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Email marketing is about building relationships with existing, known prospects and customers

Every internet service provider (ISP) now attributes a Sender Reputation value to any organisation that generates high volumes of email. The risk for businesses with low scores is that all their email will automatically be seen as spam, arriving, at best, in the recipient’s spam folder and, at worst, being discarded. A poor Sender Reputation, warns John Paterson, Chief Executive of Really Simple Systems, doesn’t just have an impact on brand perception; it can also result in non-delivery of all batch emails, including invoices, remittance advice and support updates.

John Paterson, Chief Executive of Really Simple Systems
John Paterson, Chief Executive of Really Simple Systems

Email marketing remains an incredibly important component of the overall marketing mix. Indeed, when email marketing can deliver an ROI of 4,300%, according to the Direct Marketing Association, ever more organisations of every size recognise the importance of effective email marketing campaigns.

Not all, however, understand the changing email marketing landscape.

Email marketing is no longer about blanket emails to 100s of 1,000s of unknown recipients in the hope of achieving 0.1% click-through. Today, email marketing is about building relationships with existing, known prospects and customers – individuals who have actively provided contact details in return for valuable offers or content.

With marketing focusing more resources on fewer individuals, it is critical to ensure that emails actually arrive in recipients’ inboxes. Yet this is becoming increasingly challenging given internet service providers’ fast evolving attitudes to spam and the creation of the Sender Reputation.

Reputation Risk
The Sender Reputation score, which ranges from 0 to 100, is based on bounce rate, the number of people that flag the email as spam and the number that unsubscribe. If a company sends out a badly considered email campaign that results in just a handful of people flagging the email as spam, the ISP will not only block the rest of that email campaign but also slash the Sender Reputation score.

The model is simple: with a good Sender Reputation your emails will be safely delivered to each recipient’s in-box.

With a bad reputation all subsequent batch email activity will be affected, resulting in not only marketing messages being blocked, but potentially an entire invoice mail-out, which could have a business-critical impact on cash flow.

Real Time Performance
With ISPs tracking recipient behaviour in real time, a Sender Reputation score can plummet in less than an hour if an email campaign is poorly received. So how can an organisation avoid a bad Sender Reputation?

The first step has to be to know and monitor performance continually and in real-time; without understanding the Sender Reputation value, it is impossible to understand just how well your email marketing campaign is being received.

It is also worth testing email content on a small subset of the customer base before embarking upon the full mail out, especially for any new content or company direction.

Actively manage each mail out and be prepared to pull a campaign immediately at any sign of a drop in Sender Reputation to avoid wider business impact – then work slowly and steadily with carefully managed activity to rebuild that value over the following few weeks.

Tailored and Targeted
It also important to improve radically the way email marketing campaigns are considered and managed. With the emphasis now on building relationships with known individuals, it is simply unacceptable to send unsolicited emails – to those on a purchased list, for example.

This activity is a fast track to spam notifications and ‘unsubscribes’ and a very low Sender Reputation.

In contrast, high click-through levels indicate that recipients are interested in the email content, which will boost the Sender Reputation score. It is therefore important to tailor both the content and frequency of any email marketing activity in line with your current relationship with the recipient.

An individual who has, for example, provided an email address in order to download a white paper from a web site may be happy to receive a monthly email with content related to that paper, but may unsubscribe if deluged with daily or even weekly emails.

In contrast, someone who has downloaded a white paper and watched a video is clearly more engaged with the company and more open to perhaps weekly email messages. Understanding the relationship and responding accordingly is now critical and demands a far more sophisticated approach to marketing messaging.

Email marketing has become increasingly important over the past few years but the introduction of the Sender Reputation is changing the game – and not just for marketers.

Organisations cannot simply create a new email message and hit send – the risks are now too high. The content and frequency of emails have to be predicated on the interest in the company already demonstrated by each recipient; the campaign must be proactively monitored; and organisations must set a clear minimum Sender Reputation value that cannot be passed to avoid any impact on other, business-critical email activity.

Marketing has become increasingly core to business development, yet how many organisations can afford to let marketing play fast and loose not only with their corporate reputation but also with essential business processes, such as invoicing? Proactively managing the Sender Reputation has become a fundamental aspect of any email marketing activity.

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