The Deliverability Series is a collection of conversations intended to shed light on the intricate nature of deliverability and compliance.
Chris Arrendale is a Software, Email Marketing and Deliverability professional. He’s a known expert for problem solving in the email deliverability, privacy, and software space and is also an active member of multiple email organizations. Arrendale is the CEO & Principal Deliverability Consultant of Inbox Pros and has worked as a Deliverability Expert at several reputable consulting firms and ESPs.
"When I was at an ESP, one of the fears or things that kept me up at night was when a new client would send that initial send - what’s going to happen? All the ESPs I’ve worked for had built-in alerts and countermeasures against that, but if somebody hit send and had a 40-50-60% hard bounce rate, you’re going to have a lot of problems. You’re going to wake up the next day and wish you hadn’t let that person on the system."
When a client comes to you with deliverability problems, do you have a way to vet the client and their data?
Mostly, it’s a question and answer session, like a pre-sales kick-off call. I look at and ask questions about how long they’ve been sending, about their list - how they acquired it, how large it is, how often they send. I ask them to send me some creative samples, their website URL. It’s more about vetting them to see if I would be a good fit for them. Sometimes I’ve turned down clients, not only because they were sending borderline spam, but because I’m not the right person to help them - they might need more of a creative consultant, or a different type of consultant than what I can help them with.
"Majority of the time, it’s not an ESP that’s causing the problem, it could be that maybe the client has been sending to an older list, maybe they’ve purchased a list, maybe they’ve changed their sending domain without notifying the ESP and gotten the correct DNS records."
Whether an agency, an ESP or a consultant, do you think it’s better to have an actual human reviewing data rather than having it automated?
It’s difficult. If everybody had extra hours in their day to look over it, that’d be great. I think that having automation is the best because you can quickly get through it, get the data, details, and percentages. What I’ve done when I’ve been in that situation, is take chunks of the list in random intervals or sort the list and look at it in a few different ways manually - just eyeballing it to figure out if there should be problems or will be problems with the list - maybe doing certain search terms to find typo email addresses, things like that. For the most part, I agree that automation is a lot faster and a lot more effective.
While it may be better to have a human all of the time, it doesn’t scale. When I was at an ESP, one of the fears or things that kept me up at night was when a new client would send that initial send - what’s going to happen? All the ESPs I’ve worked for had built-in alerts and countermeasures against that, but if somebody hit send and had a 40, 50, 60% hard bounce rate, you’re going to have a lot of problems. You’re going to wake up the next day and wish you hadn’t let that person on the system.
There have been a few ESPs here recently that have started asking everyone to confirm their list. If you confirm your list, your open and click numbers should increase drastically. It’s difficult, because you’re always going to have that one malicious sender that possibly gets through.
Is it typical a client would continue working with you, but want to switch ESPs?
Most of the time, that is a question that does come up. A client will want me to do an ESP review, and ask if there’s an ESP that would work better for them. Majority of the time, it’s not an ESP that’s causing the problem, it could be that maybe the client has been sending to an older list, maybe they’ve purchased a list, maybe they’ve changed their sending domain without notifying the ESP and gotten the correct DNS records. I don’t think I’ve ever recommended someone switch to a different ESP or marketing automation provider just because they’re having deliverability problems.
If one thing could happen in the email deliverability space to make it better, what would you like to see happen?
I would like to see the sender and receiver community get closer. If we were able to better communicate, or have information that we share - possibly even sharing information about bad senders. In this case, maybe a vetting tool would no longer be needed because you have all the bad senders identified at your fingertips. But then you’re looking at, from an ethical perspective, what qualifies as a “bad sender”?
ISPs feel it’s their responsibility to protect their mailboxes. I think that privacy is of utmost importance. I would just like to have some sort of secure communication channel to identify problems or issues and work more closely with them on certain things that data will help with. Like, I mentioned having some sort of data portal for each ISP or receiver to have that information.
If there was one area out of everything you do, what would you choose to automate?
As a consultant, it would be great to automate an audit. To go through and automate all the infrastructure checks and look through that for me, maybe to monitor bounce logs constantly. Something that can send alerts on what’s happening with the data and produce a detailed audit report.