Email remains one of the most-used communication tools on the planet:

  • There were 3.7 billion email users globally in 2017 (Statista, 2018)
  • That number is expected to reach 4.3 billion in 2022 (Statista, 2018)

Email marketing is also a strong performer for the financial services industry, with an open rate of 18.23% and a click-to-open rate of 14.1%, both of which are higher than the average email benchmarks for all industries. (Based on an analysis of over 30 billion emails sent through Campaign Monitor in 2018.)

With that in mind, it’s important to keep an eye on email deliverability along your customer journey, including welcome messages, triggered, transactional, and promotional emails, unsubscribe confirmations, and more. Your emails might be perfectly crafted, but if you have deliverability problems, many people might never see your messages.

Sender reputation is the number one factor that impacts your ability to reach your customers’ inboxes. Just like there are people whose emails go straight to your trash when they arrive, there are sending domains that are viewed with caution by incoming email servers.

It’s important to note that even if an email is accepted, it may be automatically diverted to a spam folder or it could simply vanish. A high acceptance rate is nice, but it doesn’t guarantee a correspondingly high deliverability rate, if a company’s sender reputation is poor.

Here are 4 ways to maintain a sterling sender reputation and keep your email deliverability strong.

1. Keep people engaged

Transactional emails, which are the messages sent when customers do things like pay bills, make deposits, and create new accounts, tend to drive the bulk of ROI, with 8X more opens and clicks and 6X the revenue generation (Experian). Since they’re emails that people typically want to receive and open, they’re a good way to keep your engagement numbers up.

That also means you’ll want to put extra resources into triggered emails, like monthly reports and upcoming due dates for bills. If you don’t, your overall engagement rate could suffer, and email providers and ISPs can start to sour on senders who don’t seem to do a good job of sending their users messages they care about.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to get people to open your emails:

  • Use a friendly “from” address that makes customers feel like you’re talking to them personally.
  • Keep your subject lines short and to the point and try using personalization other than first name, such as their recent account activity.
  • Use complementary messaging in the preheader text, such as a deadline for them to take action.

When crafting the body of the message, consider these tips:

  • It’s key that your emails are mobile responsive, which means they’ll automatically adapt to the devices being used by your recipients, whether they’re phones with small screens or computers with large displays.
  • Include high-resolution images, since HD displays are quickly becoming the norm on most mobile devices.

This email from Acorns is a good example of a message crafted for high engagement rates.

  • The subject line – “Dollar Shave Club wants to invest in you” – is short and snappy and invites a little intrigue. They want to invest in me?
  • The “from” name makes it clear what Acorns is all about: saving found money.
  • The body of the email is short and gets right to the point: Sign up for Dollar Shave Club and 5% of every purchase goes into the customer’s Acorns account.

2. Create sending domains, authenticate them, and warm them up

Set up different domains for various types of email, like one for account activity and another for promotional newsletters. Set them up as sub-domains that make their purpose clear, such as alert.[business name].com and newsletter.[business name].com.

You can also increase the trustworthiness of your sending domains by implementing three free authentication standards:

  • SPF (Sender Policy Framework): This requires creating an SPF record that defines which mail servers are authorized to send email from that domain. Inbound email servers can then compare the IP address of the email sender with the authorized mail servers defined by the SPF record to determine if a message is trustworthy.
  • DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) Signature: This adds a digital signature to the headers of an email message, allowing the incoming mail server to validate it against a public cryptographic key in the sending organization’s DNS records.
  • DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance): This is a policy that tells inbound email servers whether to accept, reject, or otherwise flag an email, depending on whether it passes the tests established by SPF and DKIM.

Finally, you’ll want to warm up your new sending domains by methodically adding email volume week by week – check providers’ guidelines to see what they recommend. Make sure you maintain consistent volume, frequency, complaint, and bounce levels to establish patterns and send the signal that inbound email servers should trust your sending domains.

You should also create a list of only your most highly-engaged subscribers and use them for the warm-up period, which can help build trust because you should see good engagement rates.

3. Exercise good list maintenance

It’s crucial to stay on top of your suppression list, which consists of email addresses that have consistently bounced as well as people who have unsubscribed and other problematic addresses. If you fail to do so, you’ll see a swift negative impact on your sender reputation, which will quickly harm your deliverability rate too.

You should also pay attention to your engagement rates at granular levels. Do some people never open your emails, or do others usually open them but never click anything? There’s nothing wrong with sending them an email asking if they’d like to stay on your list – if they say “No,” immediately put them on the suppression list. And if they never reply to that message, you should probably add them to the suppression list too.

4. Figure out what your customers want

Most people are fine with receiving transactional and triggered emails by default, since there’s comfort in knowing that a deposit went through and seeing a monthly snapshot of account activity. However, it can be helpful to ask customers what their messaging preferences are, since some people might, for example, want a quarterly update of their account activity rather than a monthly one.

Those preferences can also help you avoid sending people promotional emails that they may have no interest in – and that indifference can cause your deliverability to suffer. It can be useful to give customers an option for more or less frequency with promotional emails too, so you don’t completely lose the opportunity to send marketing messages.

~ Casey