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Managing Email Addresses in B2B: How to Increase Email Coverage of Your Customer Base

by Ruth P. Stevens  |  
June 2, 2009

Everyone's looking to do more with less these days. After comparing the cost of postal mail (about a dollar apiece) with the cost of email (about a penny apiece) any B2B marketer is going to prefer using email as the medium for staying in touch with current customers and inquirers. No-brainer, right?

But here's the rub: Most B2B companies have email addresses for only a fraction of their customers. And, even worse, if their privacy policies call for opt-in, only a fraction of that fraction are emailable.

Consider the case of Cisco Systems, the networking hardware giant. While 45- 50% of Cisco's global house file contains email addresses, only 29% of those are opted in. That's a mere 14% of the house file that can be contacted via email.

Clearly a dire situation when you're trying to cut costs. So, what are the options for business marketers to increase their customer coverage via email? Here are four approaches that can work.

1. Append email addresses purchased from third-party providers

The cheapest and fastest route to jump-start your email-address collection is via data append. For pennies per record, you can expect to append valid email addresses to 10-30% of your file. Some best practices:

  • Select a reputable vendor, such as FreshAddress, Walter Karl, or TowerData.
  • Try append only on the names of those with whom you already have a business relationship, like customers or inquirers. Appending email addresses to prospect names, though tempting, should be avoided.
  • Nor should you ask the vendor for the email addresses of additional contacts at sites where you do business. Stick to the contact names already in your database.
  • Once the appended email addresses have arrived, treat them with care. Email expert Regina Brady of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions suggests that your first few communications should explain why the recipients are hearing from you, and place the opt-out prominently at the top of the message.

2. Revise your permission policy

Just as the B2B world has ducked the Do Not Call list, it's time for business marketers to rethink their early decision to apply opt-in policies to their email communications.

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Ruth P. Stevens consults on B2B marketing and teaches marketing to grad students at Columbia Business School. Reach her at

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  • by WDN Thu Mar 25, 2010 via web

    As my freshman English teacher put on the top of some of my papers: KGO! Keen grasp of the obvious!

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