There is always a lot to gain from attending the Certified Senders Alliance summits, and the 2016 summit was no exception. 

When I reflect on all that was discussed, it seems to me that the key topics of this year’s Summit could be summed up in just one word: trust.

It’s one word, but it represents one of the broadest and most compelling content areas when it comes to email and deliverability, with a whole word behind it!

And it’s a tricky one too: it seems easy to understand, but it actually embodies a whole range of complex matters.

I’ll start by quoting the saying shared at the beginning of the meeting:

If you want to go fast, go alone,
if you want to go far go together.

The trust relationship between brand and recipient, ISP and ESP

I’m personally convinced that email marketing can indeed go far (and beyond!)… but only if we look for quality in the entire email value chain: from the company (brand) that wants to deliver the message all the way to the recipient who wants that specific email. And quality is closely tied to trust (mutual trust), plain and simple.

In a healthy email marketing world, brands and customers trust each other, and the same goes for ISPs and ESPs. Trust is an indispensable and essential factor for success in email marketing.

Too basic? Well, having to deal with deliverability matters all day along, watching hundreds of brands send billions of emails a year, it seems to me that sometimes we forget the basics.

The truth is that if there is no trust there will be no performances either. So figuring out this “trust thing” is key to a positive return on the email marketing investment for a brand.

4 different perspectives 

Years of experience have made it pretty clear to me that building reciprocal trust requires that we look at the relationship that’s behind the sending of an email message from every perspective.

From a recipient’s perspective, a trustful brand does not fill his or her inbox with loads of unwanted emails, and a good ISP does not deliver spam messages into the inbox. Recipients will switch their ISP of choice and disconnect from a brand rather quickly if they do not trust them.

From an ISP perspective, a trustful ESP is one that does not play around with domain names, IPs and other tricks of the trade just to avoid being blocked. A good ESP respects the ISP’s rules because it respects its role as key partner in the digital relationship with the recipient.
In this regard, my personal opinion is that using easily identifiable domain names directly associated with the ESPs brand identity (eg linked to their corporate website) is the way to go.

And from an ESP perspective? Well, having been directly involved with one for almost a decade now, I can say that it may be an even more difficult role than that of the ISP: we are the broker between brands and customers, passing through ISPs, constantly trying to find the right balance among often conflicting views.

The success begins by respecting the rules

In the end, trust it is what we seek from our customers. Trust that to get their messages delivered, we will always do our best, but that there are no shady shortcuts to long-term email success. No hidden tricks. Just one golden rule: send wanted emails.

That’s why we have very strict vetting procedures during the customer onboarding process and monitor scores of quality indicators after each contact list is imported and each email campaign is sent. That’s also why we temporarily suspend accounts, even if they belong to top quality customers: they need to trust that we won’t allow “bad” emails to slip through, especially if those email are theirs!

Just as our customers can trust that we are always doing our best when delivering their campaigns, we need to be able to trust that they do believe that the path to success consists of playing by the rules and creating a true relationship with recipients. And that this path starts with listening to what those recipients really want, without misusing their consent. We also need them to trust us when we say that if they choose a different path, there will be no silver bullet when they ask us to help, no matter what.

I find myself more often than I’d like with an upset customer shouting “Why do we not have the performance we want?” To which my question is: “Are you sure that you are really listening to what your customers are telling you?” For starters, to listen you should stop screaming.

It’s an uncomfortable position that I find myself in, many times, as head of deliverability for an ESP. But when I reflect on it, it does come back to trust. Trust that if you want us to go far with successful email marketing, we really need to go together.

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