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Email Problems and Recommendations

It is getting harder and harder for B-to-B marketers to get email delivered and read. Here’s what to do about it.

B2B Magazine Blog Post of the WeekEmail ProblemsI’ve been saying for a while now that email works best as a one-to-one marketing tactic for communicating with people you already have a pre-existing business relationship with, but email shouldn’t be the primary media format for lead generation. Here’s why:

  1. Unsolicited commercial email, although legal in the U.S. if you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, is perceived by many to be spam. (Read the law here)
  2. As a result, much of this unsolicited commercial email is blocked by filters at the ISP, corporate gateway or desktop.
  3. Companies perceived as being spammers often find all their emails being blocked as a result.

Despite the resulting false “opens” as email is being filtered, much (perhaps most) unsolicited commercial email is never read by the intended recipients.

Yet tons of real spam is getting through, clogging up the email inboxes of business people and causing millions of hours of lost productivity as people wade through the junk looking for important emails. This causes more and more businesses to filter their incoming email. It also causes the filtering software companies to be less forgiving about letting unsolicited commercial emails get through.

More bad news for B-to-B marketers who rely on email.

“Nearly 18 percent of invited email lands in junk/bulk folders,” says Lyris in its just-released report on email deliverability. This “invited email” is the email people requested by opting in.

Even the companies that sell software for tracking clicks by email recipients on links and Web pages are now having difficulty getting their own email delivered. For example, emails from one of the leading companies in that category, Eloqua, regularly get filtered out by email filtering at the ISP my company uses. Then, even if I tell the ISP to let it through, it gets caught again in the Outlook junk filter on my laptop!

So if you are one of those B-to-B marketers who are dependent on email as their primary communication tactic, you may soon find your leads and sales results heading in the wrong direction.

So what are your options?

There are things you can do to minimize the chance that your emails will be filtered out. Please see my earlier post, Optimizing Email Marketing Campaigns.

However, now is also the time to reconsider other direct marketing media, such as postal direct mail, as additional tactics for generating and nurturing prospective customers until you can determine that they are sales-ready.

CAN SPAM update: New clarifications from the FTC

On May 19, 2008, the Federal Trade Commission issued a press release with clarifications to the CAN-SPAM Act. For more information, read the press release here.

One item to note: A user only needs to give his or her email address and opt-out preferences to be removed from the list. I am not a lawyer, but it appears to me that if you are requiring more information from your unsubscribers, or if he or she must do more than send a reply email or visit a single Web page to unsubscribe, you’ll want to update your process to be in compliance.

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