Get to Know the Sender Authentication Package

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the benefits of the Sender Authentication Package (SAP).
  • Use the features included in the SAP to better manage your sends and account reputation.

Get to the Inbox

Whether you’re sending your first marketing email or crafting yet another award-winning campaign, you know that your first goal is making sure your message reaches the inbox. After all, your hard work needs to reach your subscribers to be appreciated in all its glory. The inbox is a simple goal to understand, but you must navigate layers of trust and customer content to achieve it. 

The customer must trust your brand and want to keep in touch with you. The customer must also consent (or opt-in) to receive messages from you. Consent is easy enough when a customer buys something and receives a transactional confirmation, but it’s not as easy for marketing emails. Finally, the email service your customer uses must accept your email and not route it to the spam folder (or worse, block your messages entirely and report your activities).

You can earn a lot of trust just by sending relevant messages to those who opt to receive them, but it can take time to build a solid reputation. Internet service providers (ISPs) and email providers use a multitude of tools (powered by machine learning and algorithms) to prevent recipients from seeing unwanted spam (or malicious phishing messages). You never actually see these tools at work, but they can prevent your well-intentioned email from reaching customers if you don’t take the right precautions. Think of it like the security checkpoints to get on a flight—from having a valid ticket to passing through the metal detector. Similarly, your messages need to be well prepared and get the all-clear before they reach their destination. 

In this module, you explore the solution to help your sender reputation along in record time: Marketing Cloud’s Sender Authentication Package (SAP). SAP gives you tools to validate your brand as an email marketing entity and give you access to the inbox. Simply put, SAP is a necessity for any Marketing Cloud customer who needs to send marketing or transactional email messages to subscribers.

SAP uses four main tools to vouch for your email messages as timely and relevant communications. 

  • Dedicated domain
  • Custom account branding
  • Dedicated IP address
  • Reply mail management

Create a Trusted Domain Name with Marketing Cloud

Most everybody with an email account knows about spam and address spoofing. In short, not all email messages come from where they claim. And both customers and email services have grown to distrust messages coming from addresses like totallywhoIsayIamnoreallybunchofrandomnumbers@example.com. So, how do you create a trusted domain? You can’t email everybody from your corporate email account.

That’s why SAP includes a dedicated domain feature. This feature allows for proper configuration and use of your domain name (or subdomain) by Marketing Cloud. The domain even appears in the From address of every email message sent, helping to solidify your reputation and further your brand at the same time. Often this domain takes the form of a subdomain of your existing web presence, such as email.example.com. Because the email messages come from a specific known domain name—clearly owned by you—both ISPs and customers are more likely to recognize your mail and less likely to consider it illegitimate.

Marketing Cloud doesn’t just settle for a unique domain, though. SAP also uses the Sender Policy Framework email authentication mechanism. This ensures that only you can send messages as part of your dedicated domain. Specific IP addresses are assigned to the domain, and only email messages originating from those addresses are trusted. Spammers don’t get access, which means that only you can take advantage of your unique sending status.

While this tool secures the domain reputation, Marketing Cloud also implements the DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) email authentication mechanism to make sure each email message is trustworthy. DKIM uses a system of encryption keys and digital signatures to ensure that the message comes from a verified user and contains only the intended content. Nothing in the email gets altered or manipulated along the way.

The information in this section applies specifically to email, but you should know that SAP also offers domain advantages for SMS messages and landing pages. Sender ID helps you identify yourself as the entity sending SMS messages. And a dedicated domain for CloudPages helps authenticate any web pages you use in your marketing activities. SAP has you covered however you send!

Customize Your Account Branding

Marketing Cloud is a trusted provider for email marketing and, by default, links and images included in your email messages include a reference to the Marketing Cloud URL that we use for tracking purposes. But we don’t mind if you take all the credit for your brand and domain with custom branding. The Account Branding feature of SAP allows you to put your brand front and center, using your custom domain for your message links. We still do the work behind the scenes, but you get the benefit of having a consistent domain for all of your marketing activities.

Get a Dedicated IP Address

As mentioned earlier, a dedicated IP address ensures that the emails you send come from an IP address for your use and not shared with other customers. Email service providers like Gmail and Outlook utilize your IP address as an identifying marker, allowing you to control your sending reputation and demonstrate that you’re a good sender. A shared IP address shares a reputation with all senders who use that IP address, so one bad actor can ruin the reputation for the whole group.

For example, if you use a shared IP address for sending—even responsibly—another sender could use that same IP address to send a poorly crafted message to a purchased mailing list (bad idea). And when that sender loses credibility, so do you and everyone else on the shared IP address. Your emails will never make it past the gates established by email services and the ISPs, no matter how great of a sender you are.

Your dedicated IP address is a very important calling card used to help establish a sending reputation. However, it does take some time to establish the reputation of an IP address, even if it’s dedicated to you from the start. We guide you through that process (called IP warming) in the final unit of this module. You can also get more in-depth with the Email Deliverability Concepts module.

Note

Before testing your email sends—even after SAP is enabled for your account—be sure to contact your company’s internal IT team to allowlist Marketing Cloud IP addresses and add Marketing Cloud domains to their trusted servers list. This step ensures you see your test emails, which is important at any stage!

A Word on Trust

Trust is Salesforce’s number one value. And here that trust is reflected in both the reputation you build with your subscribers and the reputation you and Marketing Cloud maintain with the email services and ISPs that process the email messages you send. Everybody involved in this process has to trust all parties involved in the send, or else the email message is dismissed and never heard from again. You can uphold your end of the bargain by sending meaningful content responsibility, but your Marketing Cloud account needs an SAP to handle the technical barriers of the sending process.

Up Next: Reply Mail Management

Reply mail management (RMM) helps you control any replies to email messages you send using Marketing Cloud. However, given the vast amount of messages and possibilities, we need a little more space to discuss RMM in detail. Which is exactly what we do in the next unit!

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