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Email deliverability: How marketers can escape the new subscriber booby trap

Signing up new email subscribers can be heaven — or hell — for marketers. The heaven part is obvious: a new subscriber equals a new opportunity to build a lasting relationship with a customer. So what's the dark downside? The prospect of landing in spam purgatory.

Here are the risks marketers face with every new subscriber: the email address provided may not actually be valid, for a host of reasons. A non-working email address here and there may not be such a big deal. But things get problematic fast when there are a lot of them — or marketers begin to barrage a dormant email address with too many messages. Internet Service Providers don't like this, and will re-direct all emails from a single marketer into every recipient's spam folder. Worse, they will blacklist a marketer from sending any messages at all.

Verification, vigilance and volume control

There are many possible explanations for why a new subscriber email may be invalid. The address given can be a spam trap set up by ISPs to thwart dubious email senders. Sometimes consumers will create an online account with a brand using an email address they abandoned long ago. Or, they may have entered their email address wrong. Lastly, email address churn averages up to 30 percent a year, meaning a good chunk of every brand's email subscriber list becomes obsolete within a year.

Now for some good news: In our new eBook titled, New School Marketer's Guide to Email Deliverability, Responsys experts reveal precautionary measures that email marketers can take to avoid the pitfalls of false email addresses:

1. Require email address two-field verification

When signing up new subscribers online, the solution is simple: require customers to fill out their email twice during the sign-up process. This greatly reduces the likelihood that common typos will inadvertently trigger email spam traps or raise your hard bounce rates.

2. Avoid incentivizing sales associates to collect emails

A particularly acute problem for retailers collecting email addresses is the in-store sign-up process. Retailers that reward sales associates for collecting email addresses at the point-of-sale run the risk of acquiring a low quality of email addresses entered. Often, sales associates misunderstand the customers and end up taking down incorrect email addresses that can trigger spam traps.

3. Be on the look out for long-term inactive addresses

Even a newly registered email address can be a long-term inactive email account. People can and will signup for your email using an old email address they no longer actively monitor. These addresses may have been turned into spam traps by the time you first send email to them.

Before emailing to addresses for the first time, perform a list hygiene cleanse with the help of an email address validation vendor, such as LeadSpend or Fresh Address. These vendors have proprietary list audit technology, which helps reduce bounce rates by flagging invalid email addresses. These vendors also flag bogus and malicious email addresses, as well as some spam trap and honeypot addresses.

4. Set clear expectations with a welcome campaign

Asking for permission and setting expectations are critical. After a customer has subscribed, be candid about what he or she can expect from the new email relationship. A welcome program that clearly communicates what kinds of messages the subscriber will receive and the frequency of them lowers the risk that the customer will label a message as spam.

5. Send out welcome emails gradually 

The risk of triggering spam filters is compounded when there is a backlog of new signups to email. If your welcome messages are not going out every day, resulting in a significant backlog, spread out sending your welcome emails to these new addresses over days or weeks, keeping a low volume of welcome messages each day relative to your regular email volume. This will help minimize any negative impact to your sender reputation and delivery rates.

For more tips on successful email deliverability, download the eBook, The New School Marketer's Guide to Email Deliverability.

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