THE THOUGHTFUL ENTREPRENEUR PODCAST
722 – AI-Based Email and Customer Engagement with Netcore's Matthew Vernhout
Josh Elledge intro 0:01:
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Alright, with me right now. Matthew Vernhout, you are the VP of Deliverability with NET Core on the web at NETCoreCloud.com. Thank you so much for joining us, Matthew.
Matthew: Well, thanks for having me today.
Josh: I am so excited to chat about this subject. Because I can just tell you that there are so many people that don't have a clue about email deliverability. And the essentials that you have to have in place, if you want your emails to land in the inbox of the people that you're communicating with. And, you know, I would imagine, Matthew, I think about all of the emails that are sent. And I wonder if there's any idea, if we if you have any idea of the number of emails that don't truly get where they're supposed to get because of deliverability issues out there.
Matthew Vernhout 1:23
So the number of emails that don't make it in the first place, because they're viruses or malware or things like that are billions of messages a day. So these are messages that that nobody even sees. So you know, your your your mailbox, providers are out there blocking billions of messages a day. On top of that, you're probably looking at anywhere from five to 15% of commercial messages that our consent based messages that people are asking for, don't make it to the inbox.
Yeah. So that ought to, you know, that ought to get your attention. Because you know, why go through all of that work if the platform's are just, you know, are stopping you from communicating with your own list. And so, so mechanically, I want to kind of talk about maybe just from a high level, most people don't really understand how Gmail, you know, the others, you know, operate, and what they rely on in order to make the decision whether or not to deliver that to the client and actually have the email that the user actually see that it's more than just scanning the email for spammy copy and stuff like that, which it will do, right? Sure. All right, you kind of just maybe talk a little bit high level about how everything operates.
Yeah, so high level, you know, mailbox providers use machine learning. And they're looking at sort of, you know, 1000s, potentially, of different measurements from the IP address you're connecting to, to the domain, how old the domain is, past history of messaging, engagements are people actually reading your messages and opening them clicking on them. replying to them, you know, just, in general, just engage with them right on through to the links that you're including, and then to a degree the content. But for the most part, you know, the vast majority of filtering decisions are made upon the message, domain IP reputation. So this is something you've probably heard people talk about what's your IP reputation? What's your domain reputation, those types of things. And that's the vast majority of what filtering is driven off of. And then you layer on some of these other things. And how you build domain and IP reputation are using authentication solutions like Sender Policy Framework, SPF domainkeys, Identified Mail or decom. And now looking into things like demark. So using that as a way to apply policy as a domain owner, when your other authentication solutions fail. If SPF fails, and Deacon both fail, chances are the mails fraudulent. So as a domain owner, you could say please quarantine any mail that fails this on purpose, or please reject mail that fails this on purpose.
So Matthew, what you're taught is for the person who's listening right now, if your eyes are starting to glaze over to say, wait a minute, I've never heard of these terms that he's using or you just mentioned SPF D Kim and demark. Right. So if you're not familiar with this, you need to pay very, very close attention to this conversation and the steps that you need to take so you can ensure your deliverable. Is is happening. And so first off, Matthew, I know that that that NET Core cloud provides a tool, it's totally free. And what is that tool that people can use so that they can do a run a test on themselves?
Yeah. So we, we built a tool called grade my email.co. So it's on the dots to website. And basically, it allows you to put your domain name in, we then take a scan of publicly available block lists, look at your DNS records, evaluate, you know, what is your SPF records? Are they correctly set up? What is your demark status? Are you publishing bimi Records, which we can maybe talk about when we have time, there's a lot of technical terms here. We look at you know, IP reputation, domain reputation, are you using secure certs for hosting links, etc. And then sort of come back with a series of recommendations on things that you could improve from a technical point of view, to enhance your deliverability or provide, you know, the best technical solution or best technical setup for deliverability.
So, um, we got connected Matthew through a mutual friend. And, you know, as soon as I saw all of the tools that are available, so again, if you go to it, it's a free tool, and absolutely free, great, my email dot CEO, you click on the little hamburger menu. And so I'm just gonna list off some of these tests that you can run, there's great my email, I don't know if that's kind of an all in one. But there's that there's email tester that specific to your email address. So when you're sending stuff out, and you're like, man, I don't think people are getting my email, run this test. And you can find out for sure, there's a blacklist checker, bimi checker, and x checker, SPF decom D Mark, subject line optimizer, this is really cool. Like you're involved in this, right? This, this
was actually my idea. Yeah, I sat down with our CEO. And he said, We have a team of people that do community based development, open source, project work, etc. And he loved it. And he said, Let's, let's build it. And so we sat down, and I worked with the team. And we came up with sort of the initial tool, and that's what you see. And even now we're continuing to develop and add new features to it will continue to improve over time.
So you and I chatted previously, and I punched my email or my domain in here, and you took a look at it. And, you know, overall, I'd say I got about a B plus, I mean, there were a couple of things that, you know, probably worth tweaking, you know, changing a, you know, it's like a tilde to do our minus, there's always a question mark to a tilde or something like that
we updated dress pf record a little bit, give it Yeah, a little more security to it, if you will,
yeah. What, what would you imagine, you know, in terms of like, you know, just a typical business owner hasn't been paying attention to your deliverability issues. And and when they go and run this tool, what are they you What are they typically going to see issues with? Would you imagine?
So there are some issues that are potentially beyond your control as a domain owner, so, you know, reverse DNS setup for services, such as the Google Work, Work suite, or G Suite, if you well, depending on how you refer to it. But so the Google accounts, occasionally their MX records don't have valid reverse DNS record lookups. That could be, you know, it's an issue on Google side, you're not gonna be able to fix that. But it's kind of worth noting, because some domains get really finicky or picky about that. Not typically a big problem from Google, though. But if it's your own hosted domain, it's probably something you want to fix. Or if it's your USPS domain, or IP addresses, you probably want to talk to your ESP to get those corrected. So where you can control those things? Absolutely. Google's pretty good at fixing them relatively quickly, though. So you may test it today. And you get an error that says your MX doesn't reverse lookup, and you tested two days from now on, it's absolutely fine. So it, you know, partly depends on the day of the week the test. So you might see that you might see some issues with your SPF record, maybe you're not publishing one. Basically,
let's let's define that what it is with SPF means.
So SPF Sender Policy Framework, it's been around since the early 2000s. And basically, it's a DNS record that you create from your mailing domain, and it's specific to each domain. So if you have a corporate domain, and then you have a subdomain for marketing purposes, both domains should have unique SPF records. They could potentially be the same content, but they need to be each domain or each sub domain has to have its own SPF record. It allows you to basically say this mail server, or this network is authorized to send mail on my behalf. So you punch in, you know, if you're if you're working with NET Core, we would give you a record that says, you know, include NET Core SPF record in your SPF record, and then basically that allows us to be an authorized sender as a network on your behalf. Yeah.Josh:
So, yeah, so in order to like, if if, again, what we're talking about is starting to, you're like, Whoa, what I you know, where do I go? Like, what would I do with this information? If I find out that there's an issue, for example, I don't I haven't specified SPF. So um, you know, if you Google is certainly you can learn, you know, kind of where to do this, you know, for, for us, we use a cache, we forget the name of CloudFlare. So, what CloudFlare does is it allows kind of, well, I can't explain that you explain what cloud and CloudFlare, by the way, is, is just a service provider. I think netcore even provides similar services that right,Matthew:
not quite the same. So Cloud players more just DNS management. We do that a little bit for some of our hosting clients, where we might host their domains. But in your in regards to like, where do you find more information on how to build an SPF record. So there's tons of help files, there are tons of tools to help build an SPF record. And generally, the idea is there is a very specific format that you lay out. But if you're working with a mailbox providers, if you're working with Gmail, just Google, how to configure your SPF for my G Suite account. If you're working with Office 365, you can look up how to do authentication with Office 365. So there's lots of help documents out there. If you're working with an email service provider, just reach out to this help department, their support departments and say, you know, I want to validate my SPF is properly configured or my domain keys are properly configured. And they should have all the instructions you need. So that's what I would say your keyword is your host name, whoever's hosting your mail. So in your case, you know, it's Google. So you can say Google, what is my SPF record need to be, and then they will return back and say, for your SPF, make sure you include Google SPF, in the record, so then they will give you that information, you can go and update your records that way.Josh:
So let me ask you another question. Um, so one thing that we're doing as a company is we're gonna start to do a little bit more our email outreach, which we really haven't done before. Because of that, you know, do you have an opinion on I mean, we're not going to be doing any kind of crazy spamming or anything like that, but probably sending out maybe about 100 emails a day just for invitations and helping to connect our clients with potential podcast guests, for example. So um, should we be running that from a separate, dedicated domain? I've heard conflicting advice on that,Matthew:
you know, I would say not necessarily like a completely separate domain, you want to maintain the relationship between your organization and the products and services you're promoting. What I would recommend, though, is use a subdomain. So oftentimes, when I'm working with clients, if they have marketing messages, we'll create like a news or marketing or info dot client domain.com. subdomain and use it for that for transactional messaging, depending what it is it could be support client domain comm for, say password reset type notifications, or if it's transactional messaging, like receipts, it could very well just be receipts dot client comm interest. So youJosh:
would send in so for example, I would send a, you know, a Josh Elledge ad podcast out my influence calm or something like that. Something like that. Yeah. Okay. Wow. Interesting. You know,Matthew:
but being that it's more like you're sending personal mail, you could you could very well use your personal domain. Right being being that, you know, I'm thinking more sort of that bulk outreach type. Now, you probably want to have some type of separation between your corporate and your marketing knowJosh:
that that's not my personal email address, by the way. But it'd be one with my name on that's interesting. So I can just so you could just set up a sub domain. So like, if we're using G Suite, for example, you could set up a sub domain in G Suite. And there's ways to do that well in it'll kind of automatically just carry over all of your, you know, the SPF stuff and demark stuff that you've set up.Matthew:
You know, for SPF, you have to set it up specifically for each domain, oh, well go on a subdomain create a similar record to your corporate domain. So you would set up a subdomain. So the way that the records sort of pair up is, each domain that you use needs to have a SPF policy each domain you use needs to have a DKM record, but your organizational or corporate domain that can have one demark record and it will filter down to all your sub domains. Okay, so it's a bit of a different setup. So demark,Josh:
you don't have to do multiple for each sub, you can, but you don't have to. Okay. All right.Matthew:
Yeah, it's, it's, it's sort of one policy kind of rules, everything. And you can set, you know, just for my organizational domain policy plus subdomain as a separate policy. So you can actually build in some logic that way. Or you could actually set individual records for each, each subdomain if you wanted, in just a cleaner to set one organizational policy.Josh:
So let's say someone goes to grade my email code, they run the test. And they're like, oh, man, I, I need help. Like, can they work with you? Or like, Hi,Matthew:
so we do have a button? Here? Yeah, we have a button on there that says help. Click here for more help. And you can sort of put in a description of the type we help you looking for that will come to one of our support representatives on our team and someone you know, depending on what type of help you're looking for, we may have a solution to help you. You know, there are like I said, if you're using a provider already, that you're getting help from any ESP is offering this similar help to their existing clients. If you for your your corporate mail hosting, again, talk to your hosting provider, all of these things should be standard knowledge set for any of your email hosting solutions. Yeah.Josh:
What is bimi? I don't remember seeing this before.Matthew:
Yeah, so they mean, it's fairly new, it's still in pilot with a lot of with the mailbox provider. So Yahoo has it live. Google is currently in pilot with Gmail. Fast mail is currently in pilot with their with their web interface. But basically, it allows a domain owner that has gone through the steps to set a strict enforcement of their their authentication for domain. So if you have, you know, SPF properly configured, your decom records are properly configured and you're using demark at an enforcement policy, so either a quarantine or reject, you can publish a BMI record. And it basically requests that the domain receiving the mail publish your logo. Next in place of the Avatar, in the mailbox provider, so if you are using Yahoo, instead of seeing the can the initials of the sender, or maybe your personal avatar, you'll see the brand logo,Josh:
oh, well, that's,Matthew:
and then Gmail is doing the same thing with their, you know, in pilot right now, sometime later this year, I would assume it's going to go into a full ga release within the Google infrastructure, but they haven't announced anything yet. So that's purely speculation that might be happening come later this year.Josh:
So for someone, again, is what did he say bimi record be I am I so grand, great my email bill, they'll tell you whether or not you've got something set up for it, and chances are you don't. And so and then what it'll do is it's got a big article here, they'll tell you how to implement it, and how to create a new baby record.Matthew:
Yeah, so it'll help you build your logo file, it'll help you build your record and help you get things sort of set up from that type of view. And it is a very specific type of logo file as well. So it's a standard vector graphic SVG, which means it looks good at the size of a dime, and also looks good at the size of, you know, basketball, the whole idea of it's a vector graphics, we should look the same thing, regardless of size. But it's a very specific format, it's a tiny, 1.2. Portable, secure is the type of format. So there's there's nothing that can be used in there for web beaconing. There's nothing in there that shows open rates, there's nothing in there. So it's designed to be more secure, as well as it's designed to be used across multiple platforms. So social profiles in the future, or web search in the future can show your brand logo next to the web search results. You know, if Google wanted to go down that route with their search tool, they could show your corporate logo next to any legitimate search result as part of that as well if they choseJosh:
interesting. So, you have to also with this verified Mark certificate VMC just learning about this real time, sir.Matthew:
So yes, there is also that So, Yahoo has different setup. So their their policy is sort of machine learning decision. It does not currently require a VMC, although it might in the future. So you have to meet certain requirements for them in stessi. From a reputation point of view to have your logo shown as a part of the Google pilot, you need to basically validate that you own the trademark. Yeah, on or the logo mark, I should say,Josh:
I see. No,Matthew:
you have to validate you own the logo mark, to qualify to get a VMC. And then once you get to VMC, then Google will say, okay, we've out we trust that you validated you on the domain and you own this image, and you're allowed to use it for display purposes. So that's what a VMC basically is. As proof of ownership of the logo, that's how it works. That's how the as a group, the decision is that, you know, it's much harder to fish someone or spoof someone, because there is now a third party that is validated you are who you say you are, that you have the right and the ownership of the logo to use it as well.Josh:
You know, this is all really good. So less someone here, all this go, Oh, great, how about your work to do now this is good, because you don't want people impersonating you. And you want great deliverability for people who are using email for legitimate marketing communication purposes. Not all the spammers, we want to, we want to end spam. And I think that that's what a lot of this work is really designed to do is to cut down on the could Spam is so annoying. And so you know, we just want to cut down on that so that users don't have to deal with that so that they don't avoid all email together. We want email to be a viable communication platform between you and your clients. Are you and your customer, potential customers, that sort of thing?Matthew:
Absolutely. And that's all of these things are working in concert. Right, SPF D, Kim and demark are working in concert to strengthen security, strengthen ownership strengthen sort of legitimacy, proof that the sender of the message was authorized to send it to me then comes along and says, Hey, you did a really good job of doing that were you qualify, we'll also put your logo there. So it's not a trust mark. It's not a validation mark. It's basically saying all of these other things passed. And we truly believe this logo belongs to this brand. Let's display them together. Yeah,Josh:
well, this has been fantastic. Alright, so again, if we didn't say the domain name enough, great my email co it's a free service, like, you know, as of when I'm using it, I mean, it's, it's just a great free tool. I'm not seeing a whole lot of like marketing and that sort of stuff built into it. I'm sure you'll have some other services available to folks down the road. But this is absolutely fantastic.Matthew:
Yeah, we tried to give enough information as well. So people could self troubleshoot and self identify some problems and do a little research. And, you know, it's really how do we point you in the right direction? I will admit that, you know, who builds the tool without lead gen built in? Right. Clearly playing, you know, clearly some things there that, you know, for free service, you might get a message or two from us to say, Hey, how are things? Can we help you with anything else? ButJosh:
it's great, what is like, so NET Core, what is NET Core do from a broader scale?Matthew:
Sometimes I like to think What don't we do, but from from my, we started off as a mail hosting company. So posting professional corporate mailboxes, for businesses. So that's sort of the roots of the company. So right from sort of day one and email, our feet have been planted, we evolved into building a marketing services engine. So we have campaigning tool, the network net, net core customer engagement platform, so for campaigning for journeys, journey, building, automation programs, all of those types of things. It also does things like web, push up, push, SMS, marketing, Whatsapp messaging. So it's sort of a bit of an omni channel solution, for lack of a better way to describe it. I feel that word has become overused. And in many cases, though, but, you know, it touches basically on all the different channels within within messaging. And then we have an API email solution as well. So if you are, you know, looking for a transactional platform, or maybe you're using another marketing automation sort of front end, that plugs into an API enabled back end. Those types of solutions work well with our our API engine as well.Josh:
That sounds great. Alright, Matthew Vernhout you're the VP of Email Deliver- Deliverability again on found on the web for NET Core, found on the web at NETCoreCloud.com. And of course, the tool we were referencing GradeMyEmail.co now if you this is a great conversation, I geek out on this stuff as you could tell, but it's it's great talking with the you know, with with a wizard of of email deliverability. So thank you so much.Matthew:
Yeah, no problem. And if anyone wants to reach out, EmailKarma is my my Twitter handle. So please feel free to reach out I'm always answering questions and interested in talking about deliverability, email in general. You know, in terms of the new advancements, such as things like bimi, and amp for email, all those solutions sort of roll up nicely in the world of email marketing and deliverability.Josh:
Sounds great, Matthew. Thank you.
Thanks very much for having me.
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