This blog article was written in response to a recent article I read about CRM’s (with integrated email marketing applications), and the fact that it is hard to obtain definitive service level agreements “(SLA’s”) regarding email deliverability rates from CRM providers.
I will start by stating that this article applies primarily to large-scale bulk email campaigns, not email marketing campaigns intended for small-scale distribution (i.e. 2,000 recipients or less). This is because deliverability rates to smaller groups are generally pretty high. It's in the context of bulk email campaigns that the deliverability rate becomes a matter of grave concern to the marketer. That being said, the issue of email deliverability is one of the most complicated issues I’ve ever encountered in this new digital era. I believe the reason it is difficult (if not impossible) to obtain an SLA with regard to email deliverability is attributable to the inherent difficulty in determining when an email has actually been delivered into a recipient’s inbox. At the root of the problem is the fact that, unless an email is actually opened by the recipient (which is easily detectable), it is virtually impossible to determine if an unopened email was, in fact, delivered to a target inbox. This fact combined with the fact that any representation (from the CRM company) regarding deliverability will potentially carry legal liability to the CRM provider, if the target level is not reached. These factors combine to make CRM providers skiddish (to say the least) when it comes to providing any representation or warranty concerning deliverability rates.
The underlying problem may be illustrated best with this hypothetical. If an email has not been opened by the target recipient, there are four likely scenarios to explain that event (or non-event, as the case may be). These four potential scenarios may be described as follows.
The first is that the email was not opened because, although the email made it into the target inbox, it was not found to be interesting by the recipient. While this scenario might initially be discouraging to the email marketer, this is really not so bad. If this occurs, all the email marketer has to do is to create a more interesting email in the next campaign. The problem, however, with this scenario is that it can easily be mistaken for any one of the other three possibilities; and therein lies the dilemma. Because this scenario may easily be mistaken for any one of the other three likely scenarios, it is difficult to make good decisions on whether to continue the email marketing campaign (with better content) or discontinue it altogether in favor something else more effective (i.e. digital video marketing, discussed below).
The second possibility is that the email was delivered into the target inbox, but was sent to the “promotions inbox” (a la Gmail, which is starting dominate the business email space in the same way it dominates the consumer email space). If this occurs, the likely reason the email was unopened is because few people actually read emails that go to the promotions inbox. I happen to be one of these people. This is why I refer to the promotions inbox as a sort of “inbox purgatory”. It is not the spam folder, but is the functional equivalent to the same.
The third possibility is that the email was sent to the dreaded spam folder. While this might seem to be the worst of the four scenarios; trust me, it’s not.
The fourth scenario is clearly the worst of all---- in my humble opinion. The fourth scenario is that the email was blocked by the recipient’s server. The reason this is scenario is even worse than landing in the spam folder is that, in this case, the email goes out into oblivion never to be seen or heard from again; and, as an added bonus, your email server may be blacklisted, which means that future emails will receive the same treatment at a higher rate. I’m sorry to say that I have experienced all four of these scenarios.
While it may seem as if I have a solution to this problem, I do not. Other than to say that it will continue, unless and until someone develops an email software application that can tell email marketers definitively that an email actually made it into the target inbox, but was unopened for no other reason other than the fact that the recipient did not find it interesting.
These difficulties in understanding and interpreting email deliverability issues is why I have abandoned almost all email marketing in favor of digital video marketing. This is where I produce short promotional videos and I either distribute these videos using social media, or I embed them in blog posts-----typically in the center of the articles similar to the way I am doing here---- and I encourage readers to contact me, if they wish to engage further. To me, this is a fair exchange. I offer industry scholarship in exchange for the opportunity to run my short digital commercial to those who are interested in the subject matter then being discussed (kind of like a television commercial you might see during a news broadcast). I also try to choose topics that will have broad interest to my target community. In order to do this, obviously it is necessary to be a fairly decent writer and video producer---- skills that I believe are absolutely indispensable in this new digital era. If you do not possess these skills (or you manage a company where no one in-house has these skills), then it is imperative to find someone to perform them on your behalf.
I am finding that if I cast a large enough net with engaging, interesting blog articles with engaging video content, I can reach my sales goals much easier than I did using email marketing. Moreover, I do not have to wonder why an unopened email has remained unopened. That gives me a headache.
I hope this helps to advance the discussion. If anyone wishes to discuss this subject further one-on-one, I encourage them to contact me.