So a good Agatha Christie mystery novel includes your basic story line, some simple mystery solving tools like an old fashioned typewriter and a magnifying glass. Not so with many of online marketing's evolving mysteries. Is email marketing deliverability going the way of the search engine marketing mystery? Are the deliverability rules the new mystery of online marketing?
Similiar to the Google algorhythms PPC managers struggle with, seems ISP email deliverability rules are becoming somewhat nebulous and hidden. There are the trusty guidelines on image vs text balance, meeting CANSPAM requirements, etc, yet ISP post masters are becoming a thing of the past to dig into the deeper questions, with email managers often find their way through campaign optimizing by the numbers alone. Your messages are hitting a spam folder based on the ISP's rules but the rules are mysterious. Sound familiar SEM? There are the tried and true email marketing best practices – stick to them with a twist and add some standards to your ISP vendor management. Here's more.
Manage the deliverability you pay for very closely. Demand accurate matrixes of the actions being taken monthly on your behalf to monitor and proactively improve your deliverabilty. If clients demand this of their ISP's hopefully the AOLs and Hotmails of the world will eventually realize how crucial it is to publicize clearly what they are calling spam. If we send a consistent message of "we need quality and consistent disclosure", they may eventually listen. Are we not the same people paying the advertising dollars on their portals?
The other continual struggle for email's growth is the ever increasing and aggressive email client trend towards images being turned off – now even as a default upon registration, by many free email services like Gmail and others. If you don't design for this you completely miss the attention of your audience as your email is a box of X's until they choose to view images. Makes sense, who wants to provide a free service and then pay to store millions of fancy HTML messages for consumers. Nevertheless this practice hurts the email marketer's efforts.
Designing with no images in mind is a bender for designers. Writing with no image to play off of is a bender for writers. But you have to do this. You have to design with the images off and on in mind. Make sure your tests include looking at the messages in both modes images on and off – it's awkward at first to "design" to the no image view, but you can't avoid this – your results are the reward of transitioning to this approach.
Opened or Not?
Open rates are fading as a true measurement of consumer due to many email client's auto open functionality. (preview pane sound familiar?) When emails are auto opened by email clients the open rate is no longer a true measurement of consumer interest.What's a marketer to do?
Refocus your analysis on clicks, form field patterns and the appearance of that beloved Thank You page. Nail down those measurements with any solid web metrics tool – know what the openers are doing once on the email page and your form. Where are the drop outs? Where is the content that no one is reading or responding to? When it comes to content optimizing, don't be too attached to your online brand as you know it today. Be willing to bend towards consumer response and your true market demand for the information then need to make the decision to buy your great product.
With some fresh strategy and consistent approach to these issues, the core mysteries will continue to surface and will become increasingly visible to the industry partners we need at the table – like Microsoft, AOL, Earthlink and others. In the mean time, solving these mysteries this keeps us all out of trouble – busy pioneering this great new media type called the internet. Agatha would be so proud.