Deliverability Forum: Cloudmark

Chris Wheeler

Welcome back to the Deliverability Forum!  Today I’m talking with Jamie Tomasello, Abuse Operations Manager at Cloudmark. Cloudmark is a comprehensive messaging solutions vendor that protects subscribers from unwanted spam, phishing, viruses and other harmful content.  Jamie is exceptionally talented in running a dual role in helping receivers defend against unwanted spam and educating the sending community around best practices.  Jamie has a very active voice in the email community and that’s why we wanted to get her take on some tough deliverability questions, so let’s begin.

Chris – Q) How critical is authentication to your filtering heuristics?

Jamie – A) It is not. All authentication does is prove that the sender is who they say they are. It says nothing about the legitimacy of the emails from the point of view of the recipient, nor does it speak to permission. The opposite of “spam” is not “authenticated email.”

Chris – Q) Do you anticipate moving towards a recipient engagement model instead of a binary complaint and/or bounce algorithm in the future?

Jamie – A) I believe our system is already very close to a recipient engagement model. By allowing the members of the Cloudmark Global Threat Network to ‘vote’ on the likelihood that a given email is spam, we are providing them the tools to insure that they are receiving the mail they want, and not the mail they do not want. Ultimately, if the majority of the community reports messages from a campaign as spam, the sender should be concerned and take a moment to determine why the community responded negatively to it. How were the email addresses acquired? Did you have explicit permission? Did you establish an expectation of mailing at acquisition? Is the content relevant to the recipient? Are you sending too frequently? Senders need to nurture their relationship with the recipient, not abuse it.

Chris – Q) What is your definition of an engaged recipient?

Jamie – A) An engaged recipient is someone who is, for lack of a better term, “actively reacting” to your email. Historically, the word “engagement” has been used to only include positive actions. At the very least, recipients are opening messages, or, even better, they are clicking on links or making purchases based on your email. I consider both positive and negative engagement: if a recipient opens the message, clicks on links, and makes a purchase, that’s positive engagement. If a recipient moves an email from the spam/junk folder to the inbox, that’s positive engagement. If a recipient opens the message and reports it as spam, that’s negative engagement. If a recipient goes out of their way to create a mail rule to automatically route all your messages to the spam folder, that’s negative engagement. If a recipient does nothing with your message, they are not engaged.

Chris – Q) How do you see the multi-channel communication “net” affecting email’s use as a conduit of information? Marketing?

Jamie – A) I do not believe it is going to negatively affect email. All of the various channels of the net (be it email, social networks, mobile, or the Next Big Thing) will always be useful in their own way to marketers but none of them are ever going to supplant the others, any more than email marketing has supplanted postal mail advertising. To effectively utilize the multiple channels, I expect marketers will cross reference channels in their communications to recipients. A marketer may drive recipients to their Twitter account by mentioning in their email campaign that additional exclusive special offers are posted there. However, keep in mind that the smaller and more accessible messaging becomes, the less patience the recipient will have and the shorter their attention span will be.

Chris – Q) If there’s one thing you could say to marketers to do differently or better, what would it be?

Jamie – A) To quote Karen Balle over at Exact Target, “if permission is king, engagement is the emperor.” Acquiring permission to send email to an address is only your first step; you need to keep your recipients interested in your email. Just because you acquired permission to send to an email address does not mean that you have the right to bombard the recipient with frequent, irrelevant messages. Do not forget the expectations you set at acquisition.

Special thanks to Jamie for her insight and time.  We hope you find this post to be very useful, but if you still have questions, comment below!

Next up, I’ll be speaking with James O’Brien, Director of Marketing at Lashback.  Until next time.

Chris Wheeler
Director of Deliverability at Bronto