Email deliverability is often misunderstood. So, it’s no suprise that trying to get buy-in from stakeholders when attempting to take proactive measures or when you suspect a deliverability issue isn’t always an easy task.
We asked email deliverability experts John Peters from Campaign Monitor, Laura Atkins from Word to the Wise and Raja Datta from TrueAccord to offer tips to help you effectively communicate deliveriability issues to stakeholders.
Here’s what they had to say…
Effective Communication With Stakeholders Starts With Listening
As a delivery consultant, I rarely have to convince internal stakeholders there is a delivery problem.
By the time a company has hired me, they KNOW there is a problem and an overall issue.
They see that delivery is broken and they have usually gone through multiple attempts to fix things without any success.
Often I’m brought in by marketing or deliverability teams that know what is wrong, but have been unable to actually convince management what the issue is or how to fix it.
I find the most important piece of communicating problems with stakeholders is actually listening.
There is no way to explain anything, be it a problem or a solution, unless you know where the other side is coming from.
Once I have listened to them then I talk to them in their language. For instance, I’ll focus on high level business process when I’m talking with the COO or switch into deep tech speak when I’m talking to a developer.
The short version is there’s no one way to articulate delivery issues to every audience. In order to really explain the problems, and the fixes, you need to be able to speak the other person’s language.
Relevancy & Data Are Key When Discussing Deliverability Issues
To effectively engage internal stakeholders with deliverability issues it’s necessary to make the information relevant and, where possible, use data to model likely outcomes.
We can look at each of these strategies individually.
A great way to articulate a deliverability issue is to show the impact it has on something that’s important to the stakeholder, such as highlighting the repercussions on their key performance indicators (KPIs) and incorporating overarching organisational goals in the discussion.
For example, a Customer Success Manager (CSM) Team wants to maintain excellent relationships with high value clients, assist the client with meeting their own company goals, and troubleshoot any performance issues.
The CSM team’s KPIs could be customer satisfaction, growth, renewal, and likely risk of churn. These would also tie into the organisation’s goals of revenue growth, customer retention and the organisation’s reputation as a trusted service provider.
A deliverability issue, whether it’s client-specific or systemic, will impact:
- the delivery of customer emails
- engagement metrics, like open rates, click through rates, traffic to landing pages
- the overall performance of the customer’s marketing program
- the client’s satisfaction and trust in the organisation
- the customer’s risk of churn
By linking a deliverability issue with the above factors, it’s easier to make a causal relationship that’s relevant to internal stakeholders, and you’re more likely to garner support and movement on your recommendations.
The old adage “prevention is better than cure” is also true for the email world. Getting in early and implementing changes to reduce the risk of a future problem is better for an organisation and its customers, rather than waiting for a crisis to arise and attempting to resolve the issue in a high stress and costly situation.
When a significant issue is ongoing, it’s easier to petition internal support since the data to support your recommended changes is readily available. However, if the issue isn’t yet significant enough that its negative impact is felt by other teams, it’s possible to use what data you have to model future trends.
You can use current system data or historical data to forecast how your system will perform in the future. For example, showing the impact of poor list hygiene and questionable email collection methods on engagement and delivery of emails can be effective.
It’s only a matter of time before such poor practices result in a domain or an IP being blacklisted, and if you have this data from a past incident you can illustrate what will happen in the future unless greater preventative measures are taken now.
If you’re recommending making systemic changes, you can manage stakeholder expectations and get their support by proposing to test on a smaller scale (Hotmail.com domains only, for example) and collecting more data.
You could use the data to further adapt your model, building trust and endorsement for your plans while laying the groundwork for future projects.
In my experience, the most effective method of getting support from internal stakeholders is to articulate the issue using data that clearly demonstrates a correlation between the deliverability issue and a favourable (or unfavourable) outcome that’s relevant to the stakeholder.
Have A ‘Playbook’ For Deliverability Issues Ready, Before They Arise
This is a great question as proactively highlighting and clearly articulating deliverability issues to stakeholders is very important.
I have made sure to have KPIs setup for my internal stakeholders, so they are never blindsided with deliverability problems. I have also made sure that there is a playbook that can be referenced, so there is full transparency when issues arise and clear steps that will be taken to remediate the issues.
My first step is to estimate the business impact with the issues that we are experiencing.
In terms of communicating, I first discuss with my product team as our business is highly reliant on email to be successful. I articulate the severity of the issues that I see and detail it for them, so it is easy to digest and clear how it affects our overall business.
Next I inform client-facing stakeholders and make sure they are well prepared to answer any concerns they may receive from clients.
Not every stakeholder needs every detail: I keep it specific to the audience. It is important to understand your audience when sharing details on deliverability issues.
One thing which is very important to consider is that stakeholders often jump the gun when looking at KPIs and think there are issues, when it might not be the case. I have communicated again and again to my internal stakeholders to not jump the gun on what is considered a deliverability issue. The Deliverability “playbook” also details what is an issue and what is not. I make sure to explain the causes of various issues, so many of the general frequently asked questions are answered.
I also make sure to have all the facts in front of me to give a thorough explanation of the state of email when issues arise.
I make sure to show the specific metrics I am referencing that give the full story of the issues that are found, i.e.
- Data from Google Postmaster
- Pertinent KPIs
- Email Deliverability tools: ReturnPath, 250ok or edatasource
- Engagement metrics and trends.
- Hard or Soft bounces that are past the expected threshold
- Has there been a recent uptick in Spam Complaints?
- Possible Infrastructure issues with DNS
My steps go like this:
- Present my findings
- What are the solutions? Decide the best course of action depending on the pros and cons of each.
- Explain how it has been resolved, and what steps have been taken to make sure the issues do not come up again. Have alerts setup to avoid the same problems.
Transparency with internal stakeholders, and confidence in the what, why, and how to solve issues are a key component of Email Deliverability.
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