Dotdigital blog

The 6 Cs of deliverability

Find out how deliverability affects your marketing ROI, and how to improve it.
Deliverability team working together.

Sure, these days, we’re all about cross-channel. We eat, sleep, rave, and repeat our cross-channel mantra of sending the right messages to the right people, on the right channel, at the right time. But we’ve never taken off our email crown for a second.

That’s because we know how valuable email is to your business. The 2021 DMA report showed that for every £1 spent on email campaigns, the return on investment (ROI) was an impressive £38. Moreover, in 2022, email marketing yielded a $36 ROI for each $1 spent. But to get this kind of return, you need to make sure your emails are reaching the inbox. And that’s where we, the email experts, come in.

The deliverability team

We’re the Deliverability & Messaging Operations team – Dotdigital’s experts in email & SMS delivery and inbox placement – and we’re here to ensure your messages, you guessed it, get delivered to the inbox. If you’re new to sending email at scale, some of these terms might be new to you. But if you’re here, we’re guessing you’re something of an expert too, and are reading this to get an edge over your competition. 

No matter your familiarity with the subject, deliverability is something you should constantly be considering. So whether deliverability is a new concept to you, something that’s recently become an issue, or something you want to learn more about so that your campaigns and comms are getting the very best return they can, here are the top six things every marketer or communication manager needs to consider.

There are 6 C’s we consider for every customer

  1. Consent
  2. Content
  3. Cadence
  4. Contacts
  5. Consistency 
  6. Change

All of these factors contribute to your sender’s reputation. Reputation in deliverability terms means the priority that mailbox providers give to email traffic. Put more simply, reputation influences whether emails land in the inbox or the spam folder. 

Missing the mark on just one of the 6 C’s leaves marketers or communication managers using self-service platforms wondering what on earth is happening to all the messages they are sending into the ether. Perhaps you have been burnt by one of these 6 C’s in the past. Luckily for you, not only are we going to talk you through the 6 C’s of deliverability, but at Dotdigital, we have in-house experts and services at our fingertips to offer advice on every single one of them.

Obtaining consent has always been important for successful email delivery, even before GDPR was introduced. Which is why we’ve always preached best practices in this area. If customers receive messages that they don’t expect or haven’t consented to, it’s only a matter of time before they hit the spam button or unsubscribe. Consent is also a crucial aspect of data privacy and regulations. Without it, building a successful relationship between your brand and your customers is unlikely. As we’ll go on to discuss, this is crucial, not just for the customer experience but also for deliverability’s sake.

At Dotdigital, we log something called ConsentInsight, which is all that you need to gain and demonstrate evidence of consent. This way, you can be sure to maintain excellent customer relationships, now and in the future.

But consent isn’t just about that initial sign-up – consent doesn’t last forever, and you need to keep an eye on your engagement to ensure that your contacts still want to hear from you. Your provider should have tools and services to help you continuously measure that continued consent, re-activate and re-engage lapsing subscribers, and know when it’s time to say goodbye to a contact who no longer wants your emails.

2. How deliverability is affected by content

Your customers and prospects shouldn’t just be content with your content – you want them to be delighted. And when we say content, we mean everything from the subject line, the friendly from address, the pre-header preview text, the body text, and even the imagery within your emails. 

Filters affect how much folks engage with your brand, but maybe not in the way you’d think. Most filters are a lot smarter than they used to be, and it’s less about whether specific words or content look “spammy” to the receivers and more about how recipients interact with your emails. 

Sometimes recipients don’t expect your emails, don’t recognize your brand, and think your emails look like spam. Your emails are unlikely to be opened, read, or clicked, or worse, they may be marked as spam or junk. 

This is a strong indicator to mailbox providers that your emails are unwanted, so they’re more likely to place them in the spam folder. The more relevant your content is to your targeted audience, the more engagement you’ll get from your emails and the better reputation you build up.

In a nutshell, content is the key to engagement, and engagement is key to deliverability. Pay attention to every aspect of your campaign content to make sure you’re delighting your contacts.

3. The effect cadence has on your reputation (especially during ramp up)

Sending frequency can impact your email inbox placement and delivery. It’s not just about the content of your email. For those who are unsure about the difference between delivery and deliverability, delivery refers to whether your email reaches the recipient’s inbox, while deliverability is concerned with its placement in the inbox. In other words, it determines whether your email makes it to the primary inbox or if it’s marked as spam.

How often you send can be a delicate balance. Too much, and your customers may unsubscribe. Too little, and they may forget you and become disengaged. 

Additionally, when new traffic is seen over a domain or IP that is inconsistent, it has the potential to look risky to the receiving mailbox provider. A common mistake is getting the send cadence wrong during the “ramp up” or “warm up” strategy phase when brands are still building the reputation of a new sending address. The problem is that going too fast during ramp up can damage reputation. Going too slow can cause you to lose it. Your provider should pay special attention during this crucial time to ensure everything goes to plan and continue to advise long after the first big campaign drops. 

4. Your deliverability is only as good as your contact data

The quality of the data you use for your contacts is crucial for both delivery and deliverability. Consider the following questions: 

  • Where was the data sourced? 
  • Is the information accurate enough to segment and personalize your emails, resulting in better engagement?
  • How recent is the data? 
  • Are your emails relevant to their situation, role, or interests?

The initial opt-in is a crucial aspect of consent: it’s an opportunity for you to set expectations around frequency and content, ensuring that recipients know what they’re signing up for, meaning they’re less likely to complain later. It’s also a key factor in keeping your contact data clean; using confirmed or double opt-in at the point of sign-up (where recipients need to click a link in an email to confirm they want to hear from you) means non-existent email addresses will be removed from your lists, and the email address signing up belongs to the person who entered it. 

We frequently see issues with bounces, complaints, or spam trap hits negatively affecting sender reputation and inbox placement because the email address that’s been added to the list (either accidentally or intentionally) either doesn’t exist or does not belong to the person or entity who filled out your subscription form. Using confirmed opt-in results in a more engaged source of contacts.

No matter the situation with your data, you or your provider should be asking the right questions and finding a way to move forward to make sure you get the absolute optimum ROI per email.

5. Nothing bolsters deliverability like consistency

Put yourself into the customer’s shoes. When you sign up for an email subscription, you already expect the messages you are going to receive – especially when the sender has followed best practice for consent and laid out the kinds of messages you will be receiving. 

When the consistency of this message varies, be this the content style or subject matter, customer engagement drops off because an expectation has suddenly not been met. Leave bait and switch to the fraudsters, focus on valuable content and be as consistent and dependable for your customers as you would like to see from your favorite brands. 

6. Monitor and refine your change management practices

Change is inevitable. You need to move with the times and keep up with your customer base and leverage the latest marketing program techniques. The last thing we want to do is dissuade you from changing when all successful businesses change to survive. But as we’ve outlined above, with consistency so integral to deliverability, if you made a change to your marketing program on any of the five other C’s, you could be putting your inbox placement and deliverability at risk. 

Luckily, we’re well-versed in change management. Every day, we help marketers adjust their campaigns and strategy, all whilst reducing the risk changes can pose. This is a vital piece of expertise most businesses can’t live without.

When to bring in the deliverability experts

The best way to think of all the 6 C’s of deliverability is as dominoes that have a long, viral-worthy domino effect. For example: the better your consent practice, the better your contact data, the more relevant content you can deliver, the better your engagement, the better your reputation, the better your deliverability.

Keep in mind that our experts are here to guide you in achieving those impressive engagement rates. Whether you’re launching a new campaign, troubleshooting an issue, or exploring a fresh approach, reach out to us for assistance. Remember, the £38 return on £1 spent is an impressive feat, but neglecting the 6 C’s of deliverability can hinder your full ROI potential. Stay informed and proactive in utilizing these 6 C’s of deliverability to optimize your campaign success.

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