An unsolicited sales pitch is enough to make you see red. Phone scammers have gotten wily in their ways, using local area codes to trick people into answering. Of course, you can always let a number you’re unsure about go to voicemail, but if no message pops up, you’re still left feeling deceived.
Unsolicited email, while not as “in your face” as a jarring phone call, is a source of annoyance nevertheless. Email clients have eased the pain a little by providing quick access to spam complaint features. Filters and other fraud management tools like spam traps reduce exposure to unwanted communications. Yet, there’s no shortage of subsequent spammy emails to follow in their footsteps.
Unfortunately, all the protections put in place to impede these hoodlums may be keeping legitimate emails from reaching recipients’ inboxes.
The good news? You can take steps to ensure your deployments achieve 99.5 percent deliverability.
Before I delve into deployment solutions, it’s important to understand a few spam terms.
Spam Trap/Honey Pot
Yet, there’s no shortage of subsequent spammy emails to follow in their footsteps.
Internet service providers (ISPs) and blacklist providers have had to scurry to keep up with spammers’ shenanigans. Enlisting the help of spam traps, also known as honey pots, is one method that’s been able to catch crooks in the act. A spam trap mimics a real email address, but it doesn’t belong to a real person and cannot be used for communication. It’s the red flag ISPs need to shut down a potential spam operation.
Since a spam trap email address is not attached to a human, it lacks the credibility of being opted-in. If you have one in your physician email list, it’s likely an indication you bought a cheap list or aren’t adhering to the highest standards of email marketing (or both). Whether you’re exposed to a “pure” spam trap (put out as “bait” to catch spammers) or are the victim of a fake address, typo, or recycled email address, the damage is done.
- Sender reputation is blemished, resulting in higher bounce rates and reduced deliverability.
- Your IP address may be added to a blacklist database, also reducing deliverability.
- If you’re a repeat offender, your sending domain may end up permanently blocked.
Ultimately, reduced deliverability can have far-reaching repercussions on your ROI.
A blacklist is a database that houses IP addresses and sender domains belonging to known (and suspected) spammers. Two of the largest are SpamCop and SpamHaus, but there are thousands more around the globe. Just like spam traps, you can still get in trouble as a legitimate sender if you’re not abiding by responsible email marketing protocols or if you’re working with a dirty email list.
For example, you’ve done your due diligence and are deploying to a physician email list that’s been legitimately sourced. But, your content is irrelevant or resonates as bothersome and thus generates spam complaints. Because email clients have made it so simple to register an email as spam—typically just a one-click process—recipients may choose the most accessible option instead of just deleting the email or unsubscribing (which, of course, you don’t want either).
The good news? 99.5% deliverability is possible.
ISPs set up filters to redirect emails they deem to be spam, based on a number of different criteria, such as:
- IP has been flagged previously
- Sender domain has been blacklisted
- Low read rate (message is deleted without being opened)
- Low inbox usage (dormant email address or domain)
- Suspicious content or images
Once again, it’s not only the bad guys who get punished. Up to 20 percent of permission-based emails deployed by legitimate senders end up in the junk pile too.
You may stand firm that you are a legitimate sender—after all, you have important information to convey to physicians. These steps will ensure you can wear that badge with certainty.
Avoid 4 Major Email Blunders
Low delivery rates indicate that many of your emails are bouncing, often because the email address is invalid.
In the explanations above, I’ve mentioned the dangers of using bad email lists and practicing poor email management. What does that really mean?
Here are four major email mistakes to avoid.
1) Questionable Sourcing Methods
Where did the email addresses in your physician email list come from? An offshore scraper? A company who assembled the addresses based on a health system’s presumed domain formula? Or, did they come directly from the physicians themselves?
You should accept nothing less than the third. Any email address in your possession should have been provided by a physician (opted-in) and then double opted-in by giving her the chance to confirm her subscription. Because some lists contain multiple email addresses for an individual physician, the sourcing vendor should also identify physicians’ preferred email addresses. This avoids the pitfalls of a low-usage inbox.
2) No Guarantee of Authenticity
All three furnish triple-threat quality control.
You could guess the accuracy of a physician’s email address based on his hospital affiliation (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org). It may even be a valid email address that lands in a valid inbox. But is it the right Dr. Jones? Is it Dr. Jones’s preferred email address? Is J. Jones actually a nurse? There are too many unknowns to be left to chance—so don’t.
Follow the rule of three:
- Authenticate. Email addresses are matched against the American Medical Association (AMA) Physician Masterfile and the National Provider Identifier (NPI) database to confirm validity.
- Audit. Email addresses are audited by BPA International, the leading data auditing service. Do not pass “go” without a BPA seal of approval.
- Verify. Domain verification compares the domain of an HCP's email address to his or her practice setting.
All three furnish triple-threat quality control—for instance, preventing you from sending to a permission-based email address with a tiny, unintentional typo.
3) Aging Data
If you’re not using an email list that updates at least every 24 hours, you’re escalating spam risk by the day.
A recycled email address is one that may land you in a honey pot. It used to exist but has since been abandoned. Your data would have to be pretty old to include one, but it can happen. It’s more probable the aging data you’re working with includes email addresses for physicians who have left a health system, retired, or passed away. Staffing changes occur all the time, so if you’re not using a physician email list that updates at least every 24 hours, you’re escalating spam risk by the day.
4) Irrelevant Messaging
Remember, that spam or junk button is just one click away—much less time consuming than opening an email, finding the unsubscribe link, and completing the unsubscribe process. Deleting is easy, too, but after you’ve received a series of meaningless communications, a spam determination is the logical next step.
You can avoid it all—delete, unsubscribe, and spam—by working with a physician email list that provides specific clues about individual physicians.
- Years of practice
- Practice location
- Case mix
- Referral patterns
- Alumni affiliation
Whether used for referral, retention, or recruitment purposes, these data points paint a complete picture of the human on the receiving end. An email address by itself is just that. On the other hand, a comprehensive physician profile equips you with the information you need to speak to individual physicians with relevance—further ensuring your emails stay out of spam territory.
The spammers are getting smarter, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim of their tactics. Robust, authentic, real-time data not only keeps you out of spam trouble, but it is the foundation for fostering physician engagement and building healthy hospital-physician relationships.