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Ask the expert

Published on .

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 abuse@yourcompany.com 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 (www.silverpop.com), a provider of e-mail marketing solutions.

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