Oct 01, 2003
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"If the emails don't go through, our brand diminishes, our campaign metrics are inaccurate, and advertisers would not want to do business with us," says Ryan Scott, Director of Email Operations for TheStreet.com.
TheStreet.com sends out different types of emails, including 16 paid newsletters professional investors, a number of newsletters to non-paid lists, and, list rental broadcasts.
Here are four key steps Scott takes to make sure email gets through.
-> Step 1. Strict database management and separation
TheStreet.com uses separate databases, using a different server to send emails to each unique group.
"You might never want to combine your premium content and your advertising/marketing communications," Scott says. "You may want to keep them separate because of delivery issues and to diminish downside risk if there were a problem. You never want your paid customers not to be able to receive your product."
TheStreet.com’s databases are divided into separate groups based on content and target audience.
Another important aspect Scott recommends for database management is to religiously remove hard bounces. "If you're not doing it frequently enough," says Scott, "you may have delays when sending emails." Delays can cause ISPs to cut off your mailing mid- stream.
To be sure that this isn't happening, seed every email with addresses from all the major ISPs. (Scott mentions the "15 major" ISPs, but acknowledges that his list would probably be different than somebody else's list.)
"If I have ten different AOL accounts and email is not going through, I know there's a problem," he says.
This still leaves the issue of the ISPs that nobody could consider "major." Scott doesn't worry too much about those.
"Approximately 65% of anyone's list may be composed of the 15 major ISPs," he says. "If you're getting through to those 65% -- ISPs who are doing everything they can to keep your mail from getting through -- you're probably going to get through to the other 35% and vice versa."
-> Step 2. Police your broadcast servers
"You don't want any relay between your servers, nothing that pauses or hesitates," he says. Again, when an ISP sees you have a delay, they may cut you off.
He also regularly checks to make sure that the reverse DNS (domain name system) -- which enables ISPs to match the email being sent against their partnerships to ensure that both are part of their network -- is enabled and works for each of his servers.
If you're doing this in-house, make sure you're not using someone to manage the system simply because they know how to use an application. "You need someone who really understands email as well as operations from both the front and back-ends," he says.
"It can't be someone who's going to learn by trial and error, especially from a delivery perspective."
Again, seeding the different ISPs and running reports to flag any emails that don't get through can help you see if there's a problem.
-> Step 3. Pick the right email broadcast firm
Choose the most reputable broadcast email vendor that you can afford -- then work with them to be sure they're on the ball.
You need to know that your contact within your vendor really knows his job. "You could have a malignant site sending mail from the same IP range as you," he says. "Your contact might not know who else is on the IP range unless they're very with it."
They have to make sure that the IP range they're putting you on is a good one. "Stay on top of that," he recommends.
-> Step 4. Build a personal contact database for ISPs
When a customer calls to complain that they're not receiving their emails, Scott gets on the phone and calls their Internet provider. "You call, it's an automated system, you have to press one, press nine," he explains.
Each time this happens, track what you have to do to reach the correct person and develop a relationship with them. "In some cases I even have an actual person's name to contact, with their direct phone number," he says.
Relationship building with ISPs works, and for a successful business, you don't have any other choice, he says. "I haven't received a call like that in seven months."