Remember your subscribers think like AOL
Fast forward 20 years and AOL say the same thing about acceptable bounce levels:
"A high number is a number higher than that which we consider indicative of a good mailer."
What sounds like a facetious comment actually makes intuitive sense, as Al Iverson explains in this post.
AOL are not interested in the absolute percentage of bounces you produce, but how you stack up compared to everyone else sending bulk email. Fall into the wrong end of the spectrum and they classify you as a spammer.
Take a note of the AOL approach to acceptable bounce thresholds because your subscribers are following the same model.
Getting attention in the inbox is not (just) about scoring a certain number of points with the subscriber, it's about being better than all the other emails competing for attention.
Research a while back showed that subscribers have an "inner circle" of subscriptions, limited to a few emails. Getting into that inner circle means displacing and then remaining one of the top 10-20 sources of email in the eyes of each subscriber.
The thresholds you need to exceed to maintain that status keep changing. And all the other email senders are improving their efforts in an attempt to bump you out of the top 20.
So while it's important to have specific targets (opens, subject line lengths, clicks, sales, deliverability etc.), it's more important to realize that you have to keep striving for continuous improvement, even when you reach those targets.
J.D. Falk expresses the concept well in this quote:
"Your job is to be better than the best: the most relevant, the most respectful, the most wanted commercial email that each of your subscribers receive."
How do we do this?
1. We set expectations, then monitor the important blogs, events and other sources of advice to find out how to keep exceeding these expectations.
So we're not surprised when optimum subject line lengths change and can refine our strategy to account for new developments.
2. We conduct regular audits of our email efforts. These links will help with that:
- The audit every marketer should love
- Your annual email audit in a box
- Done your taxes? Audit your email marketing
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