Dela is Right

Dela is Right

"EEC15 proved that Dela and the people who have discovered that sending more results in higher sales - despite the misgivings of a large part of our email community – is absolutely right."

Email engagement doesn’t matter…again

Every once in awhile, dogmas clash.

Tightly held beliefs on one side of the table butt heads with equally held beliefs on the other side. Much like rams, elk or any other animals with hard heads and/or horns, the combatants line up across from each other and whack away. In nearly every one of these challenges, someone wins. Someone loses.

In the world of email, we’ve laid witness to one such battle.

On one side:  the “send more email but don’t be stupid” school of sending as championed by Dela Quist. On the other side…almost everyone else in the email space – especially those with a vested interest in getting people to send less.

At EEC15 in Miami, someone lined up across from Dela and proceeded to butt heads.  Dela was insisting that sending more email (intelligently, of course) would not have an impact on inbox rates. His foe insisted that engagement was a lever that could and did move inbox rates. It was gripping. It was loud. For one of the combatants, it resulted in a resounding defeat.

For too long, certain voices in the email industry have trumpeted the fact that “engagement can effect deliverability.” In other words, the more engaged your universe, the more likely you are to get inboxed. The result of this line of thinking is that – whenever you are faced with an inbox issue, you should immediately cut down your list to the most engaged universe possible.

Here’s the problem with that line of thinking - I’ve never actually seen it work. It’s been suggested to me several times. Each time the only thing it’s done is to reduce sales, while having negligible impact on inbox rates. Not only does it not work for me…it’s not supported by any of the third party industry data I’ve seen.  Given the fact that ours is a data-based medium, the lack of attention to market data has been particularly vexing.

During a session with delivery folks from Microsoft, Gmail, AOL and Comcast, one thing was made clear – ISPs cannot and do not check whether people click on your links. They do count opens – but not open rate. When the panel moderator asked “should I stop sending to an email that has not engaged in a year” the ISP response was, essentially, “why would you want to do that?” It was a stunning revelation. Ironically, it was made shortly before most people had to leave for the airport.

While sending more is not necessarily bad, it was also made clear that you have to make sure you’re taking care of the basics. You need to authenticate your email. You need to sign up for feedback loops. You need to scrub your database of bounces, respect unsub requests and process spam complaints efficiently. This is part of the “don’t be stupid” part of Dela’s “send more” philosophy.

What seems to have big impacts for the ISPs is how users interact with the message envelope – do they move it to the spam folder? Or – consequently – do they take it out? This speaks to making sure you’ve got sound email collection practices.

In essence, inbox issues seem to be a result of your email collection and management practices – not about how “engaged” people are with your email.

Dela has long been a champion of worrying less about engagement metrics and more about overall database reach metrics. For this, he has been roundly criticized. EEC15 proved that Dela and the people who have discovered that sending more results in higher sales - despite the misgivings of a large part of our email community – is absolutely right.