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Christopher Knight

Return Path Acquires IronPort's Bonded Sender
By Christopher Knight

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Return Path is best known for their ECOA services (Email Change Of Address), and they are also known to be a smart marketing firm (acquiring Netcreations / last June).

If you send tens, hundreds or millions of emails per month to your ezine lists or email marketing lists, you've no doubt received emails from Return Path notifying you that a member of your email list has changed their address and if you pay them, you can find out where they have moved to.

Who Does Return Path Serve?

My gut feeling is that Return Path's ideal client is the email marketer who wants to retain their customer base via email more-so than your typical ezine publisher. With only a half million permission-based email deliveries a month for myself (to my ezine list members), I see no value in Return Path's services, but if those half million emails a month I sent were CLIENTS, you bet I'd consider paying Return Path to notify me when they switch addresses so that I could send them an email to re-opt them back into the segmented list they were already a part of (considered a transactional relationship email due to the business we're already engaged in).

ECOA services are controversial because of their use, but I think Return Path does a good job of being on the right side of the white picket spam fence. The ECOA service itself is not the controversy, but what you do with the knowledge once you have a brand new address of an existing member of your list. If you're not engaged in a transactional relationship with that member, you could be accused of spamming when you send to them at their new address.

What Happened To PostmasterDirect?

Hopefully ReturnPath will do more for the Bonded Sender program than they did for PostmasterDirect. As a long time affiliate of PostmasterDirect, I've seen my PMD ad sales plummet from tens of thousands down to zero. I've even pulled our old Postmaster Direct lists off our sites a few months ago as their life cycle may be near the end.

What is the Bonded Sender Program?

It's like a whitelist of accredited IP addresses but legitimate email marketers must put up a cash bond that guarantee's their emails are not spam to join their program. If a complaint is lodged against a bonded sender approved client, they could forfeit part or the entire bond. Recently they claimed a reach of 35,000 networks, 250 million email boxes and have clients like Google & Microsoft.

It's difficult to get in to their program as it should be, and they are monitored by an independent party (TrustE). I might be cynical here, but pretty much a lot of cash and a good reputation will get you in, just like any ISO program hoops.

Where Does Return Path Go From Here With Bonded Sender?

IronPort was known as more of a technology firm and not a marketing machine. Scott Weiss, IronPort's founder and CEO has joined Return Path's board… but I'm unclear as to whether he'll have any active role in driving the program forward under Return Path's ownership.

According to Return Path's biased email blocking and filtering reports, an average of 22% of permission-based commercial emails never reach the inboxes they were intended for. There is no doubt there is a market need for their services to help improve email deliverability. Now that Bonded Sender is a part of Return Path, they may see an improvement in market adoption, but only time will tell.

Some Bonded Sender Politics:

It's always political, isn't it? ;-)

IronPort and Microsoft have strong financial ties and thus it was known that the way to penetrate Hotmail or anything to do with emailing into the MSN network could have an improved reach by being a Bonded Sender program member. Now that Bonded Sender is more neutrally owned, perhaps they will be able to expand their reach and significance in the market.

More info on Bonded Sender:

Read Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path's comments to this article.

This Ezine-Tip was submitted By Christopher Knight -- Email List Marketing Expert, author and entrepreneur. Get your weekly dose of Email newsletter publishing, marketing, promotion, management, email-etiquette, email usability and deliverability tips by joining the free Ezine-Tips newsletter:

Ezine-Tips for April 19, 2005

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