Knowledge Library

How to keep B-to-B Email from getting caught in filters

DirectTalk with Winnifred

Updating and cleaning our database was not easy. We found that a large number of subscribers have changed their email addresses without advising us, some even have two or more addresses. Several 'bounce- backs' and incorrect spellings necessitated a thorough clean-up. Nevertheless, in our quest to move to more personalisation and customisation, it is worth the effort to give you a better and more valuable service. We appreciate your support and welcome your feedback on this regard. Thank you for your co-operation.

In line with our 'clean-up' we looked at what is happening with other marketers and found an article written by Dave Lewis from Direct Newsline (30 April 2003) in which he says that, "business-to-business marketers face a particularly thorny problem getting their marketing
email delivered. Many companies' filtering technology stops marketing email indiscriminately before employees even see it."

So how can marketers get messages through to employees who have signed up for their emailings?
Company filters typically rely on content scans, such as header, subject line and copy, as well as blacklists. Unfortunately, there's no way to reliably predict the filtering techniques used at any given company, nor is there a way to know precisely how much email has been filtered out.

But the following techniques can help a B-to-B marketer work around filters to ensure better deliverability of email to business customers.

Get permission. Make sure your customers are given a choice to opt-in to your email newsletter and that they grant explicit permission to receive it.

Alert customers. Mention there's a possibility the newsletter they've signed up to receive may not reach them. This message should be conveyed at sign-up and in all subsequent email notifications. Since the email used to convey the message may be filtered itself, it's important that other means of communication - in-person, telephone, direct mail - be employed as well.

Encourage complaints. Ask subscribers to register complaints with their technology department if emails they desire to receive are being filtered or to inquire about their company's filtering procedures and how they can ensure receipt.

Share the responsibility. All email marketers have a stake in this issue. Some filter out their own employees' email. Marketers need to find out what their own companies are doing, and then challenge their associates in IT to perform responsible email filtering.

Reinforce relevancy. If customers believe your communication is relevant, they are more likely to advocate for it to continue and complain when it's been filtered.

Be engaging. Make your communications more informational, less sales focused. Find ways to engage your customers in providing feedback on content - e.g. ask them to fill out short surveys.

Monitor response rates. This will determine the degree of filtering that's occurring. Open and click-through rates are probably your best guides for filter monitoring.

Request repeat permission. Online publications have learned that asking customers to periodically re-subscribe to your newsletter provides both continued permission and a barometer of receipt.

Capture alternative data. Business customers are generally willing to provide more contact data, especially if the email has strong relevance to their job. Unfortunately this data is all tied to the company and there's no link to personal contact information. It's time to change that.

Ask for personal contact information. Requesting a personal email address as an optional contact method is one way to circumvent filtering at the workplace.

Noticeable message. Place a well-written, visible message on filtering at the point of data capture, which will help build customer awareness and receptivity on the personal information

Monitor performance. Track response rates and encourage customer feedback. Some companies specifically poll customers to determine receipt or non-receipt of email communications.

While acknowledging that they have the right to manage their own servers, corporate executives need to be told that indiscriminate filtering poses a risk to legitimate company-to-company communications. Like marketers, business executives need to be sensitised to their stake in the outcome and IT departments should be taught the best filtering practices.


DirectTalk's primary objective is to inform, provide knowledge, share experiences, give advice and guidance and stimulate the industry. We pride ourselves on the interaction with our thousands of readers, some of whom tell us weekly how they benefit, both personally and in their businesses, from the information we share.

And take note that it will be a sad day for our country when 'automated filters' dictate the growth and education of our industry.

Winnifred Knight

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