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Why do many marketing automation platforms achieve poor email deliverability?

1 September 2016
by Adam Oldfield

Why do many marketing automation platforms achieve poor email deliverability?

It’s a sad fact that many companies struggle to gain true value from their marketing automation platforms. Often this is because a large number of marketers don’t think beyond sending the traditional ‘batch and blast’ emails that have long dominated the comms space. There are others who lack the confidence to use the advanced features that automation platforms have to offer.

But whatever the reason, the situation can escalate quite quickly to the point that deliverability from automation platforms becomes poor. So how are marketers supposed to achieve any real results then? And what can be done to combat the problem?

Firstly, it’s important to understand what deliverability is. Deliverability is the term used to describe how likely your email is to arrive in the inbox of the recipient, instead of ending up in their spam folder or, worse still, being rejected by their mail server altogether.

A good deliverability profile is essential, because:

  • 87% of consumers do not trust emails that land in ‘junk’
  • Microsoft/Hotmail, Google/Gmail and BT have the strictest spam protection policies and unfortunately this makes up approximately 80% of all UK recipients
  • Emails landing in junk are only a fifth as effective as emails that land in an inbox.

 So, what factors influence deliverability?

  • The quality of your data and the level of engagement with the audience you send to
  • The volume of emails you send, and the frequency with which you send them (throttling – or staggering – emails can help to combat this)
  • Your data management practices, including bounce suppression and user preferences management
  • Your mail server configuration – it is important to adhere to all of the latest receiving mail server requirements
  • The quality of the code sent via your IP. Bad code containing links to black-listed sites can impact your deliverability without you even realising. This is typically found within mass mailing providers tracking links
  • Feedback loops, which allow ESP’s (email service providers) and recipients to feed concerns back to the sender so that they can be addressed.



It’s soon easy to see why building and sending an email to a brand’s entire database, even the contacts one of the directors bought from eBay, can have catastrophic consequences. Yes the marketer knows the importance of targeting and relevance, but they’ve crossed their fingers to see how a campaign goes. Unfortunately though, this tactic will have probably impacted on their open rates for their next five campaigns too.

So why is this a problem within MA platforms?

The answer is simple. In the old days of sending email via online ESPs, if they didn’t like your mailing practices they would just issue a warning. If you committed a ‘repeat offence’, you’d be banned from using their service. This allowed ESPs to protect their mailing identities and fix the problems people caused before they became too serious.

With a marketing automation vendor, on the other hand, you’ll have already committed to a 12-month contract, and they’ll have probably already taken your money. They are not in a position to block your access to the service quite so easily, yet they are faced with the same issues online ESPs have always had, if not more-so. Today’s ESPs have much, much more work to do, to maintain relationships on behalf of each client.

Also with many MA platforms basing their pricing models on the number of contacts they hold, the last thing they’ll want to do is strip or block contacts as this will directly impact on their revenue.

This presents an interesting problem – the only thing they can do is to allow your mailing profile to slowly degrade and group your account with other clients adopting a similar practice. It’s simply a race to the bottom, where each client in that group will eventually start to see lower and lower returns. The MA provider just allocates the set number of hours per week to remedy the issues.


So what should you/can you do about this?

Aside from general good email practices like base segmentation, bounce suppression and preference management, you must make sure you can undertake the following:

  • Take control of your own mailing profile and demand a dedicated IP address with a dedicated tracking URL. This will give you the independence to ensure only your actions are influencing your mailing profiles.
  • Take control of the speed with which you send emails, as well as the time of day. Most communications don’t need to be delivered in one rapid blast – it is fine for them to be distributed slowly through the working day, or at peak engagement times.
  • Consider a relationship with email optimisation specialist ReturnPath.
  • Ensure your mail server is correctly configured and has DMARC, DKIM, SPF, and Domainkeys enabled, to ensure each email is signed.
  • Ensure your ESP allows you to manage Feedback loops
  • Keep an eye out for innovations in the technical signing of emails
  • Continually monitor your IP credibility score (with Senderscore.org)
  • Develop a consistent sending pattern. Try to put yourself in the receiving ESPs position – they like pedigree and stability. So give them a consistent send volume per week, every week.

When you do all of this and you maintain good emailing practices as well, you’ll start to see improvements to both your mailing profile and your ROI. Inbox protection is getting smarter by the day, allowing marketers who understand email to win, but closing the door on those who don’t.

Force24 gives all of clients a personalised mailing profile, before managing all technical and non-technical aspects of email delivery on their behalf. We constantly evaluate the mailing performance of our clients and work 1-on-1 with each, to ensure they get the best possible responses to their messages.

Photo of Adam Oldfield
Adam Oldfield
Managing Director & Founder

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