Email deliverability can feel out of your control. This is perhaps especially true of B2B brands, which have traditionally struggled with the mercurial spam filtering behaviors of corporate email servers and the IT overlords that control them. However, with Google Workspace and Outlook 365 making serious inroads into the corporate email market, B2B deliverability is behaving more and more like deliverability for B2C brands.
That means that inbox placement is increasingly unifying around 7 core email deliverability factors:
Given those factors, let’s talk about the unique behaviors of B2B brands that are the most likely to cause their emails to be junked or blocked, which can be expensive in terms of both opportunities lost and deliverability remediation costs.
First, B2B marketers are much more likely to buy email lists.
They can be somewhat excused for thinking that this is okay, given how many companies are pushing this service. I personally get at least one unsolicited email a day from a company trying to get me to buy a list. While sadly not illegal in the US yet, buying email lists puts you at high risk of:
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Second, B2B marketers are also much more likely to “rent” lists.
I put rent in quotation marks because many list-sellers have rebranded themselves as list rental companies because they know that selling email addresses is frowned upon by many.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing a true list rental, or sending a sponsored email, as it’s also often called. However, if you do one, make sure it has every one of the following elements:
If a list-owner is unwilling to abide by those, you should look elsewhere, as it’s a sign that your message is not a good fit for the list-owner’s audience—or that the audience is of very low value.
Third, B2B marketers tend to have much more distributed subscriber acquisition practices.
That means new leads and subscribers are sometimes collected by individual sales team members rather than centrally. That makes enforcing standards around permission much harder, which can lead to low engagement and high hard bounces and spam complaints.
For example, sometimes a sales person will add the email address of someone that connected with them on LinkedIn, mistaking permission to reach someone in that channel with permission to reach them via email. Having email address collection quotas can make this process even riskier, driving up complaints and hard bounces.
Fourth, B2B marketers are much more likely to have rogue distribution lists.
For example, sometimes sales team members get their own email service provider accounts, so they nurture their own leads separate from what the organization is doing. In addition to losing control of the brand in terms of messaging and cadence, B2B brands should be concerned because the spam complaints generated by these emails can harm the reputation of your website domain, and therefore your sender domain reputation, too.
If you haven’t ever done it or done it recently, use a tool like SparkPost’s eDataSource or Oracle’s Deliverability Plus to identify all the IP addresses and email service providers that are sending email on behalf of your brand. Chances are that you’ll be shocked by what you find.
Fifth, B2B marketers are much more likely to grow their lists at in-person events.
While events are a great place to attract high-quality subscribers, it’s one of the last places where paper forms are used. That invariably leads to lots of transcription errors, which causes high bounce rates. Using tablets with opt-in forms drastically reduces this risk.
Permission collection also tends to get murky at events, says Cristal Foster, Head of List Growth & Demand Generation Services at Oracle Marketing Consulting. “Just because someone visits your booth, has their badge scanned, and puts their business card in for your raffle doesn’t mean they opted in to receive your promotional emails,” she says. “There are major disconnects between what B2B marketers think should happen next and what those prospects expect. Event staff need to do a much better job of collecting informed consent. Currently, it’s a lot of assumed consent.”
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And sixth, B2B marketers often use report download forms and webinar registration forms for lead generation.
The biggest challenge here is to get all your marketers, sales people, event staff, and everyone else to understand how their tactics and actions affect your company’s sender reputation. Your event staff probably doesn’t understand that poorly captured email addresses hard bounce and hurt your deliverability, and sales people probably don’t understand that they harm the reputation of your domain when they start their own shadow marketing program. A little education can go a long way to helping everyone understand that they all have a role in maintaining your company’s inbox placement.
Need help improving your deliverability? Oracle Marketing Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including an Email Deliverability Services team that can help you increase your inbox placement rate.
Chad S. White is the Head of Research at Oracle Marketing Consulting and the author of four editions of Email Marketing Rules and nearly 4,000 posts about digital and email marketing. A former journalist, he’s been featured in more than 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Advertising Age. Chad was named the ANA's 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Mastodon.