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Reengagement Campaigns: Email Sender Reputation and Inactive Emails

Email inbox Spam

Just came across a great article by George Bilbrey, the president of Return Path. He is a recognized expert in email sender reputation and deliverability.

If you are getting started in email marketing, or you work with email targeting and segmentation, this is a good article to help you get familiarized with the challenges of sender reputation and the topic of email engagement. Bilbrey addresses the question of what to do with inactive emails in your target list, and the impact that decision will have on your ongoing email marketing efforts either way.

…foregoing these [re-engagement] campaigns and letting inactives stay on the list is a bad idea. One company we worked with ended up cutting a huge part of their inactives — more than half. Their IPR immediately shot up  — not just as a percentage of mail delivered — and their raw number of messages delivered increased dramatically. In this case, deadweight was dragging down their program, and culling inactives reconnected the company with customers who wanted their mail but hadn’t been getting it.

The bottom line is that you can lose subscribers, and money, either way. Unless you know the breakeven point where giving up on dormant accounts is smarter than leaving them on the file, your email program is probably losing a revenue opportunity one way or another.

Every industry and business is probably different, so you need to ask your data analysts to look at your email channel engagement data, and determine what is the point of no return for your inactive email records. As with everything email marketing, test, test, test!

Read the whole thing.

How do you segment your email marketing list? Are you paying attention at your engagement? What do you do with inactive email records, if anything?


Helpful Resource:

If you’re interested in learning more about email marketing, I highly recommend subscribing to the Email Insider list.  You can do so by going to, click “subscribe” and select Email Insider as one of your subscriptions.

2 Reasons Why Engagement Matters for Email Marketing

Spam trap and email deliverability

Over the past year, I have been working extensively on email deliverability. In the past, “email deliverability” was relegated to the few smart techie folks at your ESP who handled your sender IP. In days gone past, you could run your email through a spam checker, and avoid “spammy” words in your subject line or copy.

No more.

ISPs have evolved and the key word for digital marketers today is “engagement”. This involves having the analytics to know what your audience is doing with your emails, but also the targeting strategies to best use your engagement analytics to connect with your subscribers.

It goes without saying: don’t buy email lists. Don’t ever, for any reason, go out and do “data appends” of email addresses. Besides the fact that this is considered “abusive” practice, in today’s hyper-connected, digital-driven marketplace, your email recipients will reject your attempts to market to them.  And it will cost you in more ways than on.

Avoiding Spam Complaints:

If you email someone that did not explicitly want to receive your emails, you are increasing the likelihood that you’ll get a higher rate of spam complaint. This is a big factor in calculating your sender reputation, so anytime you go and use an email append (bought) list, you are going to inevitably experience a spike in spam complaints. It’s just not worth it.

Avoiding Spam Traps:

Many have asked me, “What exactly is a spam trap”? The way it works is that inactive email subscribers (those who don’t open emails over a certain period of time) can be linked to dormant accounts by the ISPs. These “flagged” dormant accounts are increasingly being used by ISPs to create spam traps. That is, because they know these email accounts are dormant, when they catch you, the sender, attempting to send emails to those accounts, it flags you, the sender, as a potential spammer.

This is a particular threat with regards to acquired or revalidated addresses; such an email address that doesn’t open or respond to emails over 3 campaigns should be monitored closely and perhaps taken off the list to limit the risk of hitting spam traps. So, if your hands are tied in regards to email data appends, make sure you take this into account and “quarantine” acquired or revalidated addresses in order to maintain your list hygiene.

Likewise, inactive email addresses that have opted in to receive your marketing messages in the past will present a lower risk of having been converted into spam traps in the short term. Nevertheless, you should have an engagement segmentation and targeting strategy in place, and should generally consider removing an email address from a list after 12 months of inactivity.

Reality Based Email Marketing

As a direct marketer, the level and detail of analytics and engagement insights available affords you the benefit of being able to operate in a reality-based world. Targeting 100,000 email records, where 30,000 of those emails have  been inactive for over 12 months is a fantasy-approach to direct marketing. The reality is, in that scenario, you would be targeting 70,000 emails, while hurting your chances to reach those 70k emails because of the lack of engagement segmentation and appropriate targeting.

Use the analytics you have to do smarter, realistic and more user-friendly email marketing. It works.




The Advantages of Trigger Emails


Email Marketing 101


This is a training presentation I did at a local chamber of commerce session. It covers some of the basic principles of email marketing, as well as the key best practices to help you succeed in kicking off your email marketing program (or take it to the next level).

You might want to put the presentation in full screen to be able to read some of the smaller font — the deck was originally created for a large projected screen.

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