24 Feb 2017

Throughout my career, the opportunity to learn and evolve hasn’t stopped. However, a couple of months back our Development and Client Management teams came to me with a trend I had never seen in my 25 year career and I’ve seen my fair share of oddities. This one was stranger than most – a significant fluctuation in deliverability. Now, that will cause a CEO’s heart to skip a beat! We immediately began searching for the cause – one question at a time. Little did we know, fixing the deliverability pain point would lead us to a better way to deliver for our clients.

Idea #1: Could it be our recent system changes?

We had recently made enhancements to our platform, including migration to a new data center – nothing that should have caused the drop-off. Since it was the most recent change we looked there first. Nothing odd was happening with either, so we immediately kicked into problem-solving mode going at it from all angles. We had to identify the root cause.

Lesson #1: Don’t leave a stone unturned.

Idea #2: Look for the fingerprints.

When it comes to getting emails in the inbox, the slightest little changes can impact deliverability. Changes in volume can raise a red flag. And engagement is probably the biggest factor of all. None of those elements seemed to be cause for the bulk of the inconsistent drop-off.

Lesson #2: Not all clients are created equal.

Idea #3: Does the reputation of your IP address and domain name matter?

The team decided to segment our clients. We isolated those with a history of high deliverability. We suspended campaigns that were found to have high spam traps, questionable email addresses, and anything that could trigger a spam warning or junk mail drop. And we optimized content for our clients who are more middle of the road by looking at policies, link updates, plus SPF and domain configuration.

Through several detailed and deliberate steps we cautiously began to tweak and test small batches at a time. Was it something in the content? We adjusted the content. Was it something in the IP address? We adjusted IPs. Sometimes it helped. Other times it didn’t. We spread the sends between other systems. Sometimes it helped. Other times it didn’t. With each small change and test, we learned what was working and what wasn’t, then immediately adjusted. We would literally test one at a time, send to see where it delivered, then build on that success. Then…we got in a hurry. We learned that changes to our server environment can jolt our deliverability ecosystem.

Lesson #3: Yes. Hurry up and solve the problem. But don’t trip at the finish line!

Idea #4: Was it only us?

Was this happening to other marketing automation companies or just us? We got on the phone with our industry colleagues to see what they were experiencing. Yup! It was happening to them too. AOL and Yahoo addresses were functioning very well. It was primarily Gmail and Hotmail addresses that were not, though all four were acting differently.

Lesson #4: Misery DOESN’T love company because it’s still misery.

Conclusion: Is it fixed?

This is the biggest lesson of all. We will never relax thinking “it’s fixed!” Yes, the numbers are back on the rise and we’re grateful. But life is now different at SoftVu. Think of it like the metal detectors at the airport. Those aren’t temporary. It’s the new normal. While we might find some loose change in our pockets on occasion, we’re really on the look-our for those potentially bigger problems so we can keep everyone safe.

When I began my career in marketing technology deliverability was relatively simple. Watch out for key words. Keep your batch volumes to a limit. Make sure the email lists are well scrubbed before sending. Today there is so much more that goes into the success of our work and what we’ve learned makes us better at SoftVu. We will continue to devise the right message. We will continue to send it to the right people at the right time. And we will stand guard and deal with whatever might get in our way. Call it character building– our new knowledge only makes us a stronger company for you, our clients.

The lesson isn't over.

Our team members will reach out with new pieces of information as we continue to learn to keep you in the loop. We will continue to ask questions and keep watching trends. And we ask for your patience. Our relationship with you is our number one priority. We’ve always appreciated your trust in us and we’re grateful for your trust now.

Lesson #5: Never underestimate the value of relationship.