Managing the Demand of Sending to Risky Email Subscribers
Nearly everyone involved in email marketing can say that they’ve deployed a campaign to a list of subscribers they probably shouldn’t have. This includes sending to unengaged subscribers, maximizing the use of the database, or purchasing a third-party list. And it’s not that email marketers don’t know what's risky and what isn’t. The sending of such campaigns is typically driven by internal demand or pressure from a key stakeholder in the company. Regardless of the reason, it happens and is a decision that should be executed with complete caution. Below are some recommendations to follow when cornered into a risky situation.
Use a List Validation Service
Run risky email addresses through a list validation tool, where at the very least it can be scrubbed of invalid accounts. The results will give better insight into the quality of the list or segment.
Have the Right Metrics
Ensure you have access to all the metrics — internally and externally — needed to properly analyze the results of the upcoming campaign deployed to the risky list of email addresses.
- Opens/clicks: Just about all senders have access to this, just be sure you're able to analyze the specific risky segments being added.
- Inbox placement rates: Just as important as read rates, keep track of the opportunities subscribers are having to even see the message in their inbox.
- Spam traps: Sending to older addresses will almost certainly increase your spam trap count as some of those accounts have not become completely inactive.
- Spam complaints: People who haven’t received an email from your brand in a long time are more likely to classify your messages as spam.
- Bounces: Be ready to analyze bounces and differentiate whether they're unknown user bounces or blocks by email service providers.
- Deployment time: Stay on top of how long it typically takes to deploy a message. One of the early signs of a delivery problem is throttling by mailbox providers.
- Blacklists: Be able to check whether your IPs/domains are on any blacklists.
View Historical Data
Review metrics above for all previous dates where a similar segment was included in a deployment. Accessing the right data from a previous attempt can help set clearer expectations on the current effort. Look at the date in question, and the effect it had on subsequent mailings.
Educate Decision Makers
Educate your management and co-workers on what the common best practices are, how mailbox providers filter out spam, and the repercussions for sending to a bad list.
Put thought into the content of the message. Show an understanding of the situation by including clear language about how the communication may come as a surprise to the subscriber. Sending a typical marketing message will not yield good results as your subscribers might think it will be the first of many.
Space Out the Risk
Throttle risky subscriber segments as much as possible. Minimizing the daily volume of high-risk subscribers can help alleviate the impact it has to your sender reputation and typical email volume.
Create a More Prominent Unsubscribe Option
Consider a clear opt-out (or opt-in) button as the main focus of the message. Otherwise, a prominent unsubscribe link at the top right of the content might be enough. The goal is to minimize spam complaints since unsubscribes aren't tracked by providers as a negative metric.
All of the recommendations above can help alleviate some of the damage in deploying email to a risky or outdated subscriber list. However, they're not a surefire solution to making the practice safe. Typically, there are some kind of negative consequences in executing such a practice. Results can range from a few negative subscriber signals increasing to blocklisting of your IP address or domain at mailbox providers or spam filtering networks. Because of the risk, email marketers should continuously practice list hygiene and focus on keeping subscribers engaged. In a perfect world, email marketers would avoid this risk entirely, but unfortunately that’s not always realistic. Follow the steps above to give yourself a fighting chance in hopes that it will lead to better decisions and risk management in the future.
Henry Gutierrez is senior email strategist at Return Path (a Validity company), an email deliverability expert that helps marketers drive revenue through email.
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Henry Gutierrez is senior email strategist at Return Path, an email deliverability expert that helps marketers drive revenue through email.
Through different roles in the industry, Henry Gutierrez has 12-plus years of email expertise combating spam, enforcing compliance, and maximizing email delivery. His current position as Senior Email Strategist for Return Path allows him to leverage his strengths in data analytics and communication. Across several verticals, Henry has helped clients digest actionable recommendations to maximize their email program’s ROI.