December 18, 2007
Case Study

How to Fix Your Email Deliverability - 4 Easy Strategies to Lift Deliverability 20.4% & Sales 143%

SUMMARY: Think your email reputation is as good as it should be? As many as one in five campaigns gets junked, blocked or bounced, according to data from MarketingSherpa’s new Email Marketing Benchmark Guide 2008.

That’s why you have to see how an online tickets marketer improved their deliverability rate 20.4% and increased email-driven conversions 143% in just two months. Includes four easy steps you can follow.
Bob Frady, VP Direct Marketing, LiveNation, watched his deliverability rate gradually drop as the company’s email list grew. Before they knew it, 22% of their addresses weren’t being delivered for one reason or another.

It wasn’t easy to say why emails weren’t getting through to consumers, with every email receiver using their own deliverability rules and changing them often. But for an online company that sends 8,000 campaigns a year and sells $300 million in tickets annually, it meant Frady and his team were losing an incredible amount of money to the junk bins.

“It was a huge problem,” he says. “To quantify it in numbers, MSN and Hotmail represent about 18% of our business. If we lose the opportunity to communicate to [those addresses], then we cannot sell to them either.”

Frady and his team started by examining the addresses that were getting returned before they created their fix-up plan. They also consulted with their new email service provider and decided that simply scrubbing their list wasn’t going to solve the problem. Instead, they concentrated on improving their reputation among the email receivers.

Here are the four strategies they took to get the job done, one of which had the potential to really hurt their current sales:

-> Strategy #1. Set hard rules for bounces and copy

Frady applied some new, stricter rules. Specifically, any email address that was bounced in a campaign came off their send list. Emailers who continue to send to addresses that bounce look like spammers to many ISPs.

Their new rule: one bounce and you’re out. “To some [marketers], that would be a bummer,” Frady says. “But to us it was a matter of, ‘Why damage your reputation.’ ”

-> Strategy #2. Clean up the copy

Next, they looked at their subject lines and messages. They wondered if spam-triggering words were getting their copy in trouble.

Copywriters were told to quit using the following words and punctuation marks, suspecting they were tripping filters:
o The words, “Special Offer”
o Words in all caps
o Exclamation points

“We spent a lot of time working on those issues,” Frady says. “We tried to eliminate as many spam [content problems] as possible.”

-> Strategy #3. Clean the list

Frady then took what was probably the most potentially painful step for revenues -- regulating the number of emails sent out over three stages.

- They started emailing offers to only those consumers who had signed up or purchased in the past 16 months.

- A month later, they emailed records 36 months and younger.

- A month after that, they emailed records that were less than 48 months old.

Frady was most concerned with sales, but he knew it had to be done. “It was very much a turn down the spigot, give [the ISPs/receivers] the cleanest records first, rebuild your reputation, work diligently to make sure that you are getting delivered and then open up again with records that were a little bit older.”

-> Strategy #4. Follow email receivers’ processes

Finally, they went through the certification process or signed up for the feedback loop for each of their top 10 email receivers. “The ISPs [and email receivers] don’t want spammers, and we don’t want them to think we are spammers. If they had a rule set, we were going to march to it.”

Here’s the list of receivers in alpha order: America Online, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communication, Gmail, MSN/Hotmail, Qwest, Road Runner, SBC (AT&T), Verizon and Yahoo!
Frady and his team proved that email reputations can be rebuilt in a manner similar to consumer credit ratings. In short, their four steps worked tremendously to clean up the problem with MSN and Hotmail subscribers, as well as the other email receivers.

- The deliverability rate climbed 20 percentage points - from 78% to more than 98%.
- Email-driven sales increased 143% this year compared to last year.

The lift in sales has everything to do with their improved reputation and deliverability, Frady says. Throttling down the email volume turned out to be an invaluable process. “It took us two months to solve, and then we were out of it,” says. “But, you are never truly in the clear. The rules change constantly. You always have things you need to monitor.”

As a side benefit, Frady and his team are now able to rent email lists with more ROI faith, knowing they’re in good standing with the email receivers. “Because our main list is so clean, we can confidently bring in lists from other sources we wouldn’t have necessarily used before and make them part of our process.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from LiveNation’s email campaign:

Zeta Interactive - digital marketing agency that helps LiveNation with email:


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