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BlackList Monitor Gives Businesses Options to Ensure Opt-in Email Gets Through

Email may be fast becoming the preferred means of business communications and marketing, but, according to Karen Fegarty, it is only an effective tool if your messages are getting through to your opt-in clients. This is not always the case.

"You can find a lot of data that shows that information is not getting through by email, and the impact that has on any given business. AOL currently blocks about 80 per cent of all email to its users, data from Return Path suggests, on average, 22 per cent of legitimate opt-in email wasn't delivered to user inboxes, and the costs to business of incorrectly blocked opt-in email is expected to reach $419 million by 2008."

Why is such a high percentage of business email not getting through? For the most part, it comes down to the growing phenomenon of blacklists. A blacklist is a database of internet addresses (IPs) that have either been identified as, or are being used by companies and individuals to send spam. There are many blacklists in existence and service and bandwidth providers (ISPs) subscribe to these lists to filter out the spam that their customers receive. In theory, it's a sensible solution to a significant problem, but the lists have their flaws, which means that many legitimate opt-in messages are being blocked from reaching business clients. Because it only takes one complaint, it is very easy for a company's IP to be added ? and erroneously ? to a high-use blacklist like SpamCorp. Also, many blacklists add IPs in blocks, so if one user of an IP is labeled a spammer, any business using it will be penalized. And there have been instances where companies have falsely reported competitors as spammers, just to gain a market advantage.

Fegarty's company, MailWorkZ, has come up with one of the most effective tools available to avoid erroneously blocked opt-in email ? BlackList Monitor. Launched in 2004, the web-based service actively monitors, on an hourly basis, 75 of the most popular blacklists, providing clients with automated email notifications if their IPs are found on any of these lists. It also provides clients with the best available information on how to contact and negotiate the removal of their IPs from any blacklist.

According to Fegarty, the genesis of BlackList Monitor came from problems that MailWorkZ and its clients were having sending email to clients.

"Not only do we have an email marketing software product Broadc@st - that companies can buy and use to send their own campaigns, we also conduct email campaigns on behalf of clients through our own servers."

Seeing the deliverability of a major client's email decline due to blacklists, Fegarty and her team knew they needed an effective solution, and fast: "We needed to determine exactly where we were listed on a real-time basis so we could take immediate steps to be removed. We didn't have time to check the lists daily, let alone hourly, or to find information to negotiate a way off the lists. It needed to be an instant, automated process."

With this in mind, MailWorkZ spent about four months of development work over the course of a year coming up with a solution using the .Net platform. During that time, the company conducted extensive research, wading through thousands of blacklists to determine the ones that were checked by the majority of major ISPs, how the lists determined legitimate email, and how to negotiate a way out of these databases.

Since its launch in June 2004, MailWorkZ has registered more than 400 active BlackList Monitor accounts, and is monitoring more than 1000 IPs. Client renewal rate, adds Fegarty, is over 50%, and feedback has been uniformly positive.

"Clients are indicating that this is a necessary tool, improving their email marketing success. They've also indicated that they appreciate the fact that it is easy to use, and how beneficial the removal information is for them."

Fegarty says that the company is focusing its marketing efforts on the UK and building greater market share in the U.S.

Mark Campbell is a Halifax, Nova Scotia-based marketing and communications consultant. He can be reached at krambell@ns.sympatico.ca.

More information about MailWorkZ (http://www.mailworkz.com) and the BlackList Monitor (http://www.blacklistmonitor.com) products can be seen by visiting their sites.

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