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Is B2B Email Prospecting Dead?

Posted January 11, 2024
Thumbnail with headshot of Jesse Ouellette introducing podcast and article entitled Is B2B Email Prospecting Dead?

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 and Camela talk about use cases that still are a fit for cold email and how to do it without risking your domain deliverability.

We have talked about why there’s a big problem with email and what you can do tactically to possibly save it. Today, let’s talk about whether or not email is still a valuable prospecting tool.

“I think this is a big topic. So a couple of scenarios where I think it works really well. It works really well when you have a seed round of funding and you’re sending email from your founder and you’re doing it on domain names since no one really knows your company. You don’t have brand, you don’t have to worry about anything there and you can do that. And the tools are really inexpensive. So that is what is nice about it. I think that’s a good use case.

“Another one would be like what I’ve seen some recent success on is event marketing. Therefore, if you’re looking to meet up with people or invite them to an event. If you do it on alternative domain names, I think that actually is a great use case. I think it’s one that many marketers are missing right now. Because if you do an event, if you can justify that in your budget right now, you have to nail that event. If that is going to require people out of the office and people going to these events and traveling and all costs associated with it. 

“Another one that I would say is guest blogging, another one that I think many people miss. There’s plenty of backlinking, SEO, and all sorts of other things that you can get out of it. I think what you need to start doing is start thinking a little bit outside the box with email. It’s a wonderful protocol that people can use. It’s not social media. You need to think of it that way. And what you need to do is take a step back to say, are we just asking people for meetings? Why do we really want these meetings with people? I mean your goal isn’t the meeting. And if they’re in the market wouldn’t they come to you? There are a lot of people doing very odd things.” 

Redefining personalization in cold outreach: The Broken Definition

“I just see these emails coming across and there’s just no way this person is over getting 0.001%. You’re now in this same percentage as one of these scammy phishing things. You won’t be doing it after February 1st. Even if you send under 5,000. They’re going to go after that group anyway. Anybody who has a high spam rate after February 1st is fair game for Google. They’ve let the notice happen. Therefore, it’s a valuable area. You do have to take some extra precautions now. Don’t do it in your primary domain. Maybe try different use cases like the ones I mentioned, event marketing, SEO, guest blogging, influencer marketing, and building podcasts. I think those are good ones. Do it on another domain since they said anything unsolicited, but I think you have to think a little outside the box. Email is a powerful tool, but it isn’t necessarily the only tool that you can use.”

A lot of these bulk engagement tools are saying if you personalize you’re fine and you can use AI to do that. I think what needs to be addressed by them is that the definition of personalization is broken because I’ve a few clients that we still use email with, but it’s because we’re not doing massive sends every day. We’re doing a send to perhaps three or four people in a day since we’re going through and doing research related to what they have today and what we’re selling. So, for example,I work with a client that builds websites. They go and do a comprehensive audit and point out some technical tweaks they could make really easily to get better performance. And that’s highly valuable.”

The critical importance of leadership in addressing email prospecting risks

I’ve had that work when someone did that with a website I owned. Therefore, I think Jesse is absolutely right that in general cold outreach and the ways we’ve defined personalization today, it’s not going to work.

“Yeah, in that case it is good. I think anything unsolicited will carry that. So if you do run that one could work. You probably still want to put that on another domain name just so you don’t impact your company’s business. But you’ve got to be a lot better at it now.  And  I am not just pointing the finger at people anymore. Google will do that to you on  February 1st. If you’re over 3 in 1,000 spam rate as a company and you send over 5,000 a day and let me just tell you, 5,000 a day isn’t as many as you think and I will tell you a couple of areas you’re probably not thinking about.

“What you’re not thinking about is the emails that are sent around your company. So your company has notifications for their engineering products, forgotten passwords. There are so many emails that go out of your company. I was just looking at a company of 50 people like a Series C. We were looking at the record with the IT team and we looked and we saw there were about 10,000 emails a day. And I asked the sales leaders what they thought there was for emails. The sales leader said probably a total of 1,000. I said there’s 10,000 a day. Now these are all kinds. Even your printer sends emails. People are forgetting all of the emails that come out of their company.

“Your printer has an email that says the paper is jammed and sends it to your IT team. There are so many emails going out of your company. I don’t think people understand how low 5,000 is now. I think Google said in the report that they sent to everybody. If you read it through Outreach or Salesloft, you feel like nothing’s wrong except that you’ve got to go get training for your SDR team. Now, if you look at what Google said is we want all of our users to be in a 0.1% spam rate which is one in 1,000. One which represents one in 1,000 since you get to move the decimal over one more, when you’re calculating it.

“I’m telling people right now if you play this game…I just saw an org get banned. They had to go to their investors. They had 140 SDRs so you could imagine they had pretty high complaint rates. One day, an SDR came in and started emailing really aggressively and they emailed one of Google’s top customers. That is another thing I’ve noticed. If you start emailing Google’s top customers and you hit the wrong customer. Google has a bunch of complaints from one of their big customers. You’re not going to win that battle since you’re not one of Google’s biggest customers. It’s most likely you’re not.

“And they have some customers that they care deeply about and if that one customer says this person sent me five emails and they got five complaints within an hour. That is a denial of service attack for them. That’s like a security issue, something’s up so they’re going to block you. And I really feel bad for the companies that don’t get this memo. They just read their Salesloft bulk email about this. Salesloft and Outreach have really been avoiding this problem for several years. And I think they have to really address it now. I think they’ve got to put a real cap in the product. I’d advocate for them to do that. I think that would be the best thing to do. I think they really need to turn off the igniter inside the building and they need to probably help their customers move domains since they need to be on a different domain name. You cannot be sending these cold emails from your primary domain. It just isn’t worth the risk.”

Even bulk marketing is sent to opted-in people who want to get a newsletter. You’ve to be very careful to  respect the permission that they’ve given you and provide them with valuable content, that is not selling them, that’s teaching them something they want to learn. And you can’t be sending multiple emails a week. You just have to be so much more careful.

“It’s hard because it’s gone on for a while. This will be a dramatic change. This one is going to be different. It’s always the SDR that posts it too. It’s such a root problem. And that’s the group that is going to get blamed for this. However, you cannot blame the SDR anymore. People have to stop doing that. That person potentially has the most potential to grow in your company. This is now a middle thing. This has to be done at the top.

“We’ve to make conscious decisions in our sales.org and sales and marketing need to start working together. And they need to be on the same page. I come from a sales background, okay? So I know how I’d feel, hey, if maybe the team came over, I’d want to see some of the facts. And if I read that memo. I would say you know what? There’s no way my sales team is going to be under a 3 on 1,000. I will not be taking the risk. That is what someone with half a brain would say.

“There’s just no other way to read the rules that Google is putting in place other than the fact that it says: we don’t want to send unsolicited email.” 

I totally want to echo and amplify what Jesse said about blaming the SDR. You’re giving them activity metrics that they’re meant to hit and they’re doing exactly what you asked them to do. Why would you punish them? This is something that every executive leader should be worried about since your ability to communicate is everything.

“Yes. And let’s just say you’re at the end of the quarter and your printer died last night and it’s sending out a bunch of emails that none of the printing is going through in the main office. And all of a sudden there were 20 spam faxes that came in. There were 75 forgotten passwords and 1,000 bulk emails that were sent out with the newsletter. And all of a sudden, you went over 5,000, but your SDR team went out and sent 50 complaint emails that generated a report of spam. And you’re at the end of the quarter, you’re waiting for all your purchase orders to come in and they’re going to come in from vendors and the procurement teams, you need to book them into the deal desk and the order processing and let’s say that’s at the end of the quarter and Google flags your domain and flags it completely so your company can no longer send emails to anybody on Google or receive them.

“What a nightmare! Imagine telling that to your board. Imagine calling your investors. This is going to happen. I’m telling you I can see this happening. There’s going to be a couple of orgs that just ignore that. There are some that are just ignoring it now. And with guidance from sales engagement platforms or the lack of it, I think it really has to be dealt with. And you know this might be a Feisty Friday kind of take here, but I love that, by the way.”

“But this one is going to hurt. It’s going to hurt all over because it’ll take three days probably to get on and you’re not going to do it again after that. I don’t think anybody will take the risk. Now, I will tell you I am talking to one org, they’re still doing it. I’m like what is into you? I had the VP and asked how could you possibly? I stopped the whole call. I looked both of them in the eye. I think it’s because there’s a leadership problem in some of these sales engagement platforms. They really need to start communicating. And I’m pleading with these sales engagement platforms to tell their users to not do this anymore. They need to tell them. They need to define this better. What they’re doing is they’re taking down their own company.

It is a disgusting thing that I’m watching and just hope they take a leadership role in this since that email they sent was just not complete.It was misleading. It made that sound like you could make relevance and it has nothing to do with personalization or relevance. It’s just unsolicited emails, get over a spam rate that you can’t control and you will not be doing it. I don’t care. You can hire LinkedIn influencers. You can hire any of the email writing tools. It doesn’t matter. If they flag your domain after February 1st, everybody will be shut off at your company. I think you just need to think about that a little bit and the ramifications of that.  I am not being an alarmist.

“I hope people really take this seriously and I know you’ve been doing your part. And I hope others do know. I think we all need to come together as a revenue community and figure this out.”

For more content on B2B marketing trends, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.