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1 In 5 Marketing Messages Don't Get To The Inbox

_This is a guest contribution by Amanda Maltby._
Are you certain that your e-mail messages are reaching their intended targets? Have you spoken with your ISP about their filtering practices? Do you have a sinking feeling that no matter how many layers of consent you receive from your customers to send them e-mail, they still won’t get your messages?
If you answered no, no and not sure then you’re not alone. As spam continues to clog in-boxes concern related to the deliverability of legitimate e-mail messages rises and the average marketer is caught in the middle.
Good e-mail marketers are already using practices based on permission being obtained prior to an e-mail being sent and an opt-out opportunity being offered in every e-mail message. They do this or risk being labelled a spammer. But even when these practices are followed e-mail often doesn’t reach its intended recipient.

As “Stefan mentioned”: a March 2005 white paper by “ReturnPath”: suggests that on average 22% of permission-based e-mail is not received by the intended recipient – the high end of that scale is 36% of e-mail not being delivered. That’s over one-third! These are U.S. figures but I suspect the filtering systems being put in place by ISPs south of the border won’t differ significantly from those in Canada and the numbers are similar. On top of this, your customers are putting in place their own filters. Bottom line is that a high percentage of your e-mail might be rejected as junk, spam or illegitimate.
So what can be done? Organizations such as the “Canadian Marketing Association”: and its members are looking at ways to educate marketers about best practices and are beginning to work with ISPs to address deliverability issues. The issue has generated some interest at the federal task force on spam and they have brought marketers and Canadian ISPs together to start discussions between these diverse interests.
There is also some renewed debate about the virtue of certification – the sender pays a third-party intermediary who registers their e-mail and ensures that it is delivered. Some marketers completely reject certification feeling they shouldn’t have to pay to have their e-mail delivered and believe this is an issue for them to resolve between their ISPs and customers. This may be okay for the big players in the marketplace but what about the smaller legit e-mail marketers? Others argue that this principle works for more traditional forms of marketing – mail – so it may be worth considering for e-mail delivery. But at what cost?
As more marketers turn to e-mail deliverability issues with a greater sense of urgency the debate will become more sophisticated and the level of rhetoric will rise. There is a lot on the line because failed delivery means skewed campaign metrics, no sense of ROI for e-mail campaigns and ultimately loss of revenue.
Stay tuned.
_Amanda Maltby recently joined “Ipsos-Reid Public Affairs”: as a Senior Vice President in the Toronto office. She brings over 15 years of insight and practical experience in public policy, communications strategy and opinion research on a wide range of economic and social issues in both the private and public sector environments._


  1. Stefan Eyram
    Stefan Eyram April 28, 2005

    Good post, Amanda. To add to what we have already written, today (April 28, 2005) ClickZ covered this topic in an article called “Deliverability: #1 E-Mail Marketing Headache” (
    ). It covers a recent survey of email marketers.
    I have discussed this topic with some marketers and email vendors over the last few months and here are some more things I can share with readers:
    – Most email marketers I have spoken to have not done any deliverability testing. Very few know if their email vendor or partner has done this.
    – Any email marketer I have spoken to who has done a deliverability audit and found their non-deliverable email is less than 20% are happy.
    – Most email marketers look at open and clickthrough rates as the most important metrics and if these are not declining these people are less worried about deliverability.
    There are lots of best practices and public information in the industry but it seems that lack of time, resources and understanding are keeping many marketers from dealing with deliverability issues and optimizing their email programs. However, dealing with an email partner that has a deliverability optimization program inplace will automatically put you ahead of many other marketers.

  2. Ken Schafer
    Ken Schafer April 29, 2005

    I’ve been thinking about deliverablity a lot to.
    I’m surprised no one in Canada (as far as I know) has created a really well designed and well marketed E-mail Deliverability testing platform (a la Return Path’s acquisition Assurance Systems).
    But then again, once I know what my deliverability rate is, how much real control do I have over it? If the ISP or corporate sysadmin is doing the blocking, how much can we really control as marketers? What good is data if we can’t take action on it?

  3. Jeff Ginsberg
    Jeff Ginsberg August 5, 2005

    In Response to:
    How much real control do I have over it? If the ISP or corporate sysadmin is doing the blocking, how much can we really control as marketers?
    First of all you can use a system that is going to get your messages delivered!!!
    Since using DARTmail our clients’ delivery remains over 90% to the inbox, only failing by bounced or dead addresses. We have only seen our deliver blocked once by Sympatico. A simple call from DoubleClick and my client cleared up the issue faster than you can say “did it really make it to the inbox”.
    Second of all you can use a delivery monitoring system to be sure your messages are making it to the inbox and not the bulk folder.
    I heard that Return Path is coming out with a Canadian seed list. As well, Pivotal Veracity claims they have one, but could not produce a sample when asked.
    As a side note, DoubleClick’s DARTmail platform is the only tool available the directly incorporates Return Path’s inbox monitor with a seed list of over 280 email addresses covering the major ISPs.
    Once the Canadian list is available, I will let you know.
    BTW… if you know of anyone who wants to use Return Path to monitor their delivery, we would be more than happy to provide them a seed list and test their campaign for them. No Charge!
    Jeff Ginsberg

  4. Michelle Eichner
    Michelle Eichner August 9, 2005

    We very much enjoyed your article and appreciate you including information about the various deliverability optimization options available to mailers today.
    Please note, Pivotal Veracity provides full Canadian coverage on every major ISP in Canada. We were the first to introduce Canadian coverage earlier this year and to our knowledge are the only ones who offer it. In addition to B2B, B2C, and Canadian coverage, we also provide deliverability tracking on over 250 domains in 68 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
    Thank you again for your thorough article and your committment to educating companies on the importance of deliverability optimization.
    Michelle Eichner
    VP Client Services
    Pivotal Veracity

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