Email and Your CRM: Best Practices for Successful Outgoing Email Management – Part 2

IRIS CRM Blog, Sales Efficiency
Successful Outgoing Email Management

Part Two – Boosting Deliverability with Proper Authentication and Configuration

In part one of our series on email best practices and how they impact your outgoing deliverability, we talked about domains – the identifying address your emails originate from, and how properly utilizing subdomains can protect the deliverability of your outgoing email by building walls between “quick” and system messages. 

In part two, we’re going to look at how the configuration and authentication of your outgoing quick email – your marketing series’ and daily communications – can also boost or sink your deliverability, and, in turn, the success of your campaigns. You’ll learn how good configuration and authentication practices can help get more of your marketing messages to the inboxes of decision-makers, and also how IRIS CRM designs our own systems to ensure the emails you send through our platform always enjoy the greatest advantages possible. 

 

Configuring Your Outgoing Email for Optimum Deliverability:

Every time one of your emails hits the inbox of an end-user, it has successfully passed a number of tests performed by the user’s internet service provider (ISP) to ensure that the message is legitimate, and not harmful or unwanted. There are no hard and fast rules for how each ISP tests, but there are certain transgressions that can quickly lead to the spam folder or, worse, to the blacklist. The following are a few of the ways you can configure your outgoing email campaigns to maximize the chances of successful delivery with even the pickiest ISPs. 

 

CAN-SPAM Compliance:

CAN-SPAM is legislation designed to protect American consumers, and it lays out the rules businesses must follow with every single commercial email they send. Failure to adhere to the CAN-SPAM requirements could lead to a fine of $43,280 for every non-compliant email, making violation a potentially fatal mistake. Thankfully, configuring your outgoing email to be compliant is straightforward, as CAN-SPAM only requires you to adhere to the following rules:

  • Use accurate header information: Basically, the message needs to accurately reflect who it’s coming from and going to. Anything that obfuscates the information in your email header results in non-compliance.
  • Provide accurate subject lines: Clickbait is not allowed under CAN-SPAM. Your title absolutely must accurately reflect what the reader can expect in the email’s body content. 
  • Make advertisements clear: If your email is an ad, you need to make that obvious. How you do that is up to you, but the reader must know that they’re reading an advertisement. 
  • Provide an address: Your commercial email must provide a valid business address to be CAN-SPAM compliant. 
  • Make it easy to opt-out: Your email must include a way for readers to opt-out. Whether that’s a one-click link, a link to a menu of choices, or a return email, to be compliant, make it obvious and easy. 
  • Ensure your opt-out process is fast: Your opt-out process needs to remain active for 30 days after your message is sent, but opt-out requests must be honored within ten days or less. 
  • Monitor your service providers: If you’re using a third-party company for your marketing email, ignorance is no excuse. Keep an eye on the email going out on your behalf. 

From a configuration standpoint, CAN-SPAM compliance is all about building safeguards right into your templates. If your outgoing email templates are designed to include your business address, an advertisement notice, and an unsubscribe link in the footer, you’ll have automatically hit three of the seven requirements every time. Automating your unsubscription system to be immediate and automatic is simple, and that hits a fourth. From there, monitoring and accurate composition are the only steps your team will have to take manually.

 

Email Throttling:

Throttling is the practice of setting a hard limit on how many emails can be sent out in any given amount of time. Many leading autoresponders can technically send up to a million emails in an hour or less – an enormous volume that has the potential to do far more damage than good. Throttling is an important safeguard that helps protect your deliverability and your IP’s reputation for a couple of different reasons. 

First, the end recipient’s ISP is almost certainly throttling on their end. A huge blast of email arriving from you at one time sets off red flags because it seems suspicious – the kind of behavior an ISP might expect from a SPAM account. If you exceed the ISP’s acceptable limit in any given timeframe, not only could it negatively impact your reputation, but the ISP will also simply stop letting your email through. 

Second, if, for any reason, there is a problem with your email that results in user-generated spam complaints, an unthrottled blast will result in those complaints racking up extremely quickly – a surefire way to toast your reputation. 

Configuring throttling on your end eliminates both of those potential disasters before the can happen by staggering your delivery so that your messages always get to the receiving end in volumes that won’t trigger ISP throttling. You’re effectively policing yourself so that the ISP doesn’t have to, and saving yourself a lot of potential trouble in the process. 

IRIS CRM automatically throttles outgoing email blasts launched with our built-in email marketing tools to help our ISOs get their mail through. 

 

Email Series Threading:

Email threading doesn’t directly relate to your mail’s deliverability the way CAN-SPAM or throttling do, but it can boost your open rates and engagement – two factors which improve your email reputation and, in turn, your deliverability. 

If you’ve ever used Gmail, you’re already very familiar with threading. Each new message in a conversation arrives in the same thread, so that regardless of how many messages are exchanged, they only take up one row in your inbox. That not only keeps your inbox clean, it makes managing and finding the information you need much easier. 

Conversely, most traditional marketing emails arrive in discrete messages. For instance, a welcome series containing six emails will each have their own separate titles, and will each land in the user’s inbox as a discreet email, perhaps pages apart depending on the send schedule. For the end-user, that’s messy and, in many cases, annoying. The result is unhappy subscribers and low engagement – two reputation killers. 

Configuring your outgoing marketing email to thread upon arrival turns a marketing series into a single, multi-message conversation with your prospect, rather than a series of separate emails each arriving independent of the others. Because that setup is easier to manage and more familiar to the user, engagement rates go through the roof, pulling your reputation and deliverability up with them. 

 

Using Authentication to Supercharge Reputation:

One of the most powerful tools you can put to work to maintain your email reputation is email authentication. If you imagine an ISP’s automatic reputation checks as the bouncer at the door to a night club you want to get into, email authentication acts as the ID that proves that you’re both of age and on the list. 

Authentication provides proof to the ISP that your message is coming from who it says it’s coming from, which is worth a lot when it comes to passing reputation checks and making it through to the inbox. There are a few different types of authentication you can use, each with their own benefits, but regardless of how you choose to authenticate your outgoing email, it will help protect your IP reputation and the integrity of your outgoing campaigns. 

SPF:

Sender Policy Framework, generally referred to as SPF, is a type of authentication designed to allow receiving ISPs to check that the sender of an email is actually authorized to be sending email from the domain or subdomain they’re using. 

When you set up an SPF record on your email system, you publish a policy outlining exactly which outgoing mail servers are allowed to use your domain. When your email hits the recipient’s ISP, the ISP accesses the SPF record and makes sure the IP the email arrived from is on the list. If everything checks out, that’s a point in your favor. If the SPF authentication fails, it’s a red flag and may contribute to the message being redirected or rejected. 

DKIM:

DKIM accomplishes a similar goal to SPF, but goes about it in a different, even more, secure way. DKIM attaches an encrypted digital signature to the head of all of your outgoing emails. The encryption is done with a private key that only you have access to. When an email arrives on the recipient side, their ISP detects the DKIM signature, decrypts it, and compares it against a public key to ensure that the signatures match. 

That additional encryption makes DKIM an outstanding tool for stopping bad actors from intercepting and altering your outgoing mail, or from spoofing your email address and sending out messages posing as you. Because ISPs can trust DKIM authenticated email, the odds of getting through to the end recipient’s inbox go way up. That makes setting up a DKIM record on your mail server a great way to protect both the contents of your outgoing email and your deliverability.

DMARC:

DMARC is an authentication protocol that builds on top of SPF and DKIM to help tell receiving ISPs what action they should take in the event an incoming email fails to pass a test. A DMARC record is first published with your email host which tells ISPs to perform one of three actions upon test failure:

  • None: The receiving ISP should take no special action. In this case, the ISP will make its reputation determination as normal. 
  • Quarantine: The receiving ISP should treat DMARC failures with caution and direct the mail accordingly to either a quarantine or SPAM folder. 
  • Reject: Emails that fail DMARC authentication should be rejected outright, and won’t even make it through to the SPAM folder.

A “none” policy somewhat defeats the purpose of using DMARC at all and isn’t a great choice. A “quarantine” policy offers the advantage that, should a legitimate message for some reason fail authentication, the recipient will still be able to access it in their SPAM folder. The upside of a “reject” policy is that it’s strict, and eliminates any possibility of harmful mail from ever reaching the recipient. 

At IRIS CRM, we use the trifecta of DKIM, SPF, and DMARC on all email that goes out through our infrastructure. That ensures that the IRIS CRM domain will always maintain a stellar reputation and that your automatically generated system email will always enjoy the highest possible delivery rates. Because the success of your outgoing email is so important to us, we’re constantly monitoring and refining our authentication practices in an effort to provide you with the best service possible. 

BIMI:

Brand Indicators for Message Identification, or BIMI for short, is an authentication tool for brands that build on top of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. BIMI provides brands with the ability to display their company logo alongside messages that pass the other three types of authentication. That both increases visibility in inboxes, and provides recipients with the assurance that the mail they’re receiving was actually sent from the brand in question. So, while DKIM, SPF, and DMARC are all designed to impact the automated tests performed by a recipient’s ISP, BIMI is aimed at the reader themselves. Effectively, it’s a type of authentication designed to build trust between the reader and your company’s marketing email, in an effort to increase open rates.

 

While it is possible to enjoy strong deliverability with stock settings, engaging the configuration and authentication tools above represents one of the most effective ways to maximize the reputation of your email domains and, in turn, your deliverability. That should be a primary goal for all companies engaging in email marketing because successful delivery is the foundation of successful campaigns and the base upon which strong open-rates, engagements, and conversions are all built. 

If you haven’t already, check out part one of this series, in which we discuss how proper use of subdomains also has a major role to play in improving your email deliverability. Or, if you’re ready to find out more about how IRIS CRM can help streamline, automate, and improve the success of your daily email, your outgoing marketing campaigns, and your automatic system messages, get in touch with a member of our team!