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How to Use Dynamic Engagement Targeting to Improve Email Deliverability

November 15, 2012 By Evan Burke
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It's no secret: Sometimes deliverability experts and email marketers disagree — occasionally to an extreme. Perhaps you've heard, or participated in, a conversation like this one:

Deliverability expert: "If you want to deliver to the inbox, stop sending to recipients who don't open or click your messages."

Email marketer: "We lose a lot of revenue if we don't mail to those recipients. Someone needs to be responsible for that."

There's truth to both perspectives. Yes, engagement is playing an increasing part in overall inbox deliverability. Likewise, inactive recipients can — and often do — represent a significant part of overall revenue for email marketers.

Some email marketers and deliverability experts try to find balance by using a broader definition of "active," perhaps including recipients who have opened or clicked on one of their emails in the last 12 months or longer. But this isn't always enough; even long-dead "zombie" addresses that haven't responded in 18 months or more can present a small but substantial revenue opportunity. But how do you reach them without damaging your sending reputation?

What if you could email recipients at the optimum frequency for their engagement levels, without requiring them to take action to select a frequency preference?

If a recipient is interested enough in what you're sending to open a daily email, why would you miss that opportunity by only emailing them weekly? Strong engagement improves your sending reputation and presents a revenue opportunity.

Yet daily is too often for the recipient who only opens one message or two messages per month. Sending that often is likely to result in increased complaints and unsubscribes, and may result in future email marketing revenue loss for that recipient.

Likewise, a recipient who hasn't opened in 18 months may still be worth mailing occasionally, but certainly not at the same frequency as your daily or monthly recipients.

From a deliverability perspective, here's how this works:

  • Strong, frequent engagement from your most active recipients helps improve sending reputation.
  • Your less active recipients may engage with more of the emails that are sent if you target them with the right offer at their preferred frequency.
  • Your inactives represent a smaller percentage of your overall email traffic, minimizing the risk they may pose to your overall deliverability.  

Practically speaking, there are a number of ways to achieve this, but the core idea is as follows: Rather than two categories (active, inactive) for your recipients, you'll create three or more engagement categories. For example:

 
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