A large number of the delivery decisions can hinge on a variety of technical elements, including proper DNS configuration, use of outbound authentication systems such as DKIM, adherence to general industry best practices, and compliance with technical elements required by a variety of laws in the U.S. and around the world.
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For email marketing, a bad email reputation can translate directly into lost revenues and lost opportunities. Failure to get requested emails delivered can reflect badly on a company. Customers perceive it as lack of follow-through, and might eventually choose a competitor who seems to be more responsive.
Even if a message gets delivered, the question of where the email lands also has a direct impact on its effectiveness, and on the overall perception of the company and brand. For example, if a company's email reputation is only positive enough for an ISP to permit delivery to the junk or spam folder, it can result in a negative consumer perception of the company.
When legitimate email lands in the spam box, a recipient may perceive a company's messages and by extension, the company as suspicious, even if the consumer opted-in to receive those messages. Landing in a spam box is "out of sight, out of mind" at best, and a sign of possible bad behavior at worst.
In the end, a poor email reputation can be fatal to the utility and effectiveness of a company's entire email strategy and can tarnish the goodwill associated with their good name.
To help with that, the emerging field of reputation services is beginning to make a real difference for businesses which recognize that its not difficult for their reputation to be damaged, yet it can be very difficult to discover the extent of that damage and to repair it.
Reputation service providers specialize in assessing a senders reputation, identifying the technical matters and operational practices that shape that reputation, and recommending mitigation strategies. Because many reputation service providers are independent of email marketing services, they can also serve as a trusted mediator of delivery disputes between senders and receivers.
As companies are beginning to realize how spamming, phishing, and other issues have tarnished their email and domain reputations, the challenges of managing that reputation are going to wander down the hall from the email marketing team to the IT group.
As you look forward to 2008, smart IT executives will be adding get my email reputation back into shape to their list of new years resolutions. Luckily, unlike other new years resolutions about getting into shape, there is an entire industry of reputation service providers to do the heavy lifting for you.