Do you recommend that agencies invest in dedicated IPs for their clients?
There’s a lot of bad advice out there about sending email. Sometimes, people feel that they have to have a dedicated IP to get good delivery. The truth is that, in most cases, they’re better off just using our shared IPs because they’re older and they’re even more reliable. We care more about reliable delivery than we do about selling IPs. When you start getting to lists with hundreds of thousands of addresses, a dedicated IP can make sense, but for most folks, they can actually see better deliverability with our regular IPs.
How does Mailchimp’s deliverability compare to smaller ESPs?
It’s all about scale. As an ESP grows, it becomes more difficult to keep up with that growth.
If you’re small, you can make it for quite some time, but it’s not always sustainable. We’ve grown into one of the biggest ESPs now, and we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve been able to build good relationships — and a good reputation — with many of the block list operators. They respect us and are willing work with us if we get in a jam because they know we take reputation seriously and are willing to enforce quickly.
The other big difference is that we’re far more strict about what we will and won’t allow in our system. We don’t allow affiliate marketing, we don’t allow adult content, and we’re very strict about the permissioning of the list. We’ve been really consistent in that stance over the years, and as a result, we’ve had to say no to some huge companies. We put more value in having a clean reputation than we do in generating revenue, and that’s been our stance since the beginning. But it’s paid off for us, and it’s helped us develop those good relationships I mentioned earlier.
Should an agency be discouraging their clients from importing a list into Mailchimp?
It depends on the list. We trust people, so we won’t stop anyone from logging into Mailchimp and importing a list. But we do a lot of sampling and prediction on each list, and we’ll shut it down if we think it’s going to perform poorly. And we’ll watch when folks send too, so if someone sends and it doesn’t perform well (maybe it generates high bounce or abuse rates, for example), we’ll shut that down, too. These policies do mean that we’re not always able to serve some of our potential customers, but in the long run, it helps all of our other users have more success with their own deliverability.
If you ran your own agency, what questions would you be asking potential ESPs?
I’d want to know how they monitor uptime, and how they handle incidents. How do they know when something is wrong, and, in turn, how do they show that to their customers? We just throw our uptime numbers on the status page. Most companies will have a grid of services and dates with a red/yellow/green and, when the incident is resolved, they’ll just flip it back to green so there’s not a public, historical record of the issue.
I’d ask about their infrastructure. Will I be able to track how things are going and what will they do when there’s an outage? How have you built your app? What kind of storage, networking, and servers do you use? What kind of people do you have?