There are so many factors to consider when diagnosing issues with deliverability, from data collection, management and authentication to targeting and content.
If your company doesn’t have a dedicated deliverability team, these tasks often fall on the marketer’s plate which is why having the right technology is so important.
Unfortunately, getting to the root of your issue can be time consuming and oftentimes deliverability tools and services don’t live up to the hype.
In this post we turn to email deliverability experts Alyssa Dulin from ConvertKit, Laura Atkins from Word to the Wise, Brad Gurley from MessageGears and myself, Lauren Meyer, VP of Industy Relations & Compliance here at Kickbox to give you the low down about current email deliverability tools in today’s MarTech landscape and where they fall short.
Here’s what they had to say…
Marketers Need Clear Context & Better Segmentation
Today’s analytics platforms need to do a better job of demystifying deliverability. This goes above helping marketers understand which metrics have the biggest impacts on inbox placement, and beyond allowing them to easily monitor larger trends. It involves adding context around the data they are seeing, to ensure any potential deliverability issue on the horizon simply cannot be overlooked or misunderstood.
Engagement metrics provided by ESPs are a good start. Some platforms even offer ways to help you gauge sender reputation with tools such as blacklist checks, spam trap monitoring and seed testing. But without context, marketers often find themselves chasing non-issues, or left wondering “What should I be looking at here?”, “Is this a big deal or a little deal?” and “What next?”.
For this reason, helping them understand the scope of their issues and what’s driving them is essential. Adding context will lead to more informed decisions about when action is needed and what the next steps should be. It will empower marketers to tackle the source of their real problems head-on… before they impact revenue.
Particularly for companies using multiple ESPs or internal servers for different parts of their email program – or those with complex programs managed by multiple teams – monitoring can be a real struggle. Having a more holistic view of all the emails being sent within one tool would save time and ensure marketers can identify the source of a deliverability issue quickly, even if it’s caused by emails sent by a different department.
Lastly, this tool should enable marketers to take action on the insights they have gathered, by means of better segmentation and with as little pain and time spent as possible.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve made a recommendation for someone to adjust targeting, and been told that it’s simply not possible. Either the marketer didn’t have proper tools to make those changes in a reasonable time frame, or they were lacking key data points needed to segment accordingly.
A platform that tackles all of these challenges for email marketers would be a total game changer! …and I guess if I’m asking for a truly ideal tool here, including inbox placement insights directly from ISPs (such as what Verizon Media Group will offer with their newly announced email deliverability performance feeds), would be the icing on top of the cake. 🙂
Missing Metrics: The Achilles Heel of Deliverability
The biggest gaps I see in the MarTech space continue to revolve around data – what is captured, what is stored, how to access it, and who can provide the data we need.
Particularly in the area of email deliverability, the amount and types of data available to senders can vary widely. Many ESPs and Marketing Clouds allow limited data access to crucial deliverability information, and even when that data is readily available it’s still missing quite a bit.
Accurate inbox/spam rates, true open rates, and even spam complaints from the largest email provider in the world are not visible to any sender or ESP!
To help fill the gaps, a couple of good third-party data providers have deals worked out with some of the mailbox providers, but even still the data is limited.
One provider has access to a metric at Microsoft that no one else can see, one has visibility into Gmail metrics in a way that’s not available elsewhere, and now one of the major mailbox providers is offering their own direct data feed — for a price, of course.
As the largest vendors in the space consolidate, the question remains whether their datasets will be beefed up, augmenting their existing tools to provide data we currently can’t see, or if they will be locked out by the mailbox providers (whether over privacy concerns or potential revenue streams).
The Entire Space Is In Need of Innovation
The tools we’re using were mostly developed 10 or 20 years ago. They were built for a very different mailbox environment and they haven’t kept up with the current reality. Some companies tried to adjust for this by using panel data, but privacy concerns and mailbox provider rules have made that non-viable.
I feel like there’s a real lack of innovation and development in the space. There are clear pain points – what is getting to the inbox? how do we make sure our email address collection processes are accurate? how do we know how users are interacting with our email? These are hard problems, but it seems like we have a limited set of tools and any recent ‘innovations’ are really just polishing them.
What we need are folks who can look with fresh eyes at deliverability, people who aren’t constrained by current tools and mindsets and who can come up with creative and elegant solutions. I know those folks are out there.
The Space Could Use More Specialization, Actionable Insights & Accessibility
In today’s email marketing landscape, there is a ton of variety when it comes to Email Service Providers (ESPs). Most ESPs have found a niche, and have built a platform to serve their audience. ConvertKit, for example, has a very specific mission of serving creators such as musicians, chefs, designers, etc. When it comes to MarTech, though, this type of specialization hasn’t happened. I believe this creates gaps in MarTech in the following categories: variety, insight, and accessibility.
Email marketers are extremely diverse with a vast set of needs. In order to serve all needs of individual senders, we need MarTech to become more specialized. For example, a large retailer with an entire team of people dedicated to email marketing is going to need a different type of MarTech tool than an entrepreneur that manages all aspects of their business, including email marketing. In both cases, email marketing is essential to the business, and the sender could use MarTech to have more successful email campaigns. While deliverability best practices need to be followed by all senders, the kinds of deliverability and email strategy tools that they need are going to vary between each sender.
The biggest struggle I’ve witnessed marketers have when it comes to MarTech is what to do with the data they’ve received. Data is great, but it isn’t as helpful without insight into what action to take after seeing the data. Marketers might learn through MarTech that they’re not inboxing at a specific mailbox provider, for example, but then they need to know what actions they can take next to improve. Teams with in-house deliverability experts will likely be fine with the data alone, but smaller teams might need more help.
With the lack of MarTech variety comes a lack of accessibility for small email marketing teams. MarTech can get very pricey, which often means small marketing teams will need to lean heavily on their ESP for data and guidance. Not all ESPs provide deliverability service in this way, which can make it tough for small email marketing teams to get the data and insight they need to optimize their performance.
In summary, I think the MarTech landscape has a lot of room for new companies to emerge and serve niche audiences, especially for non-enterprise senders without deliverability specialists on their team.
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