How we make B2B e-mails land in the inbox

Sending e-mails is easy, but few are aware of all the obstacles our messages have to clear, and how big the risk is that our e-mails don't get where they’re going. This is because e-mail is the most important factor in the spread of malicious or harmful software. Consequently, a business would rather block a safe e-mail than let in a malicious e-mail.

According to Statista, an estimated 333.2 billion e-mails are being sent every day. 

For your e-mail to reach your recipient, it is critical that you as the sender have established trust with the recipient. In the consumer market (B2C), this is primarily important with regard to trust in the freemail provided by the three major IT companies: Apple, Google and Microsoft.

For the business market (B2B), there are millions of companies and organisations that must handle these risks themselves. Most of these use third-party systems that filter incoming e-mails. Furthermore, companies set up their own rules and filters to either stop e-mails, or to let them through their security systems.

The thought process for most companies is as follows: We would rather block safe – and possibly important – e-mails rather than live with the increased risk of letting a single e-mail with harmful content get through. 

This is our strength: Icon Business Solutions has a dedicated deliverability team that continuously monitors your sender reputation. 

Here are the most important factors that determine whether your e-mails get where they're going:

Dedicated B2B e-mail accounts

It starts with an e-mail account that is fully your own. Only you send e-mails from this IP address, and only you affect the deliverability of the account. This is different from platforms such as MailChimp, on which many users or companies send e-mails from the same IP address.

With a dedicated e-mail account, security systems will know who you are. In a B2B world, this ensures that your e-mails are more likely to reach their destinations. The downside is that this involves a lot of work, both for the user and for the software provider. 

Icon Business Solutions has success with dedicated IP addresses with volumes going as low as 8000 cold e-mails per week. The added effort is consistently rewarded with higher engagement among e-mail recipients.

E-mail account authentication

These four stages are the first step of building your reliability as a sender:

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) defines who can send e-mails from your domain. 

DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) grants the recipient's e-mail server the option to investigate whether the e-mail truly came from the domain that is listed as the sender. 

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) helps protect you as the sender from what is known as e-mail spoofing

Reverse DNS helps ensure that e-mails do not end up in a spam filter. 

The first thing the recipient looks for is correct authentication. If the authentication is not approved by the recipient's rules, not a single e-mail will pass through to the next filter in the security systems.

IP warm-up

The next step is to “warm up” the IP address. The reason this is done is because an IP address that suddenly appears, sends a large volume of e-mails and then goes silent, shows a mailing pattern that should raise some red flags for the recipient. 

Warm-up involves starting with a low volume of e-mails, then carefully increasing the volume until you have achieved the anticipated daily or weekly volume. 

The result of the warm-up will be an established mailing volume per day or week. The e-mail filters continuously compare the mailing volumes with the established level and will use this when deciding whether to let the e-mails get through.

Volume control

For sender reputation, it is important that you stay within a given frequency and with established volumes. The team will therefore contact you if there are any discrepancies in this regard. In the worst-case scenario, you may have to restart the entire warm-up process.

Useful and productive e-mail content

As is clear from the above, you can get more e-mails to reach recipients by sticking to a stable stream of e-mails. At the same time, it is particularly important that the e-mail offers something useful to the receiving company.

In many cases, security administrators also personally inspect the contents of e-mails. If the message is viewed as being serious, relevant, and useful to the employees and the company, you may get through. In in the opposite case, the IP address will be blocked. Once an address is blocked, it is generally blocked permanently. 

For this reason, we at Balthazar.ai only accept customers with products that are viewed as being useful to the receiving companies.

Daily domain monitoring

The e-mails you send provide feedback in the form of webhooks, and the team behind Balthazar.ai processes millions of webhooks every single day. This is done using algorithms that look for trends and patterns and that determine whether opens, clicks, visits, or unsubscribes are done by a person or a machine. Engagement is also an important filter in the security systems. If user activity is high, it means that recipients are responding positively to the e-mails. If it is low, the IP address may get blocked. Furthermore, the team checks the status of activity and sender score. Measures are taken if the IP address has been blocked or blacklisted.

Bounce management

If an e-mail fails to be delivered to its recipient, this is known as a bounce. Bounce means there is feedback from the recipient’s e-mail server stating that the message could not be delivered and that no new attempt is being made. 

When an e-mail bounces, it is divided into one of two categories: soft bounce and hard bounce

  • A soft bounce means that the e-mail cannot be delivered right now. 
  • A hard bounce means that the recipient’s e-mail server is stating that the e-mail cannot be delivered because it is unable to find anyone with this e-mail address. 

It is important that everyone who sends e-mails knows that excessively high hard bounce (i.e., roughly two percent per dispatch) is detrimental to sender reputation. This considerably increases the risk of future mailing being stopped by security system filters. 

At Balthazar.ai, average hard bounce is 0.2 percent per mailing. 

Updated contact e-mailaddresses

Updated contacts are absolutely essential to deliverability. Low bounce and engaged users are key factors in maintaining good e-mail distribution. This requires contact data to be up to date at all times.

Job statistics reveal, and this corresponds with our nearly 25 years of experience in B2B marketing, that about half of the contacts in a list will change jobs, employers, or contact data over the course of the year. You can learn about contact list attrition here: Churn - the invisible enemy

Our team's efforts to keep contacts up to date will have a direct impact on your sender reputation. 

Among other things, the task of the team is to regularly remove inactive e-mail addresses. These addresses may have stopped responding for several reasons, and when this happens, it is important that they are removed. In the same process, one should simultaneously search for contacts who satisfy the same criteria in the segment. One example may be finding the new head of marketing at the same company and determining what happened to the person who owned the e-mail address that stopped responding.