Email Expert Talk 5: Marcus Webb, Senior Technical Support Consultant at Pure360
In our series 'Email Expert Talk'we discuss all things email with distinguished experts who know about the struggles and strategies of working with high volume emails. We talk about how they cope with daily challenges, what their opinions are on the latest industry developments and how they manage to stay on top of the ever-changing email landscape.
For the fifth edition of Email Expert Talk, we reached out to Marcus Webb, Senior Technical Support Consultant at Pure360. At Pure360 Marcus helps clients answer some of the most challenging technical questions. When he's not doing that, he's working on improving their deliverability by providing evidence and advice on how to make a beneficial change.
With over 35 years of experience in technical roles, Marcus can be considered a true 'internet veteran'. He's seen dramatic developments in the field, especially in the last 10 years during which the role of the internet in a business' success has massively increased. Are you curious to see how he has experienced these changes over the years and how he manages to cope with them? Then read on.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Marcus: "I'd like to tell you what a typical day looks like but I'm not sure I've ever seen one. Each day brings new challenges and new opportunities, new things to consider and new ways to have a positive influence on ours and our customers' businesses. I actually enjoy that because it means that no two days are ever the same and nothing is ever boring and repetitive!"
Each day brings new challenges and new opportunities
"One minute I might be helping a customer understand why they’re unable to connect their system to ours, the next I could be talking to a prospect about an intricate part of our API (the means by which we can get two systems to talk to each other with a meaningful dialogue), or advising a long-standing client about email security. Equally, I might be looking into the overall campaign results for a client to give them a big picture on how they've been delivering email for the past six months. I can also be found working in the PureAcademy — a multidisciplinary team within Pure360 who are responsible for ensuring that staff here are as well-trained as they can be about their roles and other self-development factors."
"You name it, I seem to get asked about it! But that’s all part of the variety of this role and it’s what keeps me coming back for more."
In your opinion, what is the most interesting trend or recent development in your field of work?
Marcus: "I look forward to the challenges that AMP and Schema present to the email industry. If we get this right it can genuinely revolutionise email - and I'm old and jaded enough to keep that phrase away from normal conversation, which should tell you how much I am enthused right now about its potential."
I look forward to the challenges that AMP and Schema present to the email industry
"There are those who see this as some form of infringement on their privacy, but there is still a massive control that one has over one's data, particularly in light of recent legislation to protect the individual. I'm thinking of GDPR here and similar regulation that has been introduced around the world to allow one to reclaim one's data and rights to it."
What are the most common deliverability challenges you encounter in your work and how do you tackle them?
Marcus: "Typically there are three challenges that arise: The client, the ISP and the Blacklists."
"When I say there are challenges with the client, it's usually a case of explaining and persuading them of the benefits of using our experience in managing deliverability for them. More often than not, they're trying to maximise the return on their investment by sending out email to everyone every single time a campaign is launched. However, when you explain to them that better results can be achieved by being selective in targeting people, and how to best achieve that, they start to listen and react accordingly, particularly when the results prove out what we've been saying all along."
They start to listen when the results prove out what we've been saying all along
"The challenge with ISPs is to keep them happy and make them believe that you are respecting their wishes in terms of volume. This is always challenging with the 'OMG' domains as they don't necessarily tell you why they are asking you to slow campaigns down (at least, not always in explicit terms). It would be a great result for ESPs and ISPs alike for them to actually respect each other and give genuine reasons for campaigns being throttled and similar situations. A trust relationship works best when the truth is used to manage and maintain the relationship. If you're not being given the real reason that a campaign is not getting into people's inboxes, it makes it harder for the respect to be mutual."
The challenge with ISPs is to make them believe that you are respecting their wishes in terms of volume
"As to the blacklists, well, I believe as an industry we set ourselves up for them to be used for the protection of the masses. Not that they are consistent in their responses to us (similar to ISPs, really). Again this boils down to a trust relationship. However, they've built up their revenue streams which they will naturally protect zealously and understandably, by not allowing us any view on what triggered us getting onto their lists in the first place. Some less than reputable blacklists are trying to make money from their customers and from industries such as ours who are merely trying to deliver emails."
How do you tend to approach communication with clients in difficult situations?
Marcus: "Always start from a position of polite helpfulness, no matter what one's opinion of that client might be. You have to remember that most of the time these people are just trying to get a job done, and their perception of how you approach them to resolve an issue is key in maintaining a good working arrangement at what might be a difficult time for this person."
Always start from a position of polite helpfulness
"I've known instances in our company where a personal conversation where you actually listen to their concerns, and find some form of arrangement agreeable to both parties will mean that you can return what might have been a sour relationship to a normal footing. I did this with one of our clients and they stayed for a further two years, only leaving as they had reached a maturity level in marketing that our platform couldn't offer them at the time."
Looking forward, where do you see email deliverability in 2025? What new challenges will we be facing and what current issues may be tackled by then?
Marcus: "It'll either be worse or better. Whatever else it will be you can bet that a lot of the game will have changed. I'd love the ISPs and Blacklist manufacturers to come to the table with the ESPs and talk openly and reasonably about how we can all help each other out. It's not like any of us are going anywhere. Email communications will still be a thing - it has such a great ROI compared to Social media and other digital channels that marketers would be foolish to look elsewhere. Nobody kills the goose that lays the golden egg."
It's going to be an exciting time, but pain will be part of the process
"Technically speaking, though, I imagine there will be more machine learning involved in the process to determine wanted versus not-wanted emails. As with all emerging technologies, we're going to have to go through some significant pain to get to a point whereby we trust machine learning results and make them more autonomous. You'll still need people in deliverability roles, although they're going to be less front-line and operate more in the realm of training these machine-learning models to interpret data in a better manner. This is going to be an exciting time, but as I say, it'll be fraught with some pain as part of that process."
You'll still need people in deliverability roles
"With any luck the SPF/DKIM/DMARC model will be ubiquitous by then. It's far from a guarantee right now that adoption has happened or that organisations will respect it fully. I don't think that BIMI will help as to me, it's just a branding exercise. If the trust doesn't exist in the first place (which right now, ISPs are making hard to achieve) then I don't think it will be as successful as people hope. It'd be nice if we do get it adopted, but as a tool to combat the bad actors, I'm not sure it can prove its worth for now. It might be able to in 2025 though, but that remains to be seen."
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in email deliverability?
Marcus: "Sorry, ISPs but I've got to say that for now, the best advice I can give is not to trust an ISP's response to a request for email delivery. Until ISPs actually fully adhere to the Delivery statuses that have been approved by the IETF, you're going to have to assume that in certain instances, they will lie to you for their own ends."
"If you have the opportunity to positively influence the trust relationship between your company and an ISP, then do so, as that will help. But realistically, you have to think of the relationship like a 90's corporate office and assume that they'll tell you one thing and then do another. Just keep your wits about you and learn to recognise patterns."