Digging Out of an Email Deliverability Hole

MHDG Staff Email Marketing

You’re 2 years into a significant investment in email marketing. It started off great, with 40+% open rates, high click through rates, and clear, tangible ROI. But you might have noticed while your email lists have been growing, there’s been a steady decrease in engagement, with open rates getting low enough that you’re wondering if you’re even hitting the inbox anymore. Does that sound too familiar?

A common problem that today’s email marketers run into is that of email deliverability, and we frequently hear from organizations looking for our help to figure out why their emails aren’t getting opened anymore.

Email Deliverability is much like your Credit Score, in that it can be tarnished over time with poor or lazy practices, and it cannot be built back up overnight. When your creditors (analogous to Email Clients like Gmail and Outlook) deem you untrustworthy, you must build that trust back up in small amounts over time. (PS. Anyone offering you quick fixes is looking to take your money plain and simple.)

Addressing the Simple Stuff

First and foremost, you need to clean your marketing lists, check your DNS settings, IP/Domain reputation, blacklists you may be on, and any content in your emails that may be deemed ‘spammy’. There’s a ton of content out there on the basics, which are low hanging fruit when it comes to determining just how deep your deliverability hole is.

But one thing that you’ll notice when looking at a lot of the resources these platforms and blogs put out is the lack of direction when it comes to addressing actual engagement.

The Real Challenge

Increasingly, leading email clients like Gmail are filtering the inboxes of their users based on engagement of that user, as well as the engagement from their other users who receive your emails.

So, if you want your emails to hit the inbox, you better have engaged recipients. As a Gmail end user, this is great! As an email marketer… you might see how this could snowball in both a positive, or negative direction. If you find yourself in a bad spot, how do you get people to engage if they aren’t seeing your emails in the inbox?

Of course, most email marketing platforms typically don’t offer explicit advice for improving engagement, so you’re left to figure it out yourself.

So how do you actually do it? Do you really only email the people who opened the last few emails you sent and abandon the rest? No marketer wants to give up on prospects or leads who are qualified but whose timing is just not right (especially if your contacts have been acquired by attending expensive trade shows or events).

Email Deliverability Rehab – A Blueprint

First, you need to develop content people actually want to open and read. That sounds like common sense, but think about how many marketing emails are sent to you that you skip over and archive every single day. Moving the needle on email engagement is going to come from captivating subject lines and content within your emails, not because you sent it at the “best time to send emails” or because orange is the highest converting button color for a CTA.

Outside of the standard attributes you should already be segmenting on (past purchase data, position in your buyer funnel/customer journey), you’re going to want to segment your contacts based on their past engagement. To start, we recommend breaking them up into 4 simple categories:

High Engagement  those who open your emails regularly, who are your brand ambassadors, who are your most loyal fans and who always check out your newest product releases (think about Apple product fanatics, or sneakerheads here)

Moderate Engagement – those who open your emails from time to time, who might have purchased from you more than once, or those who take advantage of your product sales or seasonal promotions

Low Engagement – those who only opened your transactional or confirmation emails, or maybe once opened the “biggest sale of the year” emails

No Engagement – Those who signed up for an account and gave you their email address, but haven’t engaged with any of your email content

Most marketing automation platforms have the ability to segment or tag these 4 categories in some capacity. You should be able to segment based on email sends, opens, clicks over time. You could also use a lead scoring system to funnel contacts in and out of these categories, something we helped customers at Net-Results set up many times.

Once you’ve determined a process to get your contacts into one of those four engagement categories, you’ll then take a look at your upcoming marketing emails and offer content to gauge how the contacts in your engagement categories will respond.

Again, the key is going to be sending content to the people who actually want to read it. An important distinction here is not content that you want them to read, but content that they want to read.

In the context of our four engagement categories, think about categorizing your email content in terms of 3 different levels of offer/content strength:

Strong Offers – Big seasonal sales with deep discounts, truly groundbreaking case studies, or game changing product updates/brand initiatives

Medium Offers – moderate sales offers, reputable industry reports

Soft Offers – New season product lineups, customer testimonials, simple newsletters with company updates

If you’re having trouble categorizing the content, look back at previous email campaign data, as well as your own inbox to see the type of content you’ve personally engaged with.

Now that you understand the different categories of offers and engagement, use these categories to determine which audiences you’re going to send your content to.

To build your engagement and reputation back up, you’ll want to isolate your Soft Offers to your High Engagement contacts, and make sure that the No Engagement and Low Engagement contacts only receive your Stong Offers. After two to three Strong Offers for a No Engagement contact, you may want to think about unsubscribing them from receiving email for the foreseeable future.

Over time, this categorization process will begin to improve your average open rates and engagement, as each email will be more targeted to those who are more likely to open it. With this improved engagement, your reputation and deliverability credit score will be built back up, and you’ll be hitting the inbox more often.

As an added bonus, you’ll be forced to examine your content and come up with fresh and enticing ideas that your audience will be excited to read.

If you’re looking to hire an email marketing agency, ask them what their segmentation strategies are and what type of content they’d focus on. We’ve done a ton of this type of work at MH Digital and can help you get back on track, understanding that it’s not an instant fix of your deliverability.

Need help implementing our Email Deliverability Rehab Process or getting the remainder of your deliverability issues under control?

Let’s Chat.