Sending More Mail Will Not Make It Suck Less

If you haven’t been keeping up with the current deliverability tempest in a teacup, you haven’t been missing too much. There’s some interesting material on both sides of the argument and at least one amusing troll, but there’s nothing there that, by itself, should make you change how you’re doing things. (Unless you’re spamming. If you are, you should stop doing that right now.)

It all comes on the heels of remarks by a Microsoft representative at a recent email conference, in which he appears to have reiterated that Outlook.com does not measure clicks on links in email. The premise advanced by some observers following the conference seems to be, “Free inbox providers don’t count clicks, so marketers should send more mail.”

Maybe I’m just not the the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I don’t see how they get there from here.

We know that engagement totally matters to Outlook.com. In 2010, Microsoft rolled out a host of new features that weigh individual recipient engagement and makes deliverability decisions based on those metrics. Those tools automatically move unengaging email out of the inbox – in some cases, it will move even after it’s already been placed there and languishes unopened.

That same year, Microsoft sued a well-known Russian spammer for trying to game their reputation engine. He created millions of fraudulent Hotmail accounts to engage with the mail he sent in hopes of improving his deliverability.

I’m confident Microsoft wouldn’t have made these substantial investments in creating and protecting these systems if engagement didn’t matter. It matters so much that Outlook.com will whisk unengaging mail out of the inbox even if it isn’t spam. Senders who step up their unengaging campaigns will just see their mail swept away more often. I’m not sure that a fresh deluge of unengaging, swept messages represents lost revenue opportunities; there was no opportunity to begin with.

At the end of the day, senders should send more mail only to recipients who want more mail. If a segment of recipients opens your bi-monthly offer, send them a third each month and see if the open rate changes.

Send less mail to recipients who want less. Give them a link to a well-designed preference page that allows them to adjust their desired frequency and content.

Don’t send any mail to anyone who doesn’t want it, even if they’d indicated earlier that they do. If they’re not opening it, they’re probably not all that into you. Sending more unengaging mail is unlikely to change this. Bear in mind that the longer those zombie recipients hang around on your lists, the more likely it is that they’ll be converted into spam traps. Hit enough of those, and mail to all of your recipients (engaged or otherwise) will have a much harder time getting to the inbox. That, right there, is the real lost revenue opportunity.

To paraphrase an old aphorism: the loudest guy in the room isn’t always right; he’s just always the loudest. The same holds true for the inbox. Turn down your volume before the Internet does it for you.

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