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How To Navigate the New Email Sending Rules in B2B

Posted January 10, 2024
Thumbnail with headshot of Jesse Ouellette introducing podcast and article entitled How To Navigate the New Email Sending Rules

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 what he knows about navigating Google’s email sender policy and what B2B businesses should do to protect their primary domain.

I’m excited to expand on our recent conversation about email sending rules and give people some tactical tips on what they can do now that they’re noticing that this is a looming problem. What can people do to avoid getting shut down?

“So what you have to do first is look at their responses. First of all, I would never send over 100 emails on a domain name that you care about. I am talking about unsolicited emails. If you’re going to send unsolicited emails, and it does work, what you want to do is to be below 100. However, what you want to look for is at least a 5% reply rate. Then, you want to see at least a 10% to 20% over. That would be even better.

“With over a 10% positive reply rate, I don’t want to see really high negative rates. I’d call them very polarizing:  don’t ever email me. You want to look for the reply rate first, which is 5% or higher. If you’re getting under that, just stop sending. You have to look for that 10% positive reply rate. That right there is what you have to look for, but the goal is to get that 5% reply rate and 10% positive of those.

What steps should marketers take to avoid email blocks, and why should leadership care about email prospecting?

As a marketer, where I struggled was getting sales to care about this problem. It usually took them feeling that pain of not getting any responses and just getting frustrated to really think about it. So one was getting sales managers to listen. The other thing I struggled with was that I couldn’t change leadership behavior and convince them that we needed to look at what our best-selling reps were doing to base our communication on that rather than letting people who just came in the door and doing what had worked with them at prior companies or people who are just straight out of college come up with their own messaging because they think they’ve got good instincts and we want them to learn, right? 

“The problem is learning how that has a real material cost on the organization. Therefore, what I ended up doing since I couldn’t change behavior, I warmed up some domains and I forced them to create several email addresses under different domains, sign up for a bunch of newsletters to get the inbox start, and then periodically, I just make them switch what they were using. I would also gate. In these prospecting tools you can gate how many emails and they can be sent in a day. And I burned some equity with my sales leader since he totally disagrees. But now, I did get a sheepish text after this announcement came out.

“Yeah. You were right. Could you imagine though, somebody could look you straight in the eye, someone could say, Jesse, I’m going to get a brand new group of salespeople. People who have never sold technology. They’re new and probably within a year, they’ve maybe had one other sales job. They’ve never done it. They’re going to go to a brand new audience and they’re going to send them four attempts. And here’s what I want to tell you that out of 1,000 of these emails that they send. So that’s probably to like let’s say, that’s 250 to 300 people. You are telling me you’re going to get only out of those people, you’re only going to see 3 blocked. You’re only going to see 3 out of 1,000 of those emails reported as spam. That is the problem I’ve seen out there is that there are groups of people who are still perpetuating that this has to do with not using their AI tools or their report. It has nothing to do with any of that stuff. And the risk is your entire company is going to be blocked from sending any more emails to Google customers. That’s a huge risk and if you’re willing to take that risk, good luck!

“Let’s see what will occur in 61 days since that is going to crush your company. When that happens, the CEO isn’t going to be looking for that SDR anymore. I’ll tell you who just got on the radar on that one. It’s going to be anybody who has any clue that this would occur, who even mentioned it and is in middle management role because that person will be on the firing squad. That is the problem, I am trying to tell people and that’s how serious this thing is. And I don’t think, first, I haven’t been happy with any of the leadership that any of the sales engagement platforms, and the big ones, they’ve taken a backseat on this problem for about two and a half years now. It’s time for them to come out and say, we shouldn’t send unsolicited emails from the primary domain. That’s how  they’re going to start.”

So marketers, you’ve to take responsibility for this. You have to convince leadership. If your business can’t send any emails, think about the impact of 24 hours of that occurring would have on your business. Then, multiply that by seven since it is going to take a long time to get it turned back on. Therefore, at the minimum if you can’t convince the company to change their prospecting behavior and mentality. You need to get several domains warmed up now and you’ve got to force them to use those instead of the primary domain. There’s just no way around it and if they get blocked on those, we will learn. That is a good place to learn for them. Who cares? 

“At that point, the downside is it’s still a little bit of a weird situation. That’s why is it coming from a different domain name. Now, I’m not necessarily advocating for that and I don’t think it works in all circumstances. It is probably okay up to your Series C and D but once you start hitting the later stage rounds, you’re probably going to have to stop all unsolicited emails, unfortunately. We’re suggesting you get domains like buymyproduct.com. There are many variations like .info, .co and .us of your domain that you can purchase that are separate and won’t completely blow up everyone else in your organization if you let your sales go on those.

“Yeah. They probably; do need to learn. Everybody in marketing experiments a lot, we all get our opportunities. But what has changed is Google is finally doing it right. It took a while and I argue that Google and Microsoft are two of the worst offenders on this problem. They kind of allowed it. Why can’t they allow it and other email providers can’t? Pretty simple. They run all the inboxes. So if you’ve ever talked to anyone who is in business ask them which email provider they use. If you find one person in the room that’s not on Google or Microsoft, let me know because every single person is. Now will Microsoft follow suit? They probably will. They’re probably going to watch this from afar and see and there are still brilliant engineers at Google. They aren’t going to be stopped. They know who is using which tools. They can see it in the email headers. It’s very obvious to them. However, what you need to do is get the number of unsolicited emails under 50, under 100. I mean the starting point is other domains and that adds a whole other world to your IT organization. And that’s when you’ve got to make the decision: is this the right move for our business? And for some businesses, the answer is definitely no.”

What's the role of enablement for new sales reps, and are we prioritizing the right KPIs in email outreach?

I think there’s been something that’s lacking that needs to be addressed which is the lack of enablement and ramp-up periods for these new reps. That has to happen before we let them loose and I feel like that is a hard sell for some startups, but it needs to happen.

“What is really funny about it is the fact that when I was a new rep, I probably don’t want to admit this but  my goal was to send as many automated emails as possible. You don’t care at that point. I think about it as who sends the most, who is going to care the least? The equivalent on the marketing side. This would be running an ad to just the whole world, not caring, and then just waking up the  next day and saying, oh my God look at the cost of that ad!”

This problem started in marketing, though I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that marketers have abused contact databases for decades and before GDPR and our marketing automation systems started policing us. I worked for a company in revenue operations, not marketing, that had over 80% of their contact database unsubscribed. It was really bad. Wrong message and wrong time. We had people writing content that weren’t familiar with the personas or the problems they were facing. People hadn’t opted in and weren’t giving them high-value content. There were so many reasons why that was happening. Ironically, the sales team would beg to have their accounts taken off the list. Then, these prospecting tools came out and everything developed amnesia. It’s great.

“Email is a marketing job. This is proving a little bit more that it really is. If you’re going to build an organization like this, you need to keep the sales development outreach stuff where it’s kind of cold email outreach. It’s probably going to be centered around your marketing since I don’t think your sales leadership team is probably going to understand the ramifications here. If you have a really savvy CRO, they’ll understand the revenue side, but there are not many of these folks out there.

“I do a few in my network. You can look them up like Andrew Ettigner and Jeff Miller. Some people like that. Nevertheless, I would say there’s certainly a group that’s all about activity metrics. And if they see the email counter low, they’re thinking automatically. However, I would argue right now, the lower the number of emails you send as a company that are unsolicited to new people, the better. That is the reality.”

And are we giving them the right KPIs to chase? Because when I looked into the data, the people setting the most meetings and selling the most deals sent the least amount of emails, which is a great segue into our other topics on email deliverability.

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.

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