When delivering messages to people using email, companies and website owners have fallen into a common fallacy about the internet: believing its OK to show contempt for our readers by not caring for their reply. We do this every time we send an email, however important, that comes from firstname.lastname@example.org. Like a number of life’s oddities this doesn’t make sense – let’s look at why and how we can change it.
As old as time Itself
Sending email to your visitors, customers or anyone that is important to us is an extremely important task. E-mail is the modern day equivalent of sending a letter – at its basic level; human communication. Not too long ago, people used to spend inordinate amounts of time penning letters to each other with important information, things to watch out for, or good news. You name it, someone would have probably made the decision that taking the time to send a letter or message to another human being was worth the effort.
And guess what?
Not much has changed.
Humans still feel the need to write each other messages. Entire cottage industries (is Twitter considered a cottage industry?) have developed for differing levels of modern communication.
And yet when it comes to e-mail, companies and website owners seem to be show contempt for their message’s recipients in what can only be called the status quo of modern broadcast communication.
We send them a message from an email address that cannot be replied to.
We make it clear we don’t care for their response.
Why this is bad #1 – Emotional
Situate yourself as the recipient;
As a sender, if you can’t show that you’re bothered to read my response then why should I give you the time to read your email?
What if I want to give you feedback? What if I want to tell you you’re awesome? If you are a start up this is the best thing you can ever receive, why would you want to ignore it?
Getting a response from your subscribers, customers or visitors means they care.
Either they care enough to spend their time abusing you. Or spend their time telling you what you could change. Or spend their time telling you how much they appreciate your product or service.
All good things – why miss out?
Why this is bad #2 – The Dreaded Spam Filter
A number of spam filters use the words noreply or dontreply as trigger words and therefore give your e-mail a higher spam score. Do you want your email even delivered?
When people reply to your e-mail, many spam filters and webmail services (Gmail etc) put your e-mail address on a whitelist.
This ensures that you don’t ever get flagged as spam – you get this awesomeness for free just by making yourself available for reply. Why would you want to miss out on this?
The American CAN-SPAM act gives us a legal reason for not doing this;
The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business
“Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.”
MAAWG Sender Best Communications Practices:
“Senders should have the capability to process email-based unsubscribe requests. Senders should also consider making offline unsubscribe mechanisms available. The sender’s ‘From’ or ‘Reply-to’ email address should also be able to receive unsubscribe requests, unless otherwise indicated.”
What we can do
When building your next website, or firing up that next Campaign Monitor email blast, use a real email address; one that has a mailbox attached to it that a human reads now and then.
And before we get all worried that the mailbox we’re sending from being filled to the brim with crap consider a few rules you can implement on that mailbox to keep you sane:
- Weed out the “postmasters”, “delivery failure” and “delayed” messages with mailbox rules.
- Send using a lesser known part of the SMTP RFC; + addressing to separate out different mail from different sources using simple rules.
Sending email to your customers or visitors for marketing, usability (sign up validation) or just to say hello can be a great way to keep them engaged and foster two-way communication. If you’re using a noreply@ address as your sender, your conversations will always be one-sided. You’re missing out.
If you are using a noreply@ address, it’s time to change. Why not do it in the open? Send an email informing your customers or visitors that you will be changing your address shortly and encourage them to add the new one to their Safe list.
Tell them you welcome their feedback with open arms and show them you care – it can only be a good thing!