How to Drive Revenue by Improving E-mail Deliverability

E-mail deliverability plays a crucial role in turning a company's Web site prospects into revenue-driving customers. Especially in today's economy, e-mail deliverability is more critical than ever to make sure your customer leads are not being lost due to undelivered e-mails. Knowledge Center contributor Phil Fernandez explains how you can drive revenue using seven best practices designed to keep your company's e-mail deliverability efforts aligned with its revenue goals.


Most companies, particularly those struggling for growth in today's economy, do not understand the critical role e-mail deliverability plays in the process of turning Web site prospects into revenue-driving customers.

For example, about 1 in 5 commercial e-mails do not make it into the recipient's inbox. Depending on the company, that can mean up to 50 percent or even nearly 100 percent of the e-mails. Every undelivered e-mail is a lost lead, and the money spent to acquire that lead gets wasted. Companies can't afford to waste money in this economy right now. Their lead-generation campaigns and technologies are more critical than ever because good leads result in more sales.

Reputation is everything

The world of e-mail deliverability has become quite complicated over the past few years. Simply avoiding certain words in your copy doesn't get the e-mails to your recipient's inbox anymore. The most critical factor is your e-mail sender "reputation," which ISPs use to determine which e-mails get delivered. In fact, 83 percent of delivery problems today are caused by the sender's e-mail reputation.

The technology used by your e-mail service provider is a top consideration when it comes to deliverability. For example, it's critical for you to have a provider who uses capabilities such as automatic e-mail throttling based on ISP requirements, as well as smart bounce management to correctly categorize bounce codes into action. But beyond the technology, there are seven best practices that companies should follow so they can keep "delivering" according to their revenue goals. Let's take a look at these seven best practices:

Best practice #1: Keep your distribution list clean

Scrub your distribution list regularly. You should remove duplicates, suppress distribution accounts (such as those beginning with [email protected] or [email protected]), and remove inactive addresses that have had no "opens" or "clicks" in the last 12 months.

Best practice #2: Keep your complaint rate low

When recipients mark your messages as spam, they damage your reputation. Servers that send to just one spam trap have deliverability rates 20 points lower than servers that don't hit traps. By using reasonable mailing frequency and ensuring that your e-mails are relevant, you can avoid spam complaints. You can also improve relevancy by tracking customer behaviors to trigger e-mails, rather than sending batch blasts.

Best practice #3: Ask permission

E-mail recipients complain about e-mails they don't recognize, so make sure to help prospects remember that they gave you permission to e-mail them. A confirmed opt-in process works well for this because it makes recipients more likely to remember your initial message (and it can also help avoid spam traps). Confirming opt-in is especially important for lists not only where you were given permission, but where the recipient may not otherwise remember you (such as lists from trade shows, sponsorships or content syndication).

Best practice #4: Don't buy e-mail addresses

Buying e-mail addresses from list or data vendors, or appending e-mails to existing records, can be poisonous to your reputation. These customers have not given you any permission to e-mail them and are not likely to recognize you as a sender. This greatly increases the probability of having your messages tagged as spam.

Best practice #5: Use e-mail authentication

Be sure to use e-mail authentication. Methods for e-mail authentication include DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and Sender ID. These all help to authenticate your messages with ISPs, letting them know that your e-mails are coming from you and are not phishing or spoofing attempts.

Best practice #6: Proof e-mail appearance before sending

A poorly-rendered e-mail is more likely to trigger a complaint, so make sure your e-mails look right in multiple e-mail clients.

Best practice #7: Monitor your reputation

Monitor your e-mail sender reputation and delivery by ISPs. You can do this by making sure you are not on any blacklists, and by aggressively responding to any problems.

Phil Fernandez is President and CEO of Marketo. Phil is a 26-year Silicon Valley veteran and has the scars (and a couple of successful IPOs) to prove it. Prior to Marketo, he was President and COO of Epiphany, a public enterprise software company known for its visionary marketing products. Before this, Phil was COO and SVP of Products and Services at Red Brick Systems, a pioneering data warehouse vendor. Earlier, Phil held leadership positions at Metaphor Computer Systems, Stanford University Medical Center, and Masstor Systems. Phil holds a BA from Stanford University. He can be reached at [email protected].