Captain: Red alert! Incoming variable response signals!

Those familiar with the original ‘Star Trek’ television series may be familiar with the following scenario; a previously un-seen character that happens to wear a red coloured uniform is amongst the first to be teleported from the Starship Enterprise to a new planet after the distress signals are heard on the bridge. An unspeakable peril waits on the new planet. Our previously un-seen character is amongst the first or indeed the very first to meet a tragic end.This ‘signposting’ technique can frequently be found elsewhere in cinema and television and not just in Star Trek, you don’t have to look very far to find it.

What on earth does this have to do with the subject in hand, namely email marketing? Quite a bit and more than you’d think actually. Signposting, whilst recognisable in the television example just doesn’t happen in terms of deliverability. The ISPs or filtering companies aren’t in the habit of communicating to marketers the landscape that they are responding to.

That is because their primary goal is to protect their customers and not to help or signpost for the benefit of email marketers. The ISPs have to respond to a dynamically changing set of incoming mail streams and threats to their network and their customers. The same is true for the filtering companies whose customers may be the ISPs or those that aim to secure their corporate infrastructure. Their objectives for their customers may include conserving resources, saving bandwidth and stopping all incoming threats.

What this means in practical terms for marketers is that just because you have good deliverability and inbox placement rates today, doesn’t mean that it will remain so tomorrow and in to the future. It’s this variability that impacts response. As an example it may transpire that a marketer notices a significant depression in opens or clicks from a segment of the database. Upon deeper investigation the impact can be clearly seen across one or two important domains. Logic may suggest that the receiving ISP (or filtering company) may be blocking the incoming mail.

This variability can be evident to those with access to the actual inbox placement data, those without it most likely will struggle to understand, troubleshoot and ultimately rectify the root cause. Whilst ISPs don’t signpost in the same way that ‘Star Trek’ did, marketers can minimise the impact in variability by understanding their reputation, knowing their inbox placement and considering third party accreditation programmes.

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Richard Gibson

About Richard Gibson

Richard works for Return Path in their UK office managing the relationship with their channel partners, predominately email technology providers. Return Path seeks to perfect the art and science of email by championing inbox standards for senders and receivers.

He is also a long standing Email Marketing Council member having been elected twice to the council, originally joining as a co-opted member in 2003. Prior to which he served on the Business-to-Business board elected committee between 2001 and 2003.

Since 2004 he has Chaired the Benchmarking Hub which continues to deliver The National Email Marketing Benchmark on a quarterly basis along with the annual client survey which has become an important source of information for DMA members.

He also worked with IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) to organise the first ever joint evening event between the two trade bodies; ‘Email Marketing: Art or Science’ held at The Rex Cinema in February 2007.

He has regularly contributed to trade press articles, blogs and a book on the topic of Email Marketing and has chaired and spoken at UK DMA events as well as presenting DMA research in several European countries. In 2005 he was voted by B2B Marketing Magazine as one of the top twenty opinion formers in the UK.

Prior to joining Return Path in April 2009 he was Commercial Director for RSA Direct and has many years direct and interactive marketing experience.