The Email Deliverability Consultant: Email’s Lone Ranger.

Posted December 17, 2010

The Email Deliverability Consultant: Email’s Lone Ranger.

Posted December 17, 2010

There is a growing subculture emerging in email marketing, a narrow one built around the role of the Email Deliverability consultant. These email folk heroes often hold silver bullets that dramatically alleviate problems caused by poor email deliverability. Whether it’s resolving sender reputation issues, aligning sectors of your email program to meet legal compliance, or ensuring that all technical considerations are met, these masked magicians can help.

It usually begins when a critical knowledge gap around email marketing campaigns are noticed. Often the requests to hire an industry “folk hero” (consultant) originate from a marketer who wants to fully optimize the organization’s email program. Factors that optimize programs include, but are not limited to, list quality and data collection, increased open rates, better ROI tracking, and achieving optimal inbox placement rates. As much as marketers might want an optimized program, they often do not fully recognize the technology challenges of getting email delivered to achieve these desired results. When that happens, for certain organizations, it’s time for The Email Deliverability Consultant: Email’s Lone Ranger.

A Marksman who gets his hands Dirty

Depending on the scope of the project, these consultants offer a wide range of deliverability services, including, but not limited to a deep understanding of list quality and data collection, email authentication best practices, setting up FBLs, bounce handling and infrastructure. Consultants also commonly help with sourcing, installing and configuring optimal specs for both commercial and open source MTAs. Frequently, the scope of the project grows into in-depth consulting on email engagement, response or retention campaigns or designing strategies that integrate complimentary marketing channels such as mobile platforms and social media.

Masters of Disguise

As we know, consulting by nature is a feast or famine type career. And often, email deliverability consultants are positioned in precarious situations and exploited by bad actors. Suspect senders often pump consultants for information on where to find responsive email lists or, even worse, ask about revealing key contacts at Yahoo, or other ISPs. Deliverability consultants’ clients largely come from referrals and word-of-mouth. That said, they live by a strict moral code of conduct, because they sometimes face important ethical decisions; at times, they must choose between a paycheck and literally firing a client.

The Audit Process

The Audit Process is a “state of play” snapshot of the deliverability climate within the organization.

Usually, deliverability consultants will require answers to a set of detailed questions and an analysis of overall infrastructure (technical setup) before any type of contract is in place. During the audit, clients may seed consultants on different types of emails (marketing, transactional, etc) where they could begin reporting on items such as blacklist status, reputation, authentication tests, content, and inbox placement rates, etc. Consultants will then try to identify trends within the email list, such as attrition rates, opens, clicks, and sign up rates. Some feedback is then given to the client, but deliverability consultants generally need to access additional data, such as bounce handling, FBL monitoring, send rates, and identifying email streams.


A typical contract is somewhere between 30-90 days, with ongoing support in place. However, most organizations are likely to add to the scope of services and have other goals in mind beyond deliverability. These days, organizations that have prevalent stakeholders will go to great lengths to gain an edge over their competitors. So, in many cases, an ongoing contract can grow out of the original short-term agreement.

The behemoths in our industry are companies like ReturnPath , Pivotal Veracity (Unica) and Goodmail which is widely known for certified inbox placement. These companies collaborate extensively with established ESPs and large enterprises. However, below I’ve listed a few other respected industry resources, the majority of which have over a decade of email deliverability experience. Each has experience with organizations that range in size from ESP startups to F500 corporations.

In their work as Email’s Lone Rangers, these consultants can most often revive a company’s deliverability afflictions, so that key members of the organization can hop back in the saddle without too much damage done to its sender reputation.

This article was written by Fred Tabsharani (Port25 Solutions, Inc.) and inspired by:

  • Jaren Angerbauer, DeliveryVision
  • Andrew Bonar,Emailexpert
  • Micky Chandler, Whizardries
  • Greg Kraios, Den of Deliverability
  • Laura and Steve Atkins, Word to the Wise