In last month’s article in the July 2012 issue of Digital Dealer magazine: “What changed with CAN-SPAM? E-mail Series, Part II,” I discussed the Federal CAN-SPAM Act, created to curb the growing problems of email spam, otherwise known as unsolicited bulk email. Instead, the law did exactly the opposite: set the bar low enough to send junk email legally. Recipients of these emails, consequently, could not sue spammers directly. As a result, the percentage of email spam traveling across the Internet continued to escalate even after the CAN-SPAM Act went into effect in 2004.
Inbox Service Providers (ISPs) detest spammers because they are responsible for keeping junk email away from recipients, while bearing the direct costs. After the CAN-SPAM law passed, spam levels surpassed 85% of all e-mails, so the ISPs decided to create their own anti-spam laws. Rather than trying to gauge the content and language in each email as in the past, ISPs opted to measure the ongoing sender reputation of each IP address sending e-mail.
Sender reputation consists of slicing and dicing metrics as messages are received: dead or non-existent addresses, sending patterns, email sever configuration, content, recipient engagement and spam complaint rates. Each ISP carefully guards its own anti-spam “recipe” in the same way Google protects its algorithm. That being said, the various ISPs do agree on one thing: the spam complaint rate trumps everything else. The suggested rate is generally no higher than three complaints per 1000 messages, or 0.30%, with many ISPs requiring a stricter limit of one complaint per 1000 messages, or 0.10%. It’s important for the ISPs to stick to these spam thresholds in order to protect both their own e-mail deliverability reputation, and that of your dealership.
Every major ISP has its own postmaster site where expectations from legitimate senders are clearly explained. For example, you can find Hotmail’s by visiting http://postmaster.hotmail.com. Apart from any exact filter criteria, there are no postmaster secrets: send relevant email to people who want it, keep your lists fresh, be polite and don’t over-communicate. Above all else, keep the complaint rate low.
Many automobile dealers either retain an outside company to send their data-driven campaigns or manage these campaigns through a CRM system. Under these circumstances, the vendor maintains the Sender Reputation and should ensure a high rate of Inbox placement. When sending campaigns through the local network, it’s up to the dealer to make sure the needs of both the local ISP, and the ones receiving the e-mail campaigns, are satisfied.
It is also up to each dealer to protect their online reputation. One of the major appeals of e-mail marketing is its ROI. Roughly $40.00 is generated for every dollar spent, according to the Direct Marketing Association. With this type of ROI, it’s vital to not leave a bad impression with local customers by either sending emails too frequently or disregarding their needs. E-mail is not a billboard or a newspaper. The Inbox is a valuable space, and the right to be there must be earned.
Next time, I’ll finish this series up with some tips about: email frequency, list management, multiple vendors and how to keep your e-mail marketing relevant to customers’ needs.
Click below to read the other articles in this series by Neil Bibbins:
A Brief History of E-mail