Who's side are you on, anyway?

I recently had a discussion with a company that wanted to use our service, and we sent them away (amicably, I promise). We weren’t a good fit because of Spam and bounce rates. They weren’t sending spam, but they were using third-party acquisition of users.

The conversation was lengthy, and one point really stuck out. The customer asked me,

“So you’re not on the side of your paying customer’s, but instead working for the ISPs?”

I think this is a really important question that email service providers need to answer clearly. I can totally see how it looks this way, so let me debunk.

We are on YOUR side, first and foremost. You, being our customer, and also you, a person who receives email.

Our job is to prevent spam or unnecessary/unwanted email from reaching the ISPs. This job is not easy, because while a Viagra email is obvious, unwanted email is hard to identify.

Nobody likes to admit it, but ISPs have a really tough job sorting through email. The bulk of what they process is spam, and they do their best (some better than others) at keeping those messages away from your inbox. In an effort to make their jobs easier, they ask us, the ESPs, to be vigilant about what we allow our customers to send. Luckily for them, they are very good at persuasion, since they have all the control. They have a great set of punishment tools:

  • Email throttling/delays
  • Sending the email to the spam folder
  • Discarding the email completely

These responses are what our customers pay us to help them avoid, and we do that by supporting the ISPs. At Postmark, our spam threshold is extremely low, because we want the ISPs to love us (and in turn, love your emails).

We monitor bounce rates as much as spam, because sending to an old/nonexistent subscriber looks like spamming and upsets ISPs, not to mention there may be a hidden spam trap. And when we do “fire” some of our customers, no matter how much we love them, it’s because our relationship with the ISPs is important for the customers who are playing by the rules that the ISPs enforce.

The answer, though, is that we’re always on your side, but to be on your side, we have to also be on the ISPs side. We need to help and support them, so they help and support you. We want your emails to fly through quickly instead of sit in queues, so we register as transactional senders and don’t allow bulk mail. We keep our emails going to the inbox, similarly, ensuring only the best content is being sent.

The care we take is what makes us a good partner in your email delivery.
The ESPs that don’t care, don’t deliver.