First, Shoot All The ESP’s…

Becky Tesh asks “I’m hoping you can help.  E-mail is a huge part of our success online and this year our results are tanking.  (We’re over thirty percent down on e-mails but up on SEO/SEM sales.)   Our opens are down…  our clickthroughs are down…  and it keeps getting worse.  What can I do?  Our provider says that our deliverability is 98.5% and that it’s not their fault.  He recommends we do a survey but my boss is not in favor of sending out additional e-mails that don’t make money at this point.  We’ve tried every creative thing we can think of – there must be something else we can do…  Otherwise, I am going to need to cut at least one person from my department.”

Look, I don’t care what your ESP says or how good they are, they don’t have 98.5% deliverability.  It’s kind of like delivering mail to the ghetto.   As Chris Rock says, “I’m sure the postmen do a phenomenal job but some sh*t gets lost and some sh*t gets stolen.”

If bills and Verizon rebate cards can vanish into thin air IRL just imagine what happens in cyberspace.

Yowza.

So, what do you do?  If you’ve tried playing with timing, format, subject line, and all the other “creative stuff”, you should consider sending a percentage of your names to an ECOA (email change of address) provider like Fresh Address.  I’m blown away by how much these type of services have improved over the past couple years (although Fresh Address has always been good.)    If your file is huge, you don’t need to send it all, just the percentage of it that will give you an indication of what’s going on.  (Please, I beg of you, start with the good names.  Your 2010 buyers are way more important than 1972 inquiries.)

Second, and yes, I must say this, MONITOR DELIVERABILITY AND SEED YOUR FLIPPING LIST.  Either use a service that helps you with this kind of stuff (Return Path is one of my favorites) or do it yourself.  It shocks me how many companies do not do this.   Catalogers and direct mailers are especially notorious for not seeding their lists, something they’d never NOT do in the real world.  Again, you can buy a service or if you don’t have any money, set up one on your own. 

Get addresses at Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, and anywhere else that’s appropriate for you. 

Assign each box a read or not-read status.  For example, if you are going to get eight boxes at Gmail, four of them you should never read (do NOT even open them) and four of them you should.  This will give you a quick indication of what’s working.  (Yes, this can make a VERY BIG difference.)

After you’ve set up the boxes, look carefully at trends.  How long are your e-mails taking to arrive in the in-boxes?  What do your e-mails look like?  (In other words, are they being tagged with security warnings?)  Is the mailing being “delivered” to the SPAM folders? (Sadly, that does count as delivered for most providers.)  Some of the wackadoodle free services (especially the European ones) even deliver stuff directly to the trash can.  As if that’s helpful.

I spoke with a client recently who has been having trouble with Yahoo for about a year and they just now found out that their provider was not assigning domain keys.  (Yahoo requires them.)   Sadly, this ESP also shows over 94% “deliverablity” on average.

Becky – in your case, you are mailing to a lot of schools – it’s easier to get a date with the Pope than to  get e-mail delivered at some schools.  Consider calling some of the biggest schools on your list (where you have the most names) and asking them how you can best communicate with them.  A lot of times their tech guys will tell you EXACTLY what you need to do. (It often has to do with timing – meaning when you send them.)  Yes, the process is time consuming but it’s worth it.

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