The last week has been an exciting one filled with travel, a speaking engagement, meeting new people and a few I’ve never met face to face and a spate of calls from recruiters seeking Deliverability Stormtroopers. Suddenly I feel like the popular kid in high school, which is great as it’s making up for the relative anonymity of my formative years. The rash of phone calls and “in-network” messages has left me scratching my head and wondering, why now? What’s going on? And what have all these companies been doing before they started their search?
A few positions as I learned were for the inevitable attrition that occurs at every company, people leave, move on and have to be replaced with qualified personnel to pick up the good fight. However, there seemed to be several that were just getting onto the bandwagon and deciding that it was time to dedicate a resource to email deliverability. Well to those that are looking to replace individuals I wish you luck, there seems to be more demand than available bodies, but that’s always the case for a niche position. For those that are just getting into the mix and deciding to throw money at the problem I applaud your efforts and desire but I also implore you to consider the following.
The Myth Of The Bat Phone
I fear that some of these new position and hiring managers might still be under the impression that an ideal deliverability candidate is nothing more than a walking Rolodex of phone numbers to the guardians of the inbox: postmasters. For those of you that still think there’s such a thing as a bat phone I’m here to tell you, change that bat channel and stop drinking the kool-aid.
Deliverability is not predicated on who you know or how many cases of beer you send to an ISP; it’s within your grasp and most certainly squarely on your shoulders to improve. The fact is that ISPs are strapped for resources just like marketers. It’s a lean market and there simply aren’t enough people around to adequately staff postmaster teams.
To help marketers help themselves many ISPs have created a wealth of information on their sites to get the job done in lieu of picking up a phone. From an automated reputation checking tool on AOL’s postmaster pages to the bulk sender guidelines of Gmail and Yahoo!’s list of bounce codes. These are the real keys to the kingdom and information that every company should be researching, cataloging and incorporating into their marketing programs.
Cha-cha-cha-cha-changes, Turn & Face Your Mail
If you’re not ready to change how you do business, or your internal culture regarding deliverability I implore you not to waste someone’s time by anointing them the deliverability messiah. Deliverability is not a stop gap measure or a cure-all for bad mail practices. The value that a qualified deliverability person brings to any company is being an advocate for best practices and a check and balance for over-eager mail practices, ok, the dumb stuff we all want to do in the name of ROI.
That list you found on a laptop in a drawer at the back of the store room is not going to help your bottom line. Quite the contrary it may be something of a slap in the face if not a 2×4 to the head. Your deliverability storm trooper is your conscience, they are there to help you help yourself. Be prepared to make some important changes that may mean you send less mail but the quality and the responsiveness of that smaller list will certainly be far superior to the flood of marketing that disengaged your audience in the first place. Oh and remember all those hard bounces you thought might deliver if you clicked your heels enough time, he or she will most certainly put a stop to that!
Invest In The Right Tools
I can’t stress this enough. Your deliverability jedi needs a light saber, an elegant weapon as Obi-Wan put it, not a crude blaster. Ok, but sometimes we have to start with the crude before we can arrive at elegance. However you get there, just do it, invest in your own reporting capability, give this person the tools he or she needs to help you achieve delivery bliss. This will include access to log files, reporting like you’ve never seen and some really great delivery and rendering tools.
Consider joining appropriate industry groups like MAAWG and the EEC. It’s important to understand the developments that surround messaging, not just email marketing, but the kinds of things that ISPs face on a daily basis. Keep this in mind as it will help frame the problem, marketers talk about deliverability, ISPs talk about messaging abuse. Legitimate mail, and that stuff that barely passes the sniff test, makes up a fraction, a really small fraction, of the billions of pieces of email that are blasted across the net every single day. The problem of spam and false positives is far more complicated than you might think at first. This is where your deliverability expert can step in, help educate internal users and external clients and set proper expectations.
Keep in mind, we’re all in the same boat floating on the same planet, well most of us anyway, and striving toward the same maxed out ROI, but there’s the force and the dark side. Be prepared to be humble in this endeavor and you will do well. Oh and consequently if you know of anyone that meets the above criteria, we’d be interested in speaking to them too.