Now that you’re cleaning your list, let’s talk about how to improve your email deliverability even further with staggered sending. (You are cleaning your list, right? If not, you should check out these posts on scrubbing and validating your list.)
The Logic – How Staggering Improves Email Deliverability
Receiving email servers utilize a combination of your sender reputation, verification systems (DKIM, SPF, etc.), and indicator thresholds to determine whether to soft bounce, black hole, spam folder, or inbox your email message. By staggering your sends to target your engaged audience first, you delay triggering the thresholds designed to identify unwanted content, allowing more of your messages to route to the inbox than would if you sent to everyone at once.
Think of it like applying for a loan. Let’s say your company worked out a deal with the local bank to provide a loan to all employees, with the interest rate determined by the average credit score of the applicants. You could:
A) Send employees the bank at random. However, if your first employee has a credit score of 600, and your second has a score of 800, their loans would be written at the rates for 600 and 700 respectively (the average of the 2).
B) Organize your employees by credit score and send them to the bank in order of highest to lowest. Now your 800 scores are getting loans with the 800 score rate, and due to the inflated average score, the folks at the lower end of the spectrum are getting better rates than they would qualify for on their own.
Option B sounds like a better approach, doesn’t it? By sending to your engaged recipients first, you’re essentially doing the same thing, influencing the receiving email servers to view your incoming email as more desirable to the recipients than it would be otherwise.
Two hours later, your unengaged send goes out with the receiving servers already familiar with the content of the message. It takes longer to surpass the thresholds they have in place, and your collective soft bounce rate is dramatically improved as a result.
Now that we know why we’re staggering our sends, let’s talk about what goes into doing so.
Start by segmenting your Leads and Contacts lists for engagement. The time frame you use to define engagement should be based on your sending frequency and sales lifecycle length, but 90 days is a good place to start.
For our purposes here, we’re defining engagement as an email open or click through. Your segments in Act-On will look like this:
Make sure you select “OR” for ‘Combine expressions with.’ While clicks are usually accompanied 1:1 by opens, you don’t want to omit someone who engaged with your CTA without downloading the images in your message.
The Automated Program
To achieve the desired 2-hour stagger, we’ll use Act-On’s Automated Programs feature. For a single send, create a program that mirrors the following:
This will conditionally branch Leads, followed by Contacts, who qualify for your engagement segments and have them leapfrog the 2-hour wait step (A-4). Records that do not qualify will pass through A-2 and A-3, wait for 2 hours, and then proceed to the Send Email Message step.
Building out a multi-step nurture program? Just substitute the steps above for any Send Email step in the program, and now your entire nurture will automatically optimize for improved email deliverability as you go.
But does it actually work?
Yes, it does. While I’ve helped many businesses implement the above, let’s use a more recent example. Three months ago I rolled out staggered sending for a B2B client. Their 2016 average bounce rate was around 11%.
After a list cleaning, segmenting by engagement, and adopting staggered sending, their April 2017 average bounce rate is 1.38%, including hard bounces. A 10% drop isn’t chump change. And that improved email deliverability doesn’t just stop there, the improved engagement creates a snowball effect, driving continually improved results over time.
Ready to learn more?
Are you getting the most out of your automation? This email deliverability improvement is just one of many potential optimizations that could enhance your results and the ROI of your marketing automation spend.
Contact Gundry Marketing here for a free analysis of your Act-On Software implementation.