EP #43 Cracking the email deliverability code with experts from the industry

EP #43 Cracking the email deliverability code with experts from the industry

About this Podcast

In today’s special episode of the “For The Love Of Emails” Podcast, hosted by Aditya Gupta, AVP – Field marketing for Netcore Cloud, Europe, and his co-host Sergey Syerkin, deliverability expert for Netcore cloud, we welcome Pavel Pola, the CEO of Etnetera Activate, Prague. Pavel comes with knowledge of excellent deliverability infrastructure. He carries 30 plus years of experience and dedicated eight years of professionalism to the email marketing business. Pavel’s main motive is to help clients of all sizes to achieve better results for their businesses.

Quick Snapshots
In this podcast, they discussed :
The best ROI tactics for marketers
Tricky regulations faced by email marketers across the world
Email deliverability and its correlation with email marketing
The best deliverability toolset for email marketers
Tips for businesses/brands to adapt to the current market shifts
Episode Transcripts

Introduction (00:06):

You’re listening to”For The Love Of Email Podcast,” podcast powered by netcore, a weekly show dedicated to helping email marketers, marketing enthusiasts, and professionals of all walks engage, grow, and retain customers through reliable, smart, and effective email communication and engagement. Discover actionable ways to increase ROI and deliver value through email innovations, personalization optimization, email deliverability, and email campaigns. No fluff; tune in to your best practices and tactical solutions from the best thought leaders and practitioners; master your email communication now.

Aditya Gupta (00:41):

Good evening. Good afternoon. Hello and welcome back to another episode of the for the love of emails podcast. I am Aditya Gupta, AVP – Field marketing for Netcore Cloud, Europe, and I’ll be your host for this podcast with me. I have my co-hosts Sergey Syerkin, deliverability expert for Netcore cloud. Today’s special guest is Mr. Pavel Pola, the CEO of Etnetera Activate, Prague. Let me start by introducing our esteemed guest Pavel. “Undelivered Email cannot sell” – this is Pavel’s everyday mantra, and he also quotes it is nice to have fancy UI AI and anything else, but when you don’t have the strongest reputation and excellent deliverability infrastructure, you are wasting your potential. He carries 30 plus years of experience, eight years in the email marketing business. He’s helping clients of all sizes to achieve better results. His company Etnetera helps deliver all levels of services, products, and training in that digital ecosystem. Well, it’s lovely to have you on the, with us.

Pavel Pola (02:02):

Yeah. Thanks for having me, and all greetings from Prague. It’s lovely. Here you are all invited to come and see it personally.

Aditya Gupta (02:12):

Great. So let’s start with your company. Can you explain what Etnetera activate does and what services you provide to our audience?

Pavel Pola (02:27):

Well, we are generally working with data. We see that our clients are sitting on huge piles of data, and we are helping them get better results, find values in the data they are sitting, and find values and activate them for better campaigns, for example.

Aditya Gupta (02:52):

Okay. Well, so moving next, many people say email is old. Few people say email is gold, but we all know one thing: email is still one of the best ROI tactics for marketers. So in your opinion, what role does email marketing play in the marketing ecosystem?

Pavel Pola (03:21):

Yeah, so there are two things. Basically, the first thing is that none of the channels should be considered separately. All of the digital channels should work in one consolidated ecosystem. So email marketing is good in the retention part of the business. So email marketing is the best one whenever you want to bring your customer back to your website or your product or get to know you better. And it’s the cheapest one, and I would say, with the highest ROI. So if you have or want to have the biggest possible results, you definitely should consider email marketing as one part of your marketing mix.

Aditya Gupta (04:20):

Well, I completely agree with you on the retention marketing model. Email plays a very important role because it can cover up a lot of information. You can send multiple emails to your users, and it can give you a lot of engagement with your potential customers and even with the existing customers. So I agree with you. Moving on, when it comes to email marketing and Europe, it is quite tricky due to regulations due to different GDPR policies, and we all know that it is very different from the rest of the world. Would you like to educate our audience on how email marketing works in the European market?

Pavel Pola (05:04):

Yes. There are quite a few differences between Europe and the rest of the world. And I would name two of them that I consider significant differences. One of them, you’ve probably heard of it, is GDPR. It’s a personal or privacy regulation covering all European countries, which is good because you can move quickly from one country to another if you have just one implementation compatible with GDPR. Because, generally speaking, most of the rules are the same in most of the countries. You can have some countries with some specialties, but the general system works the same. The first consent is to work more strictly with the customer’s consent and consider some tracks.

Pavel Pola (06:14):

So you have to work with cookies carefully. Every customer has the right not to be tracked over your website or use the data that you have collected from some third-party systems for some advertisements, etc. And the second consent is the consent for the newsletters. So if you want to grow your database and have all your contacts legally acquired, you have to get consent before you send even the first campaign, or it has to be your customer. So only two things are possible. So talking to your customer or sending newsletters to your customers, or sending it to people with whom you have consent.

Aditya Gupta (07:20):

I completely agree.

Pavel Pola (07:23):

Yeah. And the second issue is the legal issue? So you have to be careful about confirming with the law. And the second is the technical things that many ISPs in Europe set to be delivered to because almost every major country in Europe has its own local ISP. And every one of those has some technical requirements for deliverability. So you have to follow their rules for the number of IP addresses, the number of connections per IP, the number of emails sent per IP amount of megabytes over those connections, etc. And every country has some specialty with it. Even in some countries, you have to pay for the ISP to deliver it for them. So if you want to deliver to Europe, you have to get in touch with dozens of local providers. And that could be challenging too.

Aditya Gupta (08:46):

It’s quite interesting to know. So since it is quite fragmented in GDPR, I understand that as an organization also, they need to maintain a lot of data records of IPS of consent. Because of this legal regulation, every data needs to be recorded. Whenever required, it needs to be presented to the legal authorities. Correct?

Pavel Pola (09:15):


Aditya Gupta (09:16):

Okay, great. I am so moving to our next question. In your opinion, is there a big difference in deliverability practices between countries within the EU, and what are the bigger deliverability issues you’ve faced in the EU?

Pavel Pola (09:34):

Yeah, I would say that the general deliverability of email marketing best practices work in Europe or anywhere in the world. So keeping your reputation sane, I would say it’s the basis of all those things. So sending only to registered or previously somehow consented customers sending relevant content on a timely basis and having some technical overview of all your infrastructure or all the tools that you are sending or using. It’s a fundamental right. And on the other hand, you will need to know the rules those local providers set. So, either you have to take the tool or use the tool that handles all those agreements and settings themselves. And then you do not need to connect to all those FBLs, etc. You have to go country by country and ISP by ISP and get the deals by yourself. And this could be time-consuming, as it’s hard to do.

Aditya Gupta (11:12):

Right. Well, now, since it will be pretty technical, I will hand it over to my technical expert. And I would like to call Mr. Serge to dive deep into this topic of email deliverability.

Sergey Syerkin (11:34):

Hi. Thanks, Aditya. So yeah, I would also like to comment a little bit about the difference in different countries. It’s, indeed, true that yeah, you need to, you know, have some tool or then to spend more time to analyze the delivery and the balances from the different across Europe because there a lot of also different roles about what content they can accept or not. And also, Asil mentioned how many connections you can open per address per domain, etc. Like some German providers, the authentication results should be fully aligned and have the same domain, let’s say in mail head, etc. So it’s definitely a lot of differences between the countries and the EU. So yeah, since we started to discuss the technical questions, I would like to ask my liability question to Pavel. What do you think, what statistics, I mean, do you suggest checking to determine the good results from your site?

Pavel Pola (12:38):

Yeah, there’s one big deliverability illusion, which is somehow, and I don’t know why, presented by email marketing tools, some of them state something like 99.8% has been delivered, right. And some marketers read that number, and they believe that it’s true. But it’s a big illusion because the only thing it says is that 0.2% of emails have been returned as undelivered, but it doesn’t say anything about the rest. And when I’m speaking about anything, there are two or three ways to handle delivered email on the recipient’s side, right? The first one is to delete it without any response from the sender. That’s the case when your reputation is terrible, then the easiest and the cheapest way for the ISP is just to delete it and doesn’t give you anything in return.

Pavel Pola (13:56):

So basically, they just confirmed that they received your message, but immediately after that, they closed the session and deleted it. So you cannot never, never find that. It’s unreachable information. The second one is a spam folder, and I assume everybody is aware of that. And this number doesn’t say anything about how many of your messages ended in the spam folder. So, we consider the spam as undelivered because just a few recipients regularly check their spam folders, and many email tools automatically delete emails in the spam folder for, let’s say, after 30 days. This number also doesn’t say anything about how many emails were delivered to the inbox, and the inbox is what we all aim for. We want to deliver our emails to the inbox, and that’s the trick.

Pavel Pola (15:09):

So the first thing is, do not believe the delivered number in your email marketing tool and instead check open rates or CTR click-through rate. It’s, more, not exact metrics, as we know, there’s still some fuzziness around open rates, but it’s more appropriate in terms of engagement of the users. And the second, if you can go deeper into the technical matter, reads bounce locks. I mean, the messages that servers send you back and write something like you have some troubles, please fix your SPF, or you are being bounced because of some reputation issues, or we, please slow down in your communication, because you are sending too fast. There is a lot of useful stuff written in the bounce logs, but just a few email tools can present them in some re-human readable way. And a few people can understand them or are offended by scrolling through them and reading them because it’s basically a lot of technical stuff.

Sergey Syerkin (16:39):

Yeah. I love logs, and I’ll spend hours, you know, parsing them using my terminal. Yeah. And just wanna commend you quickly. You mentioned the TP replies and often, sometimes I piece, it happens that even they receive and they give you the reply, the TP, but for example, hot note, sometimes they just like how your message to even, they reply you back, that it’s been accepted. It’s not even in my inbox, not even in the junk folder, and it’s just a black hole. So means that you’ve probably been blocked, and you just need to contact them. And also think that at least this is what I tell my email marketers. Just, do you see any revenue from your emails? If you do some, then probably you have good deliverability results. If you don’t see any revenue results, you probably have bad results. So yeah, let’s go to the next question. It’s there a little bit related to the engagement. So how do you think from your side feedback loops are essential, meaning the how many providers and do you think, is there any difference between those abuses FBL and unsubscribes, and should they be treated differently or the same from

Pavel Pola (18:00):

Your perspective? Yeah, they’re the same, basically, but completely different on the other side. To quickly recap what a feedback loop is when the recipient hits the spam button in the emailing tool. The receiver server sent some small technical message to the sender that this customer hit the spam button. The mailing tool should immediately unsubscribe the user or put it on the blocklist or unsubscribe list or opt-out. It doesn’t matter. What is it called? Shouldn’t this email address shouldn’t be sent a marketing message again. So that’s the same feature, or same, as the unsubscribe, but it impacts the reputation. Again, there are two of them. If you have, if you don’t have the implementation of the feedback loop, you are somehow suspicious because the implementation of the feedback loop is considered a best practice for email marketers.

Pavel Pola (19:25):

So if you want to do email marketing right, you should aspire to subscribe to as many FBLs as possible. Yeah. Because then you somehow present to the world. Hey, I want to receive complaints from my users. I want to do email marketing correctly, and I promise I will unsubscribe them and not bother them. The second thing with reputation is that you have to handle it if you do so. So it’s a bad practice. If you just register for the FBL and ignore it completely, the reports that FBL sends are ascending to you. So if you do not want to look more suspicious to the receiver, you have to handle the reports and unsubscribe or block sending another marketing newsletter to people who hit this Baba.

Sergey Syerkin (20:30):

Yeah. And I just want to unsubscribe you for sure. Get the unsubscribe to your software, but also with the FBLs. It does mean that you will get all the FDS because the ISP doesn’t want to help you clean their data. They just show you some percentage. And if you reach some percentage, they, it just clearly indicated, probably your list is bad, and then you need to, you know, verify your list, work with the list. And yeah, I think it’s, they, I agree. They are both very important. At the same time, they bring a different value. And yeah, since I mentioned the listed clinic would be interesting to hear, what do you think about the listed clinic overall should it be done or not, and how do you see this to be done from your perspective?

Pavel Pola (21:26):

Yeah, the list cleaning is one of the keys to having them, good engagement. So, I consider list cleaning one of the best practices for email marketers. So all those lists, hygiene rules like validating the email, even before trying to subscribe them like some real-time validation to, searching for typos monitoring the engagement of, of customers in terms of how many emails were they opened how many emails they, clicked, how many emails they received and, comparison of, those, numbers to detect a passive customer, which from one point of view could be useless in your database. Or there could even be some sort of spam trips or something like that. So it’s recommended. So just to quickly summarize, every bounce should be removed immediately, every unsubscribe and every spam complaint should be removed immediately after every typo, and email validation should be done on the registration site. And even some regular checks about the overall engagement of the customers have truly considered the best practices in email marketing.

Sergey Syerkin (22:55):

Yeah. Makes a lot of sense. And I also think that if people start to, you know, at least clean. As you mentioned, I strongly suggest they look into the email inactive mail addresses like spam traps. If you have a least valid email, addressable least, that was inactive for years, just throw it away. It’s pretty dangerous to send. At least it could be in Baltimore addresses and Snapchats etc. So, yeah,

Pavel Pola (23:23):

I just like to add that collecting the database without regular sending is not a good practice. Right. So if you are just collecting email addresses with the hope that you will send anything to them one year ahead or something like that, please do not do that because if you try to do so, or if you find some old database somewhere in the basement, like one year, maybe even half a year old then sending marketing communication to the database could harm a reputation. Because it most probably will get high bounce rates, high bounce rates are again considered a quite big reputation issue because it seems you found or bought the database or collected it without sending it all. And it’s not a good practice.

Sergey Syerkin (24:22):

Yeah. I agree. And I have a good example of this. I had a startup. They collected the conferences and collected them to send some kind updates when you know, start, etc. But then they had some issues and started eight months later. So then, their list was pre outdated. People don’t recognize who they are. I don’t know, like they just click on spam. So, yeah, it was a good comment, actually, not from your site. Okay. What is the best liability tool set you think should be available for email sending or marketing? Do they need to use tools to check the inbox placement, like through the seed listing, or use the postmaster tools to analyze their performance, like domain monitoring, domain monitoring, RBL, etc?

Pavel Pola (25:13):

Yeah. It’s well. This is quite a technical thing. And there are a lot of tools that could be useful. I would say that I would start with getting the recommended tools that every ISP offers. So find your biggest recipients or biggest ISPs and try to find what tools they offer or recommend. For example, Google has its own Google postmaster tools. Lots of local vendors have their own feedback loops with some statistics on them etc. There are definitely some free tools like sender score or paid tools. You can get a quite wide range of it, and it also depends on how big your budget is because some tools are pretty costly. And, then definitely we can find some cheaper solutions.

Pavel Pola (26:18):

So but to be honest, when you want to do it on a regular basis, you will need to check. I would say dozens of different tools and regularly monitor if something changed in what domain, for example, or ISP. I would better recommend finding a tool that is somehow with those tools. And, it could provide you with some insights, for example, from bounce logs or SMDS reports. And you know, there is a lot of stuff available for the vendors. So that could be more useful for even non-technical guys to present some warning signal like, Hey, it looks like you are being blocked. You can look at them, such as IP, IP block list or block list, the problem, etc. So then they could hire some more technical agency or, or a consultant that could help them with, you know, getting through all those technical things.

Sergey Syerkin (27:35):

Yeah. That’s true. There are different tools available in the market, as you said, they are also free in different places. So, yeah, it’s going to be hard again to find the right tool, but it should be there that it connects everything, just, you know, alert the sender, in case he has some specific issues. Okay. And my favorite question, I think it’s a fair question for all the marketers. If you had a differentiation in the inbox and promotions, what views? Because, you know, right now the mailbox, they have an inbox and have kind of taps and marketers, they always, you know, wondering, should I fit, you know, fit my, this tab or not, or it’s inbox or nothing box. They’re pretty confused. So yeah. What do you think about it?

Pavel Pola (28:23):

Yeah, it’s one way to look at it personally and ask yourself a question. Is it good for you to look at your own in boxes where you can see your emails in one mailbox and all those promotional stuff and social network notifications in the other? For me, yes. I do not like to clutter my primary inbox with fancy stuff. And it also has a difference when, when we look at it in terms of behavior, because if you do not have time to go through all those promotional emails, or on the contrary, if you have some, some shopping intentions, like you are looking for something, you, are at least for the inspiration, right? So if you have some kind of shopping intention, you can go directly to the promotion stops.

Pavel Pola (29:22):

And it means that when you are looking at the promotion stop, you are ready to shop. So, that’s a good thing. Yeah. Because then every marketer can build on that. And too, with it that people are trying to, showing them their intention for shopping. So, it’s good to have the differentiation on the transactional slash personal level. So every transactional email, for example, the order confirmation or password reset or personal communication with the brand or with my friends or family, should go immediately to, or directly to, my inbox. At the same time, the rest should be put aside in some promotional or social networks. There are definitely some we can see when customers do their email marketing strategy properly. They can have the same or even better numbers. Even their emails ended in the promotion box inbox than previously when no promotion slash inbox was separated. So the promotion isn’t bad for you. And especially for example, if you use Google, you probably know about the Google promotion tab. So some customers could benefit from an even better presentation of their campaigns in the inbox of Gmail users. So this could be even better in promotions than in the inbox.

Sergey Syerkin (31:20):

Yeah. I fully agree. And, also, I mean, it has been made specifically by the mailbox providers to help you, because nowadays there are tons of different messages in your inbox, and you need to have one folder or just two folders, like inbox spam. It’s pretty hard to, you know, navigate through your mailbox. So they’re helping you educate their filters. So then you can understand if it’s marketing or promotional or anything, and yeah, it’s helping you and helping the marketers to reach the amount. So you see it better. And also just wanna know that from the technical perspective, promotions, and marketing, are in an inbox folder literally. So if you will look into the like if you download the message to the I map protocol, you’ll see that those folders are full under the inbox. So this is my inbox, so don’t be afraid of it. Okay, cool. So yeah, it’s. I’m done with the question. So my co-host detail will take it from here. And let our audience know more about the correlation between email marketing and email deliverability.

Aditya Gupta (32:31):

Thanks. It was insightful to know all these kinds of technical sites of deliverability. So thanks from here. So we all know that the future of marketing is quite interesting and it is bright as well. Maybe many of them say that email will die, but it’s never happened. But what do you think when it comes to Europe? What is the future of email marketing in the European market?

Pavel Pola (33:05):

Yeah, it’s a really good question. I’m not. I will be more general than just Europe, right? I have some wishes that I really have or hope for because we are struggling with that. There are just a few of the standards we use, for example, the HTML code we use. It’s pretty much 20 years old. We cannot benefit from the latest standards that are being set for web development. Very true. And it’s not only about that. It’s also about analytical features because we are somehow trying to hide tracking pixels in the emails to get some information about them, whether they were opened. We cover the links with tracking links to know that customers click something in the link.

Pavel Pola (34:15):

So if we can agree with the receiver side to somehow standardize the measurements and analytical things so that we will get better insights of how customers interact with our emails, then it would be definitely helpful also for marketers, because when you have better data than you can optimize our campaigns, right. And this brings me to the last topic, and it’s more interactive because you know email is not as interactive as the web is. You cannot use JavaScript. You cannot use the last standards of CSS and HTML and benefit from some standards across all clients. We struggle with all those outlooks and mobile versions of outlooks and Gmails and dark modes. And, you know, all of this stuff is problematic, and adding, putting more interactivity into emails could also be beneficial for customers’ engagement. We can see small steps like EMP for email or some HTML files. I would say workarounds that would prepare or provide emails more interactive, but it’s still far away from what’s possible on the website?

Aditya Gupta (35:59):

Agree. But it’s still, I believe that email marketing is doing great. And because email marketing is slightly different from the website is kind of your address, and email marketing is all about the bridge where you, two people, connect to the consumers. So I understand, and I agree with the point that a few challenges need to be addressed in email marketing. And I just imagine if the tech experts address these challenges, then the email will be the email, it’ll be next to one of the best ROI tactics favorable for all the marketers. So, we discussed what deliverability is. We discussed the technical side of email marketing. We discussed the future of email marketing. Let’s understand what kind of a mistake. So we all know that when anyone or any marketer starts doing the email campaigns, email marketing activities, a lot of learnings, they generate throughout the, bypassing the time. But what are these mistakes we should avoid? So as a marketer from your experience as a marketer, all the mistakes they need to avoid

Pavel Pola (37:21):

Yes, it’s also a good question. I would start with the first one. And until you’ve mentioned my favorite quote when you introduced me to undelivered email cannot send, or sorry, undelivered email cannot sell, that’s the right quote. You have to think about deliverability as the basics of your email marketing. So you have to do the first. The technical stuff was done. And when you have all the stuff set up, you can build on it. That’s the first step, even though there are some basics that you have to handle and other things, and there are a lot of mistakes. And we do not have time to go through all of them, but I would name just one that really triggers me whenever I see it.

Pavel Pola (38:24):

And it’s trying to put yourself in the shoes of your customer as frequently as possible because many marketers want to sell and solve their problems. Like we have to sell something. We have to say something. We have a full stock of anything. Let’s sell it. And they do not think about it like, would it be interesting for our customers? And, for what segment of our customers, this would be interesting. For example, I’m getting emails, when I buy something a week later, I get something that discounts the things that I just bought, and it’s really what, what would you think about such emails, right? That discounts something that you just bought. So it’s trying to really think about who is my email for who will be interested in reading this kind of email, exclude customers or recipients who just both the thing that they are selling, exclude passive customers, or try to re-engage them with different campaigns. So ask yourself a question, what problems are customers facing? Why do customers reach us? How can we help them with our products? And so what problems they try to solve with our tools or products or services, and then answer those customers’ questions. Right? And then you will win the game, basically.

Aditya Gupta (40:19):

Right. So the last question of our today’s discussion. What advice would you give to business brands looking to adapt to the current market shift? So we know very well that it is very important for every brand to understand that they need to create communication. That’s my learning. I’m just sharing it, that as a market here, you did not need to communicate, but makes you, or what looks you fit you rather than you need to create what your audience likes, because, and also it is very important to understand that if you have an audience of hundred people, you need to create a communication, which can easily attract almost at least 60 to 70% people. It should not be like you are just targeting 5% and 10%; of course, you will have a less open rate when you target only 5% or 10%. And what problem I have seen in my experience is that marketers create email communication that looks perfect to them, not what their customers feel good about. So what’s your view on this? I would be happy to know.

Pavel Pola (41:33):

Yes. And I completely agree with you. That’s also my point in my previous answer. So I would say if you can engage your customers with every email you send, you don’t need to have reactivation campaigns. So, for example, low open rates couldn’t be the problem just because the recent place sent a newsletter, right? It could be a problem that you somehow sent dozens of newsletters before, and they’re all boring to customers. They didn’t provide value to customers, so they stopped opening them. And that’s your problem. So, even you are trying to look at the reports of the campaign. You have to reverse back if, for example, the customer was previously engaged somehow, and then you lost them because you need to find the reasons why you lost them. So if you try to engage every customer, I mean, in that particular batch of newsletters, you will probably have the most engaged database in the world. So segment personalize ideally automate and, do not try to send the same message to all of our customers, because it never works.

Aditya Gupta (43:18):

Totally agree. Thanks a lot, Pavel, for talking to us on the “For The Love Of Email Podcast” here. This was an insightful conversation today, right? I’m personally taking back a few interesting insights from here, and I’m sure our listeners will enjoy the show before we sign off to the people listening. If we have an ear on the ground for all things email marketing, we have a flagship email benchmarking report. This month, a study of a hundred billion emails across five different regions and 19 industries. It’ll give you amazing and heading insights into how the word emails and the best practices of emails are the first one. Get this reported inbox, check the link in the comments, and book your copy now. Thanks, Pavel. Thanks, Sergey.

Pavel Pola (44:15):

Yeah. Thank you too. Thanks for having me.

Sergey Syerkin (44:19):

Thank you.

Outro (44:20):

You’ve been listening to, for the love of emails, a podcast powered by Netcore; hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player to make sure you never miss an episode. To learn more about effective email communications and engagement through AI-powered email solutions, visit netcore.co, the only global email engagement leader, delivering marketing ROI and value to 20 plus global unicorns and 5,000 plus brands for over two decades.

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