Good Hygiene Keeps ISPs From Calling You a Stinker
Considering the number of professional relationships that must be developed to realize a decent ROI from your e-mail campaign, your relationship with your Internet service provider (ISP) may not be your top priority. Just send e-mail campaigns and wait for the results, right?
Wrong, say industry insiders. Your relationship with your ISP could, and often will, make or break your campaign. It’s the critical difference between having your e-mails end up in your intended customers’ inboxes, or having them bounced back to you as undeliverable.
“Hygiene has to be your number one priority, bar none,” says Jay Schwedelson, corporate vice president of Worldata, a list and interactive marketing company based in Boca Raton, Fla. Schwedelson jokes that your list hygiene is equally as important as your personal hygiene, and just as noticeable to others when you don’t pay attention to it.
“You have to have a very clean e-mail list,” he says. “Without a thoroughly purged and cleaned list, you’re better off not launching the campaign at all. Let’s say you send out e-mails to 100,000 people. Your ISP has to work to inform you of every name that comes up as undeliverable. Get enough of those names, and it sends up red flags with your ISP. Now, once your ISP has informed you of those undeliverables, and you send out another mailing next month with those same names, you’re going to have a problem.”
Schwedelson says that ISPs usually make several attempts to deliver e-mail, and high numbers of undeliverables puts a strain on their infrastructures. Once you’ve been flagged as having bad e-mail lists, you could land your company on an ISP’s blacklist for a long, long time.
“ISPs are not the most forgiving folks when they feel you’re either deliberately or incompetently wasting their time,” he warns. “They figure if you don’t care, why should they? When that happens, say goodbye to your good reputation.”
The key, Schwedelson offers, is to process and flag each undeliverable e-mail address you get back from your ISP, so that it never sees those same addresses again. Also, double check your lists for “spam traps”—those addresses with no real recipient, like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Sometimes, he explains, your competitors will opt in to your e-mail list and sign themselves up as spam traps just to throw a monkey wrench into your e-mail campaigns.
Another important factor, says Schwedelson, is to establish a personal relationship with your ISP team.
“Call them and talk to them,” he says. “Let them know that you’re a real person trying to provide a decent product or service. Tell them to inform you of problems and [that] you’ll take care of it right away; then, do just that. Often, just taking the time to establish a personal, friendly relationship with your ISP will go a long way toward keeping you on their whitelist. They’re also more likely to call and talk to you when something goes bad, or your list has problems, rather than just dismiss you out of hand as a bad client.”
When shopping for an ISP, ask for its acceptable use practice, or AUP, up front, and read it carefully. It’s the series of standards and compliance that your ISP demands, as well as any other procedures it expects you to follow.
“Every large campaign will have at least one or two opt-outs, or even complaints,” Schwedelson says. “It’s just part of the channel. But establishing and maintaining a good reputation with your ISP will result in better lists, fewer complaints and, ultimately, maximum ROI from your e-mail campaign.”