Holiday Season is Here: What to do

Hey big sender, it's that time of the year again! Lots of companies generate lots of revenue during the run up from about now until Christmas, and email is a very important channel for them to do that.

That's why it's important for senders to follow these five deliverability recommendations to ensure they minimize deliverability issues during this important time.

  1. Don't experiment. Now is not the time to try methodology that is untried and unsure. If something goes wrong, it will take some time to fix, and that is time during which you won't be able to reach your most important customers. I always tell people: If you drive for 4 days in the wrong direction, it's going to take you at least 4 days to get back to where you started. Then another 4 days to get to where you thought you were going, now that you're driving in the right direction. A similar principle applies to fixing email delivery issues. If you do something that damages your reputation, the fix is going to involve time and a journey. There's no magic reset button here. ISP reputation is (typically) based on a rolling 30 day window, so it can take a month to fully clear away bad stats after you've cleaned up your act after a failed experiment.
  2. Don't dig deep. Now isn't the time to break out the ten year old buyers file for the first time. Instead, you should already have an ongoing strategy to re-engage dormant past customers, and be willing to let them go if they're just not interacting with your email messages. Digging deep has two big risks: Spamtraps, and low engagement. Spamtraps in this case being addresses that are no longer valid, having been repurposed into warning systems that feed into spam filters. That'll get you blocked or blacklisted. Even if everybody did all opt-in and all addresses are valid, mailing to people who aren't interested drags your engagement stats down, which eventually leads to spam folder placement.
  3. Don't fire up a bunch of new IP addresses. New IP addresses have no historical reputation, so ISPs are suspicious of them. When you have a new IP address, you need to build up volume slowly over the first 4-5 weeks of sending to build up a good reputation and maximize the chances of good inbox placement. At this point, this is something you should have started a month or two ago. And note that there is no magic switch at ISPs to bypass IP address warming. They want to see that history and many are skeptical of claims that the sender is a good guy -- too many "good guys" have gotten caught spamming in the past.
  4. Do put your best foot forward. If you're using your regular IP addresses that you've used for the past year, if you're signing all mail with DKIM authentication, if you're retiring un-engaged subscribers after a period of time, you're well positioned for inbox success. Stay the course.
  5. Be careful about adding extra volume. Maybe you email everybody once a month, usually, but perhaps you email them twice a week around the last couple of weeks in November. Don't just jump from sending 500,000 in one month to sending 2,500,000 the next month. You need to build up to it. Try not to do more than double your volume week over week. And be prepared that emailing those same people multiple times, while it may make you more money, may also cause subscriber fatigue and drive lower engagement stats. Which, in turn can cause spam foldering. There's a fine line to walk here to do it right.
  6. (Bonus tip!) Don't expect miracles after midnight. You got blocked at Hotmail on a Saturday night? You might be able to get your deliverability consultant on the phone, but Hotmail support doesn't work on weekends. There's only so much we can do for you after hours. And keep in mind that the fix for most ISPs is to clean up your data, not to have me make a phone call.

The same rules here that you already know apply here: You have to send truly wanted mail, only to people who have signed up for it. ISPs don't provide exceptions for the holiday season, and indeed, remediation can be even harder than usual because the ISPs are dealing with extra mail, extra spam, extra unblocking requests, and extra grumpiness. Marketers are likely to have more success by staying off of the ISPs' naughty lists.