform.

Why?

Most ESPs leave it up to the sender to remember to deploy regular re-engagement campaigns and then suppress non-engaged subscribers in Q3 to prepare for the Q4 curse. Q4 is when ISPs factor in more restrictive engagement metrics to their delivery algorithm. The reality is, most senders do NOT suppress their non-engaged subscribers.

A year ago, I did a study with association marketers, big associations whose members pay to receive their emails as a part of their membership benefits. Remember, their members pay for emails. Of all recipients of emails, you would think that this audience would be the MOST engaged. But as it turns out, even with an audience that should be the most engaged, we’re still seeing deliverability issues like list-hygiene and low engagement. Now, keep in mind that when people renew their membership, typically each year, you have the opportunity to update your information. Even then:

  • 12.6% of all lists on average are made up of invalid/undeliverable email addresses. This is a list hygiene issue.
  • 72.6% of the subscribers haven’t engaged (opened/clicked) on any email in 6 months or more. This is an engagement issue.
  • 58.6% of the subscribers haven’t engaged on any email in 1 year or more. This is a staggering, jaw-dropping, engagement issue. Over half!

Deliverability Differences Between ESP and MA Platforms

ESPs will attempt delivery of an email as long as:

  • The subscribers aren’t on the opt-out/unsubscribe list.
  • The subscriber’s email address isn’t flagged as invalid/undeliverable due to a hard bounce or consecutive soft bounces.
  • You include a way for a subscriber to opt out, which is the CAN SPAM compliance piece.

MA platforms will attempt delivery of an email as long as:

  • The contact being added is not on a third-party list the MA platform uses to verify overall list quality, invalid email addresses and/or email addresses that are known to be purchased email addresses.
  • There is both domain key identified mail (DKIM) and sender policy framework (SPF) authentication between the sender email domain and the MA platform sending email on behalf of the domain.
  • The subscribers aren’t on the opt-out/unsubscribe list.
  • The subscriber’s email address isn’t flagged as invalid/undeliverable due to a hard bounce or consecutive soft bounces.
  • You include a way for a subscriber to opt out, which is the CAN SPAM compliance piece.
  • The engagement or lead score on a contact is within an acceptable range and not below a threshold if engagement-based suppression is forced by the platform.

Rules of Engagement Key Takeaways

  • If you are doing more batch and blast campaigns than automating emails when certain marketing criteria are met, don’t give up your ESP.
  • Although it is always deliverability best practice to suppress non-engaged subscribers beyond 180 days or 6 months from any email deployments, regardless of the platform sending it, if you want to be in control of who the platform does or does not attempt delivery to when it comes to engagement, don’t give up your ESP.
  • If you only send automated communications to your subscribers, members or constituents when criteria are met, you have phenomenal open/click rates, you already suppress non-engaged anyway, no one unsubscribes, no one complains, you are a unicorn, you can safely use a marketing automation platform and dump your ESP. I also want to feed you cotton candy and throw glitter while I do a case study on you. Call me.

Jenny Lassi • August 2, 2018


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