SPECIAL DELIVERY: Getting Email Delivered. Getting Email Read.

The most important element in executing profitable email marketing campaigns is also the simplest: delivery. Just as there is little value in sending out direct-mail postcards if they end up going straight into a recycling bin, even the most well developed email marketing campaign is worthless if the messages aren’t delivered and read. Unfortunately, successful email delivery is becoming more complex and difficult nearly every day, which makes it less and less likely that small business owners can keep up with the changes and succeed in their marketing efforts.

Not long ago, small business owners who wanted to communicate with their clients and prospects developed lists of email addresses and simply sent messages when they had something interesting to share or promote. Spam filters focused on offensive language and words like “free” and “click here,” so most legitimate messages were routed directly to recipients’ inboxes without a hitch. Today, deliverability is a serious issue in email marketing, and much of it has to do with sender reputation. A poor sender reputation will cause messages to be sent to spam folders or deleted without ever being delivered.

Watching Your Reputation
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) rate senders’ reputations numerically, much as credit-reporting agencies quantify consumers’ creditworthiness. While each provider has its own system and assigns weight to the various aspects of a sender’s reputation differently, they all look at these five main concepts:

  1. Quantity: In some industries, and for some recipients, daily emails are acceptable and even desirable. For instance, some websites send out subscription-based morning digests of the previous day’s top articles. For most senders, however, such frequent messaging is inappropriate. Sending too much email may invite higher levels of scrutiny and may also have a negative impact on engagement (see #4 below).
  2. Quality: High quality list practices are essential for maintaining a positive sender reputation. When senders neglect their lists, failing to remove out-of-service email addresses or correct address errors, ISPs notice. ISPs even set traps to lure those senders who use inappropriate list-building practices, posting “spamtrap” addresses in hidden locations only automated address gatherers would find.
  3. Reaction: Do your recipients mark your emails as spam? Do they opt out of messages but remain on your list? The more complaints providers receive about your messages, the lower your reputation score.
  4. Engagement: ISPs also pay attention to recipients’ rate of opening, reading, and acting on the emails you send. Do recipients click the links you provide or do they delete your messages without even opening them? The more sophisticated companies like Google, Yahoo! and AOL become in measuring these statistics, the more they matter to your sender reputation.
  5. Longevity: Most people don’t want to make large eBay purchases from sellers with no history, and it’s the same with email. A long history of sending well-received emails from a specific IP address helps establish your business as a legitimate sender.

Improving Delivery Rates and Conversions
For many senders, as long as email campaigns are showing positive results, spending time on improving their sender reputation seems less than urgent. However, sender reputation is directly linked to delivery rates, and increased delivery rates lead to more conversions, all of which ultimately boosts sales and profits. Here’s how it works:

  • Two companies each have email lists of 750,000 addresses with 3% conversion rates.
  • Sender A has a delivery rate of 75%, reaching 562,500 recipients.
  • Sender B has a delivery rate of 77%, reaching 577,500 recipients.
  • Therefore, Sender B, with just a 2% higher delivery rate, reaches an additional 15,000 consumers.
  • Given that each sender has a 3% conversion rate, that means Sender A will see 16,875 sales from this campaign, while Sender B will see 17,325 sales.
  • At an average sale of price of just $50, from this one campaign, Sender A will see $843,750 in revenue while Sender B will see $866,250.
  • That means just a 2% delivery rate difference cost Sender A $22,500 on a single email campaign. Over the course of a single year, sending monthly emails, that 2% might cost Sender A up to a whopping $270,000. How much work would you be willing to put into increasing revenue by more than a quarter of a million dollars?

What Now?
Take a look at how your company measures up by checking your reputation at, a service of Return Path. TribalVision can help strengthen your sender reputation, improving conversion rates and ultimately increasing revenue as a result. Connect with us today for more information!