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'BtoB' study: Email best practices can be elusive

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For years email marketing been the glue that holds multichannel campaigns together. Why, then, are email best practices so less than best? According to a new study from BtoB, “Email Marketing: A Legacy Channel Continues to Deliver,” 28% of marketers still send unsolicited emails with no prior opt-in approval and 17% that use rented or sponsored lists said they “trust my list provider” to verify that recipients have opted in. Only 13% of respondents to BtoB's survey used double opt-ins, in which recipients must confirm via a follow-up email request that they've agreed to receive email messages. These practices may threaten the viability of entire campaigns, said Chris Thompson, manager of the block list team at spam watchdog group Spamhaus Project. “Spamhaus—and nearly all the rest of the online world—insists on opt-in only, where the address owner gives his prior, informed consent to have his e-mail address added to a particular mailing list,” Thompson said. Thompson also has little use for appending email addresses onto existing contact information without a user's permission. “[That] does not meet the opt-in criteria,” he said, and may put a company's email programs at risk of being blacklisted as spam and blocked. Marketers approach the frequency of their email blasts in diverse ways. Almost half (48%) worry about alienating contacts with too much volume and send out non-e-newsletter emails once a month or even less often. By contrast, 19% email their contacts once a week and 16% hit the send button once every two weeks. With a general concern about too much email volume, 39% of marketers have an official frequency cap in place. Matt Papertsian, research director at marketing consultancy SiriusDecisions, said frequency caps can be unduly restrictive. For messages sent to someone who opts in, all future messages should be lumped together and considered “a single email stream,” he said. “For the same reason, you shouldn't worry about the frequency of reminder emails sent to webinar registrants,” he said. Only 10% of marketers responding to BtoB's survey said they offer an online preference center where email recipients can specify how they wish to receive company communications. The paucity of preference centers seems to run afoul of the best practices mantra that marketers must respond to recipients' wishes. “One of the reasons companies don't have a preference center is that they don't have the technical ability to comply with those preferences,” Papertsian said. “Also, they're afraid it will limit their options, and that users may opt out of email and say they want to be communicated with only via social, for example.” But that shouldn't create a problem, Papertsian said. “If their preference is social, and they don't want to receive email, I'm fine with that,” he said. “I'll call you or knock on your door, if that's your preference. The next step, though, should be to have a value proposition around social, to use email to promote social as an alternate channel of engagement.” BtoB's study was based on an online poll in December and January of 332 b-to-b marketers. It covered current email practices; list acquisition;, opt-ins and deliverability; mobile email; triggers; and many other aspects of email marketing. For information about obtaining the complete research findings, go to www.btobonline.com/emailstudy.
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