Answer: With greater pressure on b-to-b marketers to become more accountable for revenue generation, their email deliver-ability strategies must keep pace. That doesn't mean simply sending more email; it means sending more targeted messages and offers at every stage of the buying life cycle. It also means that b-to-b marketers need to fine-tune their database marketing skills and invest in technology, such as marketing automation software, to improve list hygiene and segmentation capabilities.
Let's start with a focus on some best practices for accomplishing one of the first, most critical steps toward improving email deliverability: data quality. Some specific areas on which to focus initial efforts are:
Double opt-in. Permission is the starting point for all effective communications, whether online or off. From a deliverability standpoint, the preferred option is a double opt-in, which requires new subscribers to take explicit action—such as clicking a confirmation link—before they're added to the list. Double opt-in works to limit bounces and unwarranted spam complaints.
Welcome message. A welcome message sent to new subscribers is not only important in establishing contact and starting to build a relationship of trust but also has great revenue potential. Because it is the first email that subscribers receive, it often has the highest open, click and conversion rates.
Inactive addresses. Continually emailing inactive addresses might hurt your reputation with some ISPs and lower your deliverability rate. Instead of continuing to send inactive users standard emails, segment them for a win-back campaign; if they don't respond, stop emailing them altogether.
Bounce management. Repeatedly sending email to even a few bad addresses can get all of your messages blocked by ISPs. Therefore, it's crucial to have processes in place to manage hard bounces (emails that are permanently undeliverable), as well as soft bounces (emails that temporarily can't be delivered because the recipient's mailbox is full or the message is too large).
Data hygiene. Regular database hygiene such as removing duplicate records, undeliverables and inactive or incorrect email addresses is critical to keeping your reputation intact. If you buy or rent lists, make sure they are certified opt-in records. In addition, send test messages to a small sample of the addresses to gauge the response and potential for spam complaints. When recipients unsubscribe, it is essential to keep a permanent record in your database to avoid soliciting them again.
Kristin Hambelton is VP-marketing at Neolane Inc. (www.neolane.com), a provider of marketing software.