All of us have heard the saying, ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ But I’m betting that you heard it in the context of a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend coming to an end—and not e-mail marketing. Am I right?

However, given some of the industry talk that I’ve heard lately, the sentiment behind this phrase seems to be gaining popularity among some salespeople at ESPs, particularly when it comes to pitching potential clients about how great their delivery rates are. The problem with that statement is that once an ESP or e-mail solution provider gets a sender up and running, the key to delivery is more along the lines of, ‘It’s not me, it’s you.’

Don’’ get me wrong; there are some things that your ESP or sending platform does control that can affect your delivery rates, such as signing with all the available authentication methods—SPF, Sender ID, Domain Keys, and DKIM. Another important item that your email vendor should have control over is how quickly you ramp up your e-mail to the various ISPs.

By setting up your system with the proper connection limits and throttling, you can avoid related problems. Whomever you’re relying on for deliverability should be working with the ISPs to make sure that the information they have about you is as up to date as possible.

The final important piece that your email vendor can help you with is building a positive reputation. You should rely on their deliverability experts to guide you on how to properly warm up a new IP, because in the eyes of the ISPs, you are guilty until proven innocent. As a result, ISPs will allow very little mail through a new IP address when you start sending because they are concerned it might actually be mail from a spammer.

So, given the fact that most reputable email marketing platforms are doing all of the above, how can they claim that they can help improve your delivery, or that their clients all get XX percent delivery rates? The easy answer is, they can’t. Sure, some of their clients might have good delivery rates, but that ultimately comes down to the sender following through with good practices. Once you get past the items listed above, a sender’s deliverability is based solely on its reputation. As most senders know, a negative reputation is most often caused by three things

  1. High compliant rates
    2. High unknown user rates
    3. Sending mail to spam traps

All three of these items are under the control of the sender, as they have everything to do with list hygiene. As I have talked about many times before, list hygiene is the greatest factor in creating a negative reputation, which leads to probable junk folder placement or even blocking of your messages.

That being said, there are things that an email marketing platform can do to help senders to improve their deliverability. Many companies have deliverability experts that will work with senders to resolve issues as well as advise them to change any practices that need to be adjusted, but it is up to the sender to actually change these practices.

It’s important to remember the importance of good list hygiene practices and the proper steps all senders should be taking—no matter what sending platform you are using. These include:

  • Opt-in/opt-out process
    • Data collection process
    • Bounce processing
    • Reporting
    • Appends
    • Personalisation

In the end, no matter what any ESP or e-mail marketing platform salesperson tells you, just because you send mail off of their system doesn’t mean you are going to get improved delivery rates. Each sender is different and creates its own reputation, which affects its ability to get messages delivered. By doing the right things, testing, and following best practices, you can take control of your deliverability. Good luck and good sending.