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Matt Watson

Matt Watson Chief Technical Officer

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Someone recently was concerned about the CRM/ILM tool they use and about how their emails were not getting delivered. So it got me thinking about this some more and I started doing some research. I won't name names but I have looked at several common CRM/ILM tools that dealers use and found that most of them had bad reputation scores as email senders.

About 80-90% of all emails sent are SPAM. Since real emails are the exception to the norm, email providers employ a lot of measures to prevent SPAM. Nobody likes Viagra ads, scams, and porn piling up in their email.

How does the content of the email effect its SPAM ratings?
Most large ISPs don't even care about the subject or content of an email. They rely solely on the reputation of the IP address of the sender. A long time ago the content of the email was very important in SPAM calculations. Some ISPs do still look at it, most importantly Hotmail based on some information I am seeing.

So what effects the reputation of an email sender?

1. Emails sent to email addresses that don't exist. If a sender sends a lot of emails to bad email addresses then it looks like they are spamming and trying to harvest email accounts.

2. User complaints. If users are clicking the "this is junk" or "this is spam" buttons on your emails then they are complaining about the emails.

The combination of these two items in relation to the quantity of email being sent create a sort of reputation for the IP address of who is sending the email. There are also a lot of other technical things about how emails are sent that must be done correctly. I won't go in to these technical details here.

So how does this apply to CRM/ILM software?

Most vendors use one or a small number of IP addresses for all of their customers. So everyone is sharing the same IP address and the same reputation. The problem with this is one dealer can ruin it for everyone by continually spamming the world. But, it also isn't feasiable to have hundreds of IP address either if you have a lot of dealers to provide email for.

Another thing to think about is no reputation is potentially worse than a good reputation. I mention this because if you did have your own IP address you would probably not send enough email to register a good reputation. So your reputation would just forever be unknown. So there are potential benefits of having a shared IP if every does a good job.

I've seen dealers send "quote of the day" emails to their entire customer database on a daily basis. You can imagine how many SPAM complaints that generates very quickly.

So how do you know if your emails are being delivered?

Only way to know is to send test emails to a yahoo, gmail, hotmail, aol and other email accounts to check. Your results could vary from day to day though. The reputation of a sender continually changes.

What can you do to ensure your email are delivered?

1. Take time to send quality and professionally written and looking emails to your customers. Don't send size 72 point font in bold red font.

2. Make sure every email has a clear way to unsubscribe so you don't send them any more emails. You are better off having them unsubscribe than flag your email as SPAM and a user complaint. That user complaint will keep you from emailing someone else who really wants to receive your emails.

3. Keep a clean email list. If you export email lists from one tool and import them in another, be sure to exclude emails of people who previously opted out or their emails were found to be invalid before.

4. Always include in the email your address and contact information. Be sure to list the name of dealership, other ways to contact you and the location of the store. The CAN-SPAM law requires you to list the location of the company sending the email. It is also much more professional looking and it builds trust with the recipient that you aren't spamming them if you are genuinely listing information on how to contact you. Do spammers usually send you their contact information and address? No. This seems like a simple thing but dealers don't do it and most vendors don't enforce this.

5. Include in the email why you are contacting the customer. Basically you want to remind them that they are receiving the email because you did business with them in the past or they just submitted a lead or etc. You want to remind them that the message isn't SPAM.

Some of these items can be enforced by your ILM/CRM provider. However most vendors leave it up to you. However, since most likely you are sharing an email reputation with several other dealers because you are sharing IP addresses, the other dealer's may not care as much as you. So it is better if the ILM/CRM vendor forces certain standards and compliance.

VinSolutions enforces certain standards for this reason. Occasionally our customers even complain about some of the content we automatically put in the emails. But they don't understand we are trying to protect and help them....

What if my emails are going in to the junk folder?

Unfortunately there probably isn't much you can do. But you can start by trying my tips above. You may have to switch to a different ILM vendor if your having a lot of serious problems getting your emails delivered. A CRM/ILM tool isn't worth anything if it can't delivery your email messages.

As a side note, Yahoo is by far the most difficult to send email to.

What about whitelisting?

First off, to become whitelisted you would have to have a very good reputation as a sender to qualify. You have to have very low complaint rates and conform to a lot of other requirements. However, if you have a very good reputation as a sender... you probably wouldn't need to be on a whitelist.

In all actuality, there is only one magical white list and they told me that less than 15% of companies are eligible to get on that list. One of the top requirements is the IP address of the sender can only send email for a single company. So virtually all commercial senders can't be whitelisted. They told me to follow all the best practices and have a low complaint rate and I didn't really even need to worry about being on their list.

For example, based on my research, IMakeNews (IMN Loyalty Driver) is not on the the white list I'm referring to. However, they have a very good reputation as a sender and probably don't have a lot of email delivery problems.

There are some special techniques to increase email deliverability that you can not control. They must be employed by the vendor providing your email service. Of course I'm not going to share my secrets ;-)

Hopefully this was helpful!

If anyone has any questions let me know!

Matt Watson
Chief Technical Officer

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