By Jay Miller
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Deliverability: Holiday Smackdown EditionThe holidays are the time of year when email marketing becomes a contact sport. Retailers are notorious for cranking up the email volume during the holidays, especially around Black Friday/Cyber Monday (the weekend after Thanksgiving). Everyone knows that there's a delicate balance between pushing a few more emails and burning out your list with unsubscribes and complaints. So what can we do to accommodate the extra emails, cut through the clutter that your competitors are so inconsiderately creating, and keep our lists healthy?
Some common holiday deliverability problems:
- "Mailbox Full" soft bounces due to increased volume from all senders.
- Subscriber burnout due to dramatically increased sending frequency - symptoms include increased unsubscribes and higher complaint rate.
Tactics to Avoid Deliverability Problems:
- Send your best subscribers first.
Divide your list into segments based on "subscriber quality". You can determine quality using recency of signup, opens/clicks, purchases, and any other data you have. Send your best segments first, so that if there are any mailbox limitations, your most likely customers aren't stuck in line behind a bunch of older addresses that may be less engaged.
- Closely monitor deliverability results after each send.
Use ExactTarget reports such as Email Performance by Domain and Account Send Summary to keep an eye on bounce rates, and open and click rates. Only by monitoring your deliverability will you be able to adjust your tactics as needed. The Account Send Summary now includes complaint rate. Strive to keep this number under 0.30% to avoid bulking/blocking and blacklists.
- Timing - When to Send
Contrary to popular suspicion, there's no magic hour that you can send and be sure to beat the rush. From the data we're seeing, the rush starts earlier every year and does not really let up. The best strategy is to fall back on basics: send targeted offers to your best segments at times that will be convenient for them to take advantage of them. If you do have extremely large volumes to send, you might want to test some throttling strategies to avoid having them hit the ISPs all at once.
- Alternate Channels - Go Mobile
It's probably too late now, but if the email tubes are all clogged up, you might be able to reach your customers via SMS, Facebook, or Twitter. Of course you have to follow the best practices for messaging via these channels; you can't just blast out text messages or tweets without incurring the wrath of your customers (or the carriers). But subscribers might be very willing to sign up for notifications for last minute deals that they could grab while out shopping with their mobile phones.
But what if you're not a retailer?I have several clients who are not in the retail business at all, for example insurance, utilities, and financial services. If you are not sending out Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions this weekend, you might want to make sure you don't have any important communications scheduled that could get lost in the retail commotion. Reschedule your newsletters for later next week, and check deliverability stats on your triggered/transactional messages that go out over the weekend to make sure they got through.
For more deliverability information, be sure to subscribe to Al Iverson's blog "The Email Delivery Guru" and check out 3Sixty for whitepapers and additional guidance.
Marketing Solutions Consultant