Tuesday, July 8, 2014

you're a b2b marketer, you don't need to worry about gmail - right?

by kirk r gray

wrong! recently i came across this statistic: "more than 5 million business have gone google"1. i started thinking that if “i am one of those ‘businesses’ that have gone google”, and use google apps for my email, then other businesses do too. so, why does that prompt me to blog about it? because businesses moving to google apps has a profound impact on the b2b email marketer's world.
think about this, if 5 million businesses have gone google, they aren't just using adwords, google docs, and google calendar, but more than likely they are also using google apps for their email system, which in actuality runs on the gmail infrastructure. and that has an impact on the way we market to our readers.

google is slowly eroding the universe for the b2b email marketer. once upon a time many email marketers wanted to be in this space simply because the number of outside factors that could play havoc on their email campaigns were limited (minus the challenge of talking to an influencer instead of a decision maker and the lengthy buying cycle). b2b email marketers had it pretty nice - if the domain was a business name (other than a major isp) you could assume that the addressee was reading their email in outlook, and more than likely they had either a company supplied blackberry or iphone. meaning if your email looked good in outlook, it looked good everywhere. but start-ups and limited it budgets have changed that landscape. employees don't want to carry two devices and now have the option of bring-your-own-device and it professionals are moving to google apps to reduce time and energy on corporate email, both of these equal reduced costs.

but by doing this, google is changing that landscape, and b2b email marketers probably don't know it or even think about it. when a business uses google apps as their email provider, they continue to use the same email address and domain that they always have, as a result when a business changes to google apps for business, they don't need to change their address with you - it's a seamless migration from exchange to google apps. google provides the back-end support and infrastructure for their email. essentially, the business has outsourced their exchange servers to google. i have done this with my own email. google apps brings a low cost solution with the convenience of gmail.

and that's the beauty of google apps for business -- it's gmail. but it's branded for the business and uses all of the features that gmail users worldwide have come to love and rely on. but those features can be challenges for the email marketer. the hurdles that are at the front of every b2c email marketers thoughts aren't actively presenting themselves to b2b email marketers, and as such are often being ignored by b2b professionals. here is a list of those challenges and things you should think about if you're a b2b marketer when you build out your campaigns.

adaptive design
adaptive or responsive design support is spotty at best with gmail. however, if you are spending time building out these great looking emails that hide or truncate content on mobile devices, you might be wasting time. support for adaptive design on a mobile device with a gmail address isn't supported. (remember, the app that someone uses to view your email in is just as important as the isp that is delivering the email.) since you don't know by looking at an address's domain if that business is using google apps, you may be wasting time and money for developing “beyond exceptional” emails.

cached images
since gmail is now caching images for a better mobile experience, a lot of the insight that we used to have into gmail and it's behaviors is now missing. pretty much the only thing you are really going to get with any validity is the open rate and the click - you should be using google analytics too to compare those numbers and see if they are out of sync. but if stay on top of the changes happening across email marketing as a whole, you know that there are tricks to even gmail caching images that you can use.

a drop in stats
have you noticed a drop in open rates and ctr? and can't figure out why? if you aren't already doing so, it might be time to use a service like litmus or returnpath to measure your deliverability. this will help you understand a lot of what is going on especially if your email lists are a made up of a lot of tech companies, start-ups, or universities and their students. if you're being blocked by gmail or being relegated to the spam folder, you might not know it with out these services because you don't have a lot of gmail seeds. looking at your performance with gmail is a good indicator of how you are performing with addresses using google apps.

if you don't have access to a monitoring service, it may even be worth it to get a bunch of gmail addresses for yourself seed the lists yourself - it won't be as accurate as returnpath or litmus, but it will help to provide some insight. just remember that if you're using gmail to seed your own sends, interact with those emails in the inbox, because gmail is big on engagement.

ninety percent of what works in gmail is supported in google apps
that's right, features like inbox actions, global unsubscribe, and even the promotions grid view are supported in google apps. and if they aren't supported right off the bat when they are released by google, they quickly come online within google apps. meaning, that they may not be the first to get the new options (because the enterprise email world is a lot more vocal than regular gmail users), but as soon as the kinks are worked out, they are brought to the google apps user - so stay on top of the blogs and what gmail is introducing/beta testing. it could be coming to the b2b world without you even knowing it.

what should you do?
as an email marketing professional, either in the b2c or b2b world, you need to stay on top of the trends in what is happening with gmail. as a b2b marketer, you aren't going to know by looking at the domain address that it is a gmail account, which is why it is important to use a monitoring service. and while google apps does allow for it professionals to do some custom configuration in their whitelisted domains and ip addresses, blacklisting and blocking is very easily done at the gmail level, by letting google be your post-master.

1 Google Apps for Business

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