Messages from unreal people


This graph illustrates a point I’ve often wondered about email marketing – too many people who do it seem wholly without care about who they’re reaching out to.

Now add ‘clueless’ to what you think of email marketers.

According to Emailing in the Dark: What European Email Marketers Don’t Understand about Deliverability, a survey by email marketing firm Return Path published last week, nearly two-thirds of the marketers surveyed thought that an email that has reached a target’s inbox counts as being successfully delivered.

Nearly 40% said that email that’s sent, or that doesn’t bounce, also counts as being successfully delivered.

Return Path has some news for them:

[…] Email marketers generally know that hitting "send" is not enough to ensure messages actually reach the inbox and appear in subscriber’s inboxes as they intended (called "rendering"). The majority of survey respondents (61%) believe that some messages may be blocked by ISPs. Marketers tend to be most concerned about the largest ISPs, like BT,, Neuf, Orange and T-Online, but the truth is that nearly every ISP, from the largest to the smallest, employs filtering technology to protect their customers from spam messages. However, more than one in three email marketing managers are woefully ignorant of this reality – 26% say they do not believe messages get blocked at all and 12% just didn’t know.

Not just blocked by ISPs (internet service providers) – almost anyone with an email account has the power at a granular level to filter any email, blocking whatever you want.

I do that with Outlook 2007 where I have filters that channel incoming email into folders as well as block stuff that matches certain keywords, which means I rarely look at the inbox at all as the email I want to see is in specific folders.

Combine that with NEO Pro’s additional bulk-mail filtering tools, and I now have an email system which means that I rarely, if ever, see the results of email marketing that I’ve not given permission to, unless I peek into Outlook’s spam and junk mail folders.

(Incidentally, whenever I mention this to some people, they wonder if I miss out on opportunities where someone emails me offering some business, wanting to meet, etc, and the email is filtered out somewhere along the way. Probably I do. It’s not hard, though, for anyone to discover what is the most effective way of getting in touch with me.)

I also use Otherinbox, a service that has an approach to email that I like:

[OtherInbox] builds technology to automatically organize emails from online shopping and social networking sites, enabling users to focus on messages from real people.

Let me tell you: you’d be astonished at how many companies lie through their teeth when they say on their websites “we’ll never email you unless you give us your permission.” I’ve got proof otherwise with some well-known names that my name and email address made it into email marketing databases that I never gave permission for.

Luckily, I now use disposal email addresses at Otherinbox which collects all that crap.

You might get a sense that I’m not much enamoured with email marketing. You’d be right, especially after a particularly negative experience last year.

Still, I do recognize that email is a legitimate communication and business channel – whether it’s an effective one is another matter – which many companies see as a significant contributor to their sales revenues.


More trouble, though, as Return Path’s survey also shows that, while 75% of those surveyed had a clear idea of how much of their revenue resulted from their email outreach, almost a quarter of those surveyed had no idea.

Until email marketing either becomes more relevant to the recipients of such activity, or evolves into something more effective as a business tool – how about “messages from real people”? – I’ll keep all my filters firmly in place.

You can download Return Path’s PDF survey from their website. To get it, you have to fill out a form with your email address.

I’ll leave you to guess what kind of email address I disclosed.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.