Jesse Ouellette, Founder of LeadMagic, joins our host, Camela Thompson, Go-To-Market Thought Leader and B2B Insights Expert, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Jesse shares his perspective on the new Gmail sending policies and how they will impact B2B businesses. Spoiler alert: It’s not looking good for B2B cold prospecting.
We’re talking about this big problem that is coming up February. We are giving the background on why people should be worried come that day. And if you haven’t been paying attention, your response rates for your prospecting emails have already fallen off a cliff. Let us talk about why.
“Well, what’s happening right now is Google is being nice and is shadow-banning most of your reps. What is happening is if they see over 50 – 100 unsolicited emails that have a certain profile. And I’ve talked about the types of emails that come from your company. There are corporate emails, which is like you’re simply emailing people. There are transacting emails that look like lost passwords and there are bulk emails. But unless your marketing team’s doing something shady, these are usually opt-in. There’s also a fourth kind that I’ve talked about which are sales emails. These are the ones that come from one of the major engagement platforms such as Salesloft and Outreach and maybe Gong too. They’re getting themselves into the mix and there is little to no personalization. By the way, none of the personalization and the relevance, none of it matters for one reason. It’s unsolicited. So it trumps all the cards that are played. It beats rock, paper, and scissors on this one. If you send unsolicited emails out of a domain you care about, you will blow up the domain. And it’s not only just putting your sales development team in jail, it’s now going to put your CEO in jail with them. This is the worst part since it’s your whole company that is impacted now.
“We’ve been talking about this for a while. I think it’s about to get extremely real. Your whole company’s domain gets put in the garbage. You can’t send email. You’re going to get a nasty note from Google saying you’re being shut off for not complying. And the reason why so many of us are worried isn’t the 5,000 email limit a day. That’s not the thing to be on their radar. what is really scary is the 0.3 spam report.
“So there are 61 days left until this February 1st, but they’re are already starting. I’ve talked to three companies that had such high spam rates and I want to talk about the math problem here. Many LinkedIn gurus say you can solve this issue with better copy or better management of your team and buy yourself tools or whatever. However, that has nothing to do with any of that. What they’re looking for is a standard email marketing spam rate, which is around one email gets marked as spam on 1,000. And this spam rate is now inside your Google Postmaster tools and if you go in there, and you’ve got that set up, you can see it.
“They won’t tell you who reported it, but they will tell you what your spam rate is. If you go over the spam rate, the problem is there are decimal points involved. When that occurs, it confuses a lot of people. They’re not using the calculator. They haven’t put it in GBT or whatever it’s just not right for them. I’ve seen some people say it’s one out of 100. No. they’re looking for a three out of 1,000 rate and that’s the normal rate for anybody who does marketing. That’s something that marketers have had to deal with for a long time. That number is considered to be high. Your average rate for an unsolicited sales email is well into 20 to 50 per 1,000.
“So what that means is you’re going to hit that spam rate without a doubt. It doesn’t matter. You couldn’t have your CEO write an email. The day that Sam Altman got fired, I actually made a statement that you could have Sam Altman write the email from Open AI and it would still be over a 3 on 1,000. There’s no way to fix this with personalization, triggers or relevance. You can buy the most expensive tools you want. It’s another problem and it has nothing to do with the content. The fact is that it is an unsolicited email.”
How do Google's Gmail updates affect email prospecting, and what's the role of B2B marketers?
“I also want to bring up a UI change within GMail these last six months that made this even more of an issue. Google is doing these really nice things where they say you haven’t responded or opened such and such email for a while, is this spam or do you want to unsubscribe? And people who see that don’t understand the ramifications of hitting spam. What’s happening now is the UI and I’ve been watching the UIS. Depending on what you’re using, depending on what it is, the UI tells Google and Google is now making it a point to tell its users. I would say it’s called education. There’s a button and when you go into Gmail and you type it in, it now says it’s been there, but it’s now easier. And they’re bumping these emails up since they want to report the bad ones that you don’t want. They’re looking to compete against Slack and those other tools. This is a revenue stream for them. It’s not their number one, but of course, we’ve talked about that. But it is something they care about. They need to get some off their platform for this to work.
“I think many people brush this off because Google has delayed pushing off third-party cookies for so long. However, people need to understand this is a different business line for them and a very different dynamic. It is in their best interest to protect inboxes so that they can be competitive with companies like Slack. It is real. We have already seen companies drastically impacted by this. The reason I want marketers to listen is because you may be saying, this is a sales problem. Rather it’s your company’s domain. This is your problem and you should be paying attention to what’s going on in your bulk prospecting tools. You should be looking at the data. You should be putting best practices in place. If this is happening at all in your organization, you should be worried.
“It’s funny. I’ve talked to two organizations. They had such a high spam rate and they’ve gotten banned. Now, one of them was really bizarre and they got banned. And what happened is they had to call their investors and they had to get up in the Google.org. So you might not have that luxury because Google puts it on and it takes several days for this to come back online. What people don’t understand about email is it’s actually a network protocol. This isn’t social media on the web. It’s like HTTP is the protocol. This is blocking. What you don’t understand is every business in the world has email. Even criminal organizations have email. Email is just a world.
“Everyone in the world does email. What you aren’t understanding is you’re giving your sales development team, in most cases than not, fireworks that can ignite and you’re putting them in the middle of a room and you’re watching them with weird metrics and you’re saying don’t light this on fire. And here are a couple of weird trainers that could help you with personalization and are totally compensated on just coming in the building on an hourly rate. I don’t understand how organizations are going to take this risk after February 1st. I mean it is 61 days away and I still get primary email. Now have they not stopped? It can’t continue, it’s going to break.
“It’s because we were seeing changes in our response rates, open rates and I had this really strong suspicion that people were landing in spam instead of the primary inbox and it was just a precursor to what’s coming. I think what frustrates me so much is marketers. Historically, before all of the changes with GDPR, we treated our contact database like a sandbox and didn’t realize those target accounts are a finite resource with a limited number of people. And every time we send bad messaging, unwanted, unsolicited messaging, we’re burning equity.
“Sales reps come ask me to take people off the marketing list because it makes it harder to sell. Then, we all developed amnesia when we got these bulk prospect tools and thought, now what sales reps are doing, it is okay. But you need to realize that so many companies are hiring the most junior resources they can that don’t have business experience with your product or the persona and they’re looking at this as a harmless way for them to learn is bulk prospecting over email and it’s the furthest thing from the truth.
“I think what’s really hard is a lot of times, they’re coordinated, you’ve got this alpha-dominated sales.org that has this kind of leader and it’s going to be whatever I say goes, right? But what they don’t realize is that marketers, they’re coming out and they’re building these amazing demand programs and then it’s just blocked and to have their domain torched. Marketing programs don’t impact the domain unless they’re doing something bad. By the way, HubSpot and other marketing automation systems will actually call them first and call them out. You can’t just take a Zoominfo list and run it through your marketing automation. That will get you blocked right away by HubSpot. So I feel like we’ve been a little bit vindicated and we can no longer be called Chicken Little.”
Do sales engagement platforms need to take a stronger stance on email limits, and is personalization truly the solution?
“One of the things I am struggling with and I am going to be careful. At least my lawyers and everyone have told me to take this one easy, but it’s a hard one. One of things that annoys me is I don’t feel like sales engagement platforms have taken a leadership position on this. What I mean by that is the fact that they’re still saying that personalization and relevance will get there. It couldn’t be further from the truth. They really need to stop you from sending over a certain amount of cold emails out of one domain. And that’s where those tools start to change the spot. If they were animals and had a certain color of spots on there, they have become different tools. And I know they don’t want to admit this, but this is where they’re going and that’s why you’re seeing tools like Smart Leads and instantly some of the other ones that say, we don’t really care, go and burn as many domains as you want. Now those ones are doing really well and the reason they’re doing so well is because they have admitted, hey what we’re doing is fine. We’re going to do it and we don’t care. Now what’s happening is the other ones are staying in the lane and they’re trying to use tactically and they’re trying to say their personalization, their AI, their relevance is going to keep them out of spam, and that has nothing to do with that.”
Other great podcast episodes featuring Jesse Ouellette: