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Question: How can I improve my b-to-b e-mail deliverability?

Answer: Despite what many might think, b-to-b e-mail marketers face deliverability hurdles every bit as daunting as their business-to-consumer counterparts. Having to contend with thousands of domains, recalcitrant or uncommunicative IT departments and the widespread use of e-mail blacklists are a few of the unique challenges faced by b-to-b marketers.

According to Jupiter Research, the average b-to-b delivery rate, not counting bounces, is 89%. MarketingSherpa's "Email Marketing Metrics Guide" estimates that 14% of b-to-b e-mail is bounced. This means a quarter of b-to-b marketing e-mails never make it to their intended recipients.

So for all its strengths-including its low cost and easy personalization-the fact that fully 25% of your recipients may not be getting your messages can have a tremendous impact on your e-mail marketing campaigns.

Following is a checklist of things you can do to improve your b-to-b delivery rates.

Bounce management: You must be able to accept inbound bounces quickly and take steps to remove bad addresses from your list. Be sure to set up and regularly monitor an mailbox to receive feedback from ISPs.

Mail regularly: "Churn" isn't just for butter. You should mail to everyone on your list at least once every 90 days. And, if you haven't mailed a recipient in six months, consider resoliciting permission.

Reduce complaints: Ask for permission, be relevant and don't over-mail. It's also wise to be extremely conservative with list rentals. Don't add rented addresses to your master list until you've demonstrated a value proposition to those recipients and received permission to continue communicating.

Test content: Run outbound e-mail through a content-checker, such as SpamAssassin, to reduce the chance of your messages getting caught in spam filters.

Brand: To ensure your recipients recognize your messages, use your brand in your e-mail "from" line, and use the same address consistently. Also make sure your brand and logo are viewable in an e-mail client preview pane.

Reputation/authentication: If you haven't already done so, be sure to implement all three e-mail authentication schemes: SPF, SenderID and DomainKeys.

As you focus on these areas, be sure to test regularly. This will help you gain insight into specific ways you can improve your b-to-b deliverability and the overall effectiveness of your e-mail marketing campaigns.

Elaine O'Gorman is VP-strategy for Silverpop (, a provider of e-mail marketing solutions.

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