Safelist Today, Spam Tomorrow: Be Careful With Your “From” Address
Posted by Dave McCue on July 10th, 2009
Successful email marketers are constantly looking for ways to tweak and optimize their messages in order to come as close as possible to the elusive “magic” formula that guarantees the best results. But one aspect of email creative that even these folks are reluctant to change is the From address via which their emails arrive in subscribers’ inboxes, and with good reason.
A very valuable—yet exceedingly difficult—component of email marketing is getting subscribers to “safelist” a From address, which ensures that future messages from that sender will be delivered directly to the inbox without issue. This is why many email marketing messages list the From address in the pre-header with a request for the recipient to add it to their address book.
Messages from senders not on recipients’ “safelist” will often appear with the content obscured and trigger a warning message such as this (from Hotmail):
Obviously, inclusion on the “safelist” is a big victory for any email marketer. So what happens when you—for whatever reason—need to change your From address?
You could take the approach that Nautica took on a recent email I received. Having been on their mailing list for some time, I was a bit alarmed to see the above “You may not know…” warning display in my preview pane when I clicked on the message. My first thought was that a spammer was trying to trick me by using a familiar sender name as a disguise, but reading the subject line didn’t give any indication that the message would be harmful. So I checked the From address, which was “firstname.lastname@example.org.” This is where the importance of branding came into play, because if that From address had looked in any way suspicious I might have marked the message as junk (remember, the content of the message was blocked in my preview pane, so I had no visual evidence to verify the safety of the message). Seeing the From address with the Nautica domain name eased my fears, and I marked the message as safe.
Upon doing so, the message content displayed in my preview pane, and it was immediately clear what had caused the confusion:
Nautica did a good thing on this message by calling out the fact that they had changed their From address, and doing so in a spot where I would be hard pressed to miss it. In just this top portion of the message, there were two mentions of the new address with the standard request to add them to my address book.
There is a risk involved with changing your From address, as this situation showed. If it must be done, just remember the importance of maintaining a brand-friendly sending domain and—as Nautica did—it wouldn’t hurt to go the extra mile and inform recipients why your message was suddenly being flagged as potential SPAM.