It’s not a tale of two cities but it is a tale of two businesses, a tale that illustrates how paying attention to email marketing best practices matters. What you don’t know can hurt you, and how can you know what’s hurting you (i.e. your deliverability) if you’re not paying attention?

To be kind to the one, we’ll leave both of the businesses anonymous for this post, but know that these are real-life stories you’re about to read, stories about clients of ours and how they did or did not pay attention…and the consequences that resulted.

The cost of not paying attention
Our first subject is a website that enjoys millions of active users and an email list that numbers over 1 million. Historically, the company had impressive email deliverability and open rates. Their subscribers were obviously engaged. Then all of a sudden, their email deliverability numbers tanked.

They immediately contacted us, and within hours we had identified the issue: Gmail was putting the company’s emails into recipients’ spam folders. As we dug deeper, we realized this business was not adhering to email marketing best practices we’d recommended—at all. They were doing things that were triggering Gmail’s spam filters with a figurative bang.

Although they were a ClickMail client, this business did a lot of their own thing. Resource constrained and not fully versed in (or listening to) email best practices, it turned out one of their “own things” was uploading an entirely new email list every single week. Rather than have a master database that was modified with additions and deletions (such as hard bounces and unsubscribes), they uploaded a whole new list of over 1 million names every single week. All they uploaded was email addresses, no other data. That meant a failure to track soft and hard bounces.

The result? They got blocked by Gmail–utterly, totally and completely blocked by Gmail. And their email deliverability tanked.

With no revenue model associated with the email, they had no incentive to really pay attention to best practices or to all of the bounced emails and spam reports. But not paying attention meant they paid a price when Gmail wholesale blocked them.

(Note: We did work with this client and got their sending reputation and email deliverability rates restored. So far, we think they might still be following the recommended best practices too. Fingers crossed.)

The benefits of paying attention
Compare that situation to the fashion retailer relying heavily on email to drive revenue. This business evaluated their email marketing program on a quarterly basis. They had a steady list of 1 million names on their list and aggressively pared off the unengaged to keep their list active.

They had a re-engagement campaign, but if a subscriber did not re-engage, they actually saved themselves money by removing their name and not sending to them (because depending on your ESP, your volume affects your pricing).

They didn’t see list growth, but they did see list consistency, and that list consistently performed well as a result, with a high email deliverability rate, opens and sales.

Beyond deliverability, this retailer aggressively tested as well, comparing emails that resembled catalog pages full of images (typically an email no no) to those with text to discover the all-image emails performed better. They also tested photos of clothes on models vs. photos of the just the clothes. (The photos with models worked better.) My point is, they tested ruthlessly, they regularly monitored their list, and they made email work for them. They paid attention and they were rewarded with loyal customers and good sales numbers.

For best results, follow best practices!
There is another lesson here when comparing these two businesses: Have an email marketing agency or consultant you can turn to, but then follow their advice. We really do know our stuff, and your business will perform better in the long run if you follow that email expert advice from the start. In the two examples above, you can see what happened to the first business that didn’t.

Need an email marketing agency to guide you? Call on ClickMail!

Published On: January 20th, 2015Categories: Email deliverability, Email marketing best practicesTags:

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

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