When best practices don’t work

I started out with the best intentions to get back into the swing of things with blogging more regularly. But between MAAWG recovery, COVID recovery and life it’s not worked out that way.

This is an excerpt of something I wrote over on slack to explain why someone was still struggling with delivery even though best practices weren’t working. Hope it will be helpful for some folks. (and now I’m off to my next call…)

When the issue is a mailstream that has problems that aren’t being addressed by common best practices. In order to address that we need to understand more about why the common best practices aren’t working. They may not be zebras, but they might be donkeys.

So I started with listing “these are the problems I’ve seen with mailstreams of your type and why those problems aren’t being resolved by the normal practices.”

Email delivery really boils down to that everything we do about email reinforces the idea that the email address owner / user has control over that address. They get to choose what they want to receive. Filters are using the data they collect from the users to try and sort out which mail has permission and which doesn’t. A lot of the hygiene is (quietly) trying to remove data inputs that are going to indicate that the mail is unwanted and make it more likely that the mail looks wanted / permissioned.

In cases like this, where we’ve done all the standard things and delivery is still getting worse we need to think about how we model our audience. For instance, a lot of folks will sign a petition, but they don’t often want a lot of follow up mail about the petition they signed. So the mail is not really wanted by the folks who gave their addresses – and in a lot of cases depending on the petition site they might be told they won’t receive mail as a result of signing up only to discover that the privacy policy is out of date (I’ve investigated these sites and found multiple contradictory privacy policies / terms of use / what to expect).

Overall, the underlying problem here is, in my experience, likely that the recipients are assuming one thing about what’s going to happen when they sign and the sender is assuming a different thing about what is happening. And, in this case, the recipients who signed but don’t want the mail are a large enough group of recipients that it’s causing data problems.The trick will be to find those folks who actually do want the followup mail and who do want to participate in a broader political action and to drop those folks who just want to do the easy thing. This isn’t going to be done with a third party tool or data hygiene provider. It’s going to need a lot more investment in developing the audience that’s going to support the inbox delivery that the sender wants.

Make your mailing look like it’s wanted / asked for by more folks than don’t want it is the ‘one secret trick to inbox delivery’ … easy to say but in some cases requires real thought about who your target market is.

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