Mar 11, 2011

Can you guarantee my deliverability?

Below is a common question that we get on the topic of deliverability. I’m posting our response because we’re getting this question so much lately. By the way, the comment about one of our competitors (whether it’s true or not), is also why we don’t have sales quotas at MailChimp. Heck, it’s why we don’t have sales people here at MailChimp. Their goals sometimes get out-of-sync with the truth (I blame this on upper management, not on the sales people themselves). Anyway, here’s the question:

Hi MailChimp,

My name is [NAME] and I am the Marketing Director of a Group Buying site in [COUNTRY] ([COMPANYNAME]).

I am currently looking to upgrade our Email Marketing System and am in conversations with [COMPETING ESP]. I have never used [COMPETING ESP] and have used MailChimp.

[COMPETING ESP] seem to think that they can gaurantee 20% better deliverability than MailChimp. Is that something you can disprove? How can you disprove this (e.g. comparison of technology, types of examples)

We will be sending many emails by the end of the year (in excess of 200 million). Can you guys effectively handle this type of volume?

This is the response that I proposed:

We published this page over here to show that so long as you, the sender, follow best practices, MailChimp’s infrastructure can help you achieve 99% (and sometimes 100%) delivery to the inbox. But if [COMPETING ESP] can actually get you 120% to the inbox, then wow. By all means, you should use them.

and that is why I am not on the front lines answering questions anymore. In fact, I’m not sure how I’m still allowed to answer comments on this blog.

Fortunately, our support team has a better, more professional response to this question (hyperlinks and emphasis below are added by me):

Hello [NAME],

Any email marketer can technically obtain 100% delivery so long as the following is in place:

  • Data is collected through confirmable opt-in methods.  There are no assumptions about permission in play. (The account owners responsibility)
  • Content sent is 100% spam filter safe. (The account owners responsibility, which we can help with this and this)
  • Your delivery solution dynamically monitors and polices its environment for misuse and aggressively closes accounts that create situations that could harm other accounts within the system. (The ESP’s responsibility)

This is the technology that we use to police our service for bad apples:

http://www.mailchimp.com/omnivore/ (an overview)

http://blog.mailchimp.com/project-omnivore-declassified/ (more technical background)

You might want to review the account shut down stats for [COMPETING ESP] for insight into their protection measures.

This page provides additional deliverability information with regards to our service (including our definition of the word, and the seed list we use):

http://mailchimp.com/about/deliverability/

The delivery graphs there give examples of how someone that moves to our service, and who follow best practices outlined above, can quickly obtain 100% deliverability. There is a sample group buying site there, which you might find useful, as well as this article about daily senders, by someone on our delivery team.

Our system currently sends on average over 1 billion emails a month. So 200 million annually is not at all a problem.

I think, in a nutshell, the answer is that "Most well-established ESPs have gotten their infrastructure set up and proactively monitored to allow for extremely good delivery to the inbox. The rest is up to the sender. And if the sender does screw something up, it’s the ESPs responsibility to purge them from the system with extreme prejudice (whenever gentle hints and educational intervention are not enough)."

Other deliverability related stuff you may be interested in: