To My Competitors: Time to Step it Up

This week,  some of our competitors had a wake-up call. They learned that less than strict adherence to industry best practices when sending bulk email will result in getting blacklisted by major worldwide anti-spam organizations. The ones who suffer the most: their government customers and the constituents who receive information through bulk email. Our industry can do better and really needs to step up their game. iConstituent has been following industry best practices for years now – since we entered this market well over 10 years ago. Since our inception, we have successfully sent billions of messages throughout our years of dedicated service to government.

But, there are many vendors in our market who need to step it up.

Some government entities are experiencing serious bulk email delivery woes right now. Today. Why? Because, the basic principals of sending bulk email have been ignored by a few who don’t see or understand the importance of maintaining high standards for their customers when it comes to sending bulk email. There are industry standards that must be adhered to when sending bulk email or they risk their customers critical communication getting trapped in spam filters. Because some federal and state government entities purchase email lists, the challenge of sending bulk email is even greater; anti spam organizations, like Spamhaus, make it tougher for email to get past their barriers. Hidden spam traps are everywhere. One wrong step or best practice ignored will result in poor email delivery or even worse, no email delivery. So, what can be done to improve delivery of bulk email sent from government entities to their constituents? A lot, actually.

If you are a staff  member in a government office using a bulk email vendor, there is much that is not within your control. You must rely on your vendor to manage your IP reputation and list hygiene (and hope that they adhere to a myriad of other industry best practices). However, you should also be aware of some basic reporting that most reputable vendors provide. Without these key statistics, you will be in the dark as to the success rate of your bulk email delivery and overall emailing reputation.

There are three basic statistics that you may need to consider when sending your bulk email; “Open” and “Click Through” rates only tell you part of the story. It’s the Delivery Rate that is key.

  1. Delivery Rate: The Delivery Rate is different from “open and click through” rates. The Delivery Rate gives you the total percentage of your messages delivered. It follows a basic formula: Total number of emails sent LESS (Total Soft Bounces + Total Hard Bounces) = Total Delivered (Delivery Rate). Seeing this rate will indicate (at a glance) the success of your mailing. A low Delivery Rate indicates that there is a problem with your message delivery (i.e, blocked by a spam filter, etc). Incidentally, there can be no such thing as a perfect delivery rate; every mailing will have hard bounces and soft bounces. It’s unavoidable.
  2. Hard Bounces: These are emails that are invalid (for some reason or another). They simply cannot be used any more. Industry best practice is to remove these addresses from your list every time you mail. That’s correct: Hard Bounces should be removed from your list with each bulk mailing effort. Over time, your email list will shrink; there is a natural attrition of email addresses in every list. Email lists are always dynamic and never static, so list hygiene is a constant effort. Continuous mailing to Hard Bounced emails will result in poor IP reputation and thus, being blocked by spam filters.
  3. Soft Bounces: These are emails that were not delivered due to an unexplained reason. However, looking at this list will give you a lot of information. For example, if you see a lot of emails with the domain, this would indicate that Yahoo has blocked your email. Knowing this will help you correct the problem and fix this issue for the next mailing. Not knowing, worsens your issue and drives your Delivery Rate down.

You should note that there are many other industry best practices that I am not touching upon in this post related to content creation, feedback loops, IP reputation and so on. But, the above three points are what I consider to be a basic starting point in understanding the effectiveness of your emailing TODAY. Poor delivery rates, high numbers of hard and soft bounces should give you cause for concern – and, the ability to make changes.

I have been talking about good bulk emailing practices for years now. It’s something that iConstituent is great at doing – sending bulk email. It’s important that constituent mail is sent responsibly and correctly; ignoring industry best practices is not an option any more. Vendors who sell services to the Members of Congress and other branches of government (other than iConstituent), need to improve their game and better adhere to industry best practices. Gone are the days of “email blasting,” and hoping for the best. In fact, those days were gone many years ago. We encourage our competition to step it up.