Long have we heard about the woes of the e-mail marketer piping their message out to consumers, but business-to-business e-mail marketers are often even more distraught.
Once sent into cyberspace, an e-mail must navigate corporate e-mail filters, blacklists, authentication methods, and end-user scrutiny before it is successfully delivered.
Despite the hardships, companies are not backing off b-to-b e-mail marketing. It is the third-most often used b-to-b communication after public relations channels and old-fashioned direct mailing, according to Forrester Research. There are some basic practices a company can follow to avoid e-mail trouble and make sure their message is received.
Here are three essential kernels of knowledge passed along by Fargo, N.D.-based marketing software vendor Vtrenz Inc.
We also picked the brain of Chad White, editor at large of the E-mail Experience Council based in New York.
“The trick for b-to-b marketers is there’s the extra layer between the marketer and the inbox,” he says.
1. Be consistent
Slow and steady wins the race. Basic marketing practices involve a regular mailing schedule at volumes that are predictable. Be aware of any volume restrictions of the corporate domains you’re sending e-mails to and make sure you’re under that limit.
Even the most casual e-mail marketer should be sending a message to its list of subscribers at least once every 90 days, Vtrenz recommends. Any longer than that, and recipients will forget they ever opted into an e-mail subscription service.
Sending messages regularly will help boost your chances of successful delivery with corporate servers and ISPs, White says.
“They all look for evenness in cadence and they like to see a predictable trend in send frequency and volume,” he says. “I would recommend keeping an even schedule.”
2. Always authenticate
Authentication simply allows ISPs to verify that an e-mail did originate from the domain address associated with it. Amongst e-mail marketers, 85 per cent have adopted a method of authentication, according to Vtrenz. More importantly, all ISPs now use these standards.
There are four main methods of authentication used for e-mail. Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Sender ID are similar formats that involve publishing all of your IP addresses used by out-bound mail servers to the Domain Name System. DomainKeys and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) use original signatures to verify e-mail messages.
No one format is the best choice, White says. All are different and the more that you use, the better.
“If you adopt all of them, then you’ve got all your bases covered,” he says. “They all do different things, and you should work with all of them.”
3. Be wary of lists
Blacklists are simply lists of IP addresses that are suspected of spamming and help to block out unwarranted e-mails. Both ISPs and independent organizations keep these, with some offering blacklisting services to companies, Vtrenz says.
Landing on a blacklist spells trouble for a company that wants to send legitimate e-mails out. Do everything possible to avoid ending up on one of these, such as Spamhaus or SpamCop.
A strong opt-in option to receive your e-mail will help keep you off blacklists, White says. At least have users tick a box, and it’s even better to send a confirmation e-mail that requires a click-through to activate the subscription. Don’t anything that might be seen as a trick to get users to opt-in.
Some companies are also tempted to rent lists of e-mail addresses from companies offering up large volumes of e-mails. But this should be avoided if possible, White advises.
“You don’t want to go wrong with renting a list,” he says. Often many of the addresses on such lists will be invalid and sending e-mail to them will not be tolerated by ISPs.
White lists are lists of recognized e-mailers that have strong practices and standards. To get on this beneficial list, marketers have to pass through a rigorous requirement set by different ISPs.
Getting on a list can take months of building a good standing and reputation as a reliable e-mailer, according to Vtrenz. But accomplishing this will give you a stamp of approval with corporate servers and could even allow for a greater e-mail volume limit.
“Some would argue if you’re already doing all the right stuff, then you don’t need to be on a white list anyway,” White says. “But it might help if you make a mistake and get some complaints or bounces. It gives you more latitude for error.”