Judging by the many conversations I’ve had over the years, there’s serious concern about the lack of real transparency in certain industries and its effect on deliverability. Take this email I received from a client, Cindy Lukacevic of Dinovite:

“We were surprised to learn that our email open rates tripled when we began using Eloqua. People who had never even received our emails in the past were now receiving them.”

Remarkable, right?  Well, what’s even more remarkable is that Dinovite was able to achieve this lift by employing the very basic principles of responsible email marketing.

Funny as it sounds, my life’s work is helping companies behave responsibly in the “eyes” of electronic filters, gateways and traps. Companies that comply reach much larger segments of their audience than those that don’t.  Reach more, sell more, earn more.

In some ways, I am Eloqua’s resident “reputation cop.” I patrol all of our communications to make sure everyone is towing the trust line.  Unfortunately, I lack the jurisdiction to hold other marketing automation companies accountable to the same standard.  If I could, there are three practices that I’d outlaw immediately.  If you are talking to a marketing automation company that’s engaged in any of the techniques below, turn and run.

  1. Selectively publish only their best IPs: Many email service providers (ESPs) and marketing automation companies selectively publish only their best IP ranges.  Even if they display the information on a seemingly transparent website ostensibly dedicated to earn your “trust,” they hide from view their poor performing IP addresses. Imagine you are shopping for a car and the miles per gallon promised by the salesperson failed to take into account city driving.  Would you trust that dealer?  Companies that misrepresent their IP ranges in this way prevent prospects from making an informed decision.
  2. Stealthily move clients from one IP to another: Many ESP’s move customers from one IP range to another; sometimes they might even drop an IP range entirely – all without their clients’ knowledge or consent.  Why?  Because they’ve done something that’s triggered a dip in their reputation. Rather than remedy the problem, they pretend it doesn’t exist (likely because they can’t diagnose what caused it).  It’s tantamount to changing your name every time you got caught doing something wrong. One way to tell if a company does this is ask them for a list of the actual IP addresses published to their “trust” site over time.  Compare the addresses to see if they’ve changed.
  3. Publish “smokescreen” data: Reputation, deliverability, sender scores … this can be pretty wonky stuff.  (Believe me, I know. For a clear and concise treatment of it, be sure to read our Grande Guide to Email Deliverability and Privacy.)  Some ESPs use the “insider” nature of this industry to their advantage.  They overwhelm prospects with irrelevant data to mask their weaknesses in important areas, such as reputation and deliverability.  For example, a company may create a smokescreen by publishing extensive information related to their own anti-spam systems – software that doesn’t even monitor their clients’ servers – as if it’s a value add.  If you were buying a home in the desert, would you really need extensive information on the home’s squeaky clean flood history?

Selective data, stealthy maneuverings and smokescreen data.  These are just a few of examples of the dirty pool some ESPs and marketing automation companies have been known to shoot.  I’d be interested in knowing what other underhanded tactics you have seen.  Together we can make sure everyone plays by the same set of rules.