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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Contrary to popular belief, BtoB email marketers face deliverability hurdles every bit as challenging as their BtoC counterparts. In addition to getting through filters at major inbox providers, BtoB messages must also make it past thousands of corporate domains, anti-spam firewalls and blacklists. Here are five tips for improving your deliverability.

1. Don’t Forget the Basics

Despite the unique challenges BtoB marketers face, the basics of responsible email marketing still apply. As a marketer, you still want to adhere to basic principles that help to ensure that your email is not mistaken for spam. As with BtoC senders, BtoB marketers should take care to follow these basic rules:

  • Establish a regular send schedule; most companies experience employee turnover, and bad email addresses are common, so weed them out regularly.
  • Ensure email creative and content don’t contain spam-like features (i.e. large images, non-typical fonts, FREE! FREE! FREE!, etc.).
  • Make use of your brand name; recipients are far more likely to open messages from a well-known and trusted source, even if it winds up in the junk folder.
  • Regularly test your renderability; complicated designs or graphics-intensive messages can look different from email client to email client.

2. Authentication Helps with Validation

Authentication allows ISPs and network operators to verify the origin of your message. Authentication is an important step in reputation management and getting white listed. There are several authentication standards:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF) publishes the mail servers allowed to send mail on your behalf. ISPs and administrators use this information to validate the incoming message, comparing it to your authorized list.
  • Sender ID also verifies the origin of an incoming message, comparing its Internet domain to the IP addresses you've entered into the Domain Name System (DNS).
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) uses digital signatures to authenticate the sender, allowing you to add what amounts to a "digital fingerprint" to the messages you send.

3. Don’t Get Blacklisted

Blacklists contain IP addresses suspected of sending spam. These lists, some compiled by ISPs, some maintained privately, are used to create filters that help block unsolicited mail. There are three steps you can take to reduce the odds of being blacklisted.

  • Make opting-out easy.
  • Send recipients only what they asked to receive.
  • Keep a clean list to avoid sending to a non-existent address or to someone who has opted-out.

4. Do Get White Listed

White listing provides an ISP or email provider a way to distinguish senders who strictly adhere to email best practices from those who have good, average or bad sending reputations. Marketers must meet rigorous requirements for getting white listed and have established a good history as a sender. In addition, you must apply for white listing status on an ISP-by-ISP basis. Therefore keeping that positive send history becomes crucial for maintaining your white listed status with one ISP and being considered for white listing with another. These three steps will help you get started.
  • Determine which ISPs or corporations you regularly send to use white lists and what criteria they use.
  • Build a good send reputation on your IP address before asking to be included on a white list.
  • Convince the ISP or inbox provider that your positive send history and adherence to best practices are in line with its white listing requirements.

5. Enlist the Help of a Professional

Deliverability professionals can help ensure your messages reach your intended recipients. Most major email service providers employ deliverability experts. You can also work with companies like Pivotal Veracity or Return Path, which can audit your messages to identify specific deliverability issues and recommend appropriate solutions. Common causes for messages not reaching the inbox include:
  • Renderability issues
  • Coding errors
  • High proportion of graphics-to-text ratios
Be sure to evaluate all of your email marketing factors before your next campaign. Focus on the basics, think aboug authentication, get white listed, avoid the backlist, and consider using a professional service provider to help your email get through. Also, keep in mind that white hat techniques play out - avoid shady practices and you will succeed!

About the Author

Silverpop is a leading provider of permission-based email marketing solutions, strategy and services. Silverpop offers sophisticated and powerful solutions tailored to each client's unique needs. Backed by the strongest commitment to client success in the industry, a dedicated client services team, unrivaled expertise in email marketing best practices, and the best people and technology, Silverpop is your partner for email marketing success.


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