The Bright Side of ISP Complaints

We’ve found that those “pesky” complaints generated when a subscriber clicks the “This is Spam” button are actually a great source of feedback data. Scour them for clues around type of subscriber—demographics, vintage (when they signed up), activity, customer status—as well as source and type of message. Then, adjust your program to correct any practices that drive disproportionate complaints. Do the same analysis on what drives response.

We always find actionable results from even simple analysis. If know that one source of new subscribers is driving a disproportionate number of complaints, you can adjust the permission or data capture process, renegotiate your prices, or even drop the source altogether. If you know that subscribers are more likely to complain about one type of message than another, you can test frequency, cadence and the template.

Sometimes hard business decisions are required. We must balance the two—as yes, sometimes the answer to both the deliverability and response question is the same. Recently, one of our clients found that the promotions that generated the highest revenue also drove the most complaints. So we tested the timing of that promotion, sent it to only those subscribers who were active clickers, and also made the link to the preference center more prominent. We were able to boost response slightly, but more importantly found that complaints dropped below the ISP threshold.

Another client found that complainers were not active at all—in fact, many had not opened or clicked in months. That prompted a win-back campaign earlier in the lifecycle, in order to reduce the number of non-active subscribers and improve brand equity.

There is no great secret to great email marketing. It really is all about the subscriber. When we send relevant, interesting and engaging messages, we reach the inbox and drive more revenue, too. I know it’s hard to think about doing something additional (like data analysis) when so many of us are sprinting each week just to get the messages out the door. Let me assure you, our experience shows that even a little bit of data analysis will be well worth the effort.

Let me know if we can help or if you’d like to brainstorm on where to start.

—Stephanie Miller of Return Path