Email Expert Talk 9: Varun Srinivas, Director Of Email Deliverability and Compliance at Maropost
In our series 'Email Expert Talk' we discuss all things email with distinguished experts who know about the struggles and strategies of working with large volumes of 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 ninth edition of Email Expert Talk, we reached out to Varun Srinivas , Director Of Email Deliverability and Compliance at the Digital Marketing Platform Maropost. Varun has worked for several companies as an email deliverability specialist before he ended up at Maropost where he was promoted to his position at the beginning of 2020.
In this role, Varun, among other things, advises Maropost’s customers on how to achieve higher levels of deliverability.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and current job, and what a typical workday looks like for you?
"I am constantly educating our internal teams and customers about the best common practices"
"I’m a software engineer that turned into a deliverability professional. I have over 8 years of experience in email deliverability and have worked with many ESPs and senders of all shapes and sizes. I enjoy solving deliverability challenges and helping marketers send better emails. In my current role as a Director of Email Deliverability and Compliance for Maropost, I provide our senders(customers) consultation, strategic deliverability guidance, and actionable insights to achieve higher levels of deliverability. I am constantly educating our internal teams and customers about the best common practices and keeping them up to date with industry news, alongside, making sure customers are compliant with our anti-abuse policy and handling any abuse-related escalations of our senders."
In your opinion, what is the most interesting trend or recent development in your field of work?
"Recent changes in Microsoft’s spam filtering and how aggressive and at times inconsistent it is even for good senders. Microsoft filters seem to be giving a lot more emphasis on subscriber engagement than before. I have seen numerous clients experience deliverability challenges at Microsoft, both bulking and blocking issues in recent times. On a positive note, I’ve seen some success in achieving higher deliverability at Microsoft for senders who employ intense inactive suppression rules and comply with all best common practices."
What are the most common deliverability challenges you encounter in your work and how do you tackle them?
"Even to this day, many senders use batch and blast technique. They believe that emails sent to more people will result in higher sales/revenue. This method no longer holds true. Senders who follow a "batch and blast" method will likely have many deliverability issues such as bulking, blacklisting, and ISP blocking. When I work with these types of senders, I start off by presenting their reputation data (which they would have overlooked or wouldn’t have access to) and explain the reason(s) for poor deliverability results. I educate them on how ISPs have evolved over time and have become a lot more sophisticated and have access to numerous reputation signals unlike before. Enabling senders to adopt a more tailored email marketing approach will yield better email deliverability results."
"Senders who follow batch and blast method will likely have many deliverability issues such as bulking, blacklisting, and ISP blocking."
Varun tells us following the below techniques in email marketing campaigns have proved to bring in significant results:
- Segmentation - where they can slice the data based on attributes like past interaction date and purchase date
- Targeting contacts with relevant content
- Paying close attention to deliverability results because they will help fine-tune their email efforts
- Constant tweaking of email content to keep up with the sender’s targets’ preferences, needs, and interests
- Making ongoing improvements to their email deliverability
What has been the biggest or most remarkable challenge you faced in your field of work, and how did you go about resolving it?
"My biggest challenge, probably unique too, in recent times was a policy rejection error at one of the popular cable ISPs due to the use of an apostrophe in the sender’s display name. Due to an encoding issue, messages failed one or more authentication checks at the mailbox provider, and based on the DMARC policy of the sending domain messages were rejected. Since the issue was isolated at one ISP and their associated domains, it took a little while to identify the root cause. We had to work closely with the ISP postmaster team by supplying the necessary information to them, to investigate and provide their feedback and email header comparison with other apostrophe display name senders. Once we identified encoding as the primary reason for this issue, our backend engineering team made necessary changes to the encoding type. After several rounds of tests, we were finally able to confirm the successful delivery of the message with an apostrophe in the display name. The key takeaway from this was, even though having an apostrophe in the display name is a violation of the RFC, most mailbox providers still allow it without rejections as long as the "from" name is encoded properly. "
If you were in the shoes of a major ISP and you could change one thing, what would it be?
"Better postmaster support for deliverability problems. Oftentimes we receive canned responses from ISP postmaster support tickets, which tell us nothing about the issue, so we are left in the dark to make our own assumptions, and many times answers are inconsistent. Proper and insightful postmaster support would help deliverability folks to tackle problems in a much better fashion"
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?
"In the future, we will have increased adoption of authentication practices such as DMARC and BIMI which will lead to better email experience for everyone. ISPs would move to No authentication = No Entry policy. Subscriber engagement will continue to drive email deliverability. Data privacy laws and stricter anti-spam regulations will force email marketers to give their subscribers full control of what information they would like to receive."
"Subscriber engagement will continue to drive email deliverability. "
"Issues tackled – Hopefully we will have highly sophisticated tools to track Inbox placement data with a high degree of accuracy and access to reputation data of multiple ISPs"
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in email deliverability?
"Be thorough with all basic concepts of deliverability. Deliverability is mostly hands-on. You become better at your job by solving more issues/problems. Always watch trends and look at multiple data points while solving a problem. Try to co-relate to arrive at a conclusion. Lastly, join and participate in deliverability forums where you can share your experiences and learn from others as well."