Dead Letters

Brad Cannon | 09/10/2018



So, last month we talked about how email has a reputation. If you missed it, I HIGHLY recommend either finding last month’s paper copy, or going online to our site (Click the Marketing Best Practices navigation) and reading it. It’s important.


This time around, I’d like to talk about an element of that email reputation that nobody ever seems to talk about, but plays a big part of how your email is perceived by internet service providers and can impact your deliverability with them.


I’m talking about list quality.  In the Sharp Shooter end of the world, we have guidelines for mail files that we use to ensure the highest level of deliverability for our clients. We run those files through an extremely rigorous process to weed out addresses that are anything less than the most accurate.


That’s what internet service providers want you to do with your email addresses as well.


If you remember from my example last month, traffic on the information superhighway is pretty congested with email traffic, most of which (spam) is just out there getting in everyone’s way. To keep with the analogy, the service providers would like to make sure we’re all doing our due diligence to make sure those cars are taken to the junkyard, and/or never leave the garage to make a mess of the roads by slowing down legitimate traffic.


How do we do that? 


First and foremost (and it should go without saying) never buy a list to use. Just don’t. There are more reasons not to do that than I have space to list.


Always harvest your own list from your own marketing efforts – and best of all – from your parts/service/sales department. 


This is the foundation. This means you’ll get good a good list that contains people who want to receive your communication.


That said, email addresses are in many ways the same as mailing addresses. They change. Sometimes, a lot.


In the physical mail world, we’ve got an advantage. The National Change Of Address registry can tell you that someone moved or died and that you shouldn’t send to that address and expect to get a response. It’s a bad address. It might have been good in the past, but not anymore. If the individual is on the right side of the dirt, you get back a corrected current address. Good stuff.


The world of email isn’t as cut and dried, unfortunately, there is no email address database to run folks through. This means that if you don’t know any better, you can keep sending emails to people who will never see them – cluttering up the highway unnecessarily all along the way.


Just like people move from one place to another in the real world, the same thing happens in the world of email as well. People change from Comcast to AT&T, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail (hahaha) or some other provider all the time, leaving behind inaccessible, unattended email accounts that may not stop getting emails for a very long time.


Email addresses are incredibly easy to get too, and a normal practice for some folks is to have a “junk” email address. I’ll bet most of the folks reading this have at least one. You know what I’m talking about, an email address you give out when you have to provide one for something/someone and you have absolutely no intention of ever reading what they might send, and you don’t want their crap to clutter up your real inbox.


In an effort to improve “highway conditions” providers have begun to pay special attention to emails that get sent and never get opened, and have drawn two basic conclusions from senders who keep sending them.


First, they use their own algorithms based on percentages, frequency and other factors and decide based on the results whether you are likely a spammer. If things don’t add up, your mail doesn’t go through, and your domain and IP address get put on blacklists and deliverability goes through the floor. It’s like the postman gets a tray of mail, looks at the “from” address and says, “These guys aren’t legit,” and just throws the tray in the dumpster. And he doesn’t go back to the sender to tell him what he did. After all, it doesn’t make sense to notify a spammer that you’re on to him. Better to just quietly get rid of his mail. In our business, that doesn’t really happen, although it did once for a dealer we worked with who bought an enormous email list and tried to use it. After a big hassle, we got him taken care of, and lessons were learned.


If service providers determine that you’re not a spammer, but you still have a list with lots of “never opens” they assume that your list is of poor quality due to a lack of attention on your part. Sloppy housekeeping, for lack of a better way to say it. While you may not get blacklisted, your mail could be subject to greater scrutiny, and deliverability impacted. 


Long story short, you can’t just keep sending emails to mailboxes that never open them. It’s a poor reflection of you as a sender, and can potentially create problems for you with deliverability. If you’re a Firestorm user, we can help with list hygiene, especially when it comes to providing a platform that creates emails that customers will want to open. If you haven’t already attended our webinar on Firestorm email you should make plans to do so very soon. We go over tons of best practices and tricks of the trade to get open and click rates up. And according to reputable sources, it’s even better than a Kiss concert.


Talk soon,


PSM Marketing

825 Highway 74 South
Peachtree City, GA 30269
Tel: (877) 242-4472
Int: (770) 692-1750
Text: (770) 692-1750