Are you one of the 1.2 billion users who have a Gmail account? I am. In fact, I have multiple Gmail accounts. Like most people who have multiple accounts, each account serves a different purpose. For example, one is strictly for personal communications, while another is used for business purposes like email newsletter signups, registrations, and whitepaper downloads.
The user adoption of Gmail, especially among millennials and Gen Xers, has created debate inside conventional B2B marketing circles as to the value of Gmail addresses when it comes to B2B sales. Why? Because millennials and Gen Xers make up the two largest generations in the U.S. labor force, with millennials leading the way. And 61% of millennials and 54% of Gen Xers says they most frequently use Gmail. And here’s one more stat for you: These same millennials consider Gmail the second-most essential app on their smartphone.
Have I made my point?
I have been a witness to the internal B2B marketing debate about whether Gmail addresses should be considered valid prospects. In my opinion, they absolutely should be. In addition to the stats mentioned above, consider this: I almost never use my work email to sign up for business communications. I don’t want my focused, business-essential inbox cluttered by marketing messages.
But do I check my business-focused Gmail account? Absolutely! As you plan your marketing strategy for 2019, it is important to consider why – and how – your potential customers are using their Gmail accounts, and how to maintain a healthy, business-first approach to marketing to the customers.
First, let’s consider a few reasons a person might prefer a Gmail account to their business email:
- Inbox clutter. As I do, some prefer a less-cluttered work inbox. This can be compounded by the fear of email sharing, especially when it comes to partners and sister brands.
- To keep info for themselves. Some people want to have whatever information available to them in the instance they leave their current employer.
- Data retention. Many employers have email data retention periods where emails are automatically deleted after a specified time period. Consumers may want to retain these emails for longer periods of time.
- They’re not/less trackable. While marketers may not like this, many people use fake names along with this email address. Guilty as charged! Not only does this tie into the inbox clutter point, but it also helps prevent LinkedIn stalking.
- It’s easy to ignore. That’s right. If prospects lose interest or decide your product is not a good fit, they can simply ignore it, without unsubscribing. This is exactly why good list hygiene is so critical.
Steps to Maintain A Healthy List
Just because it’s not a business address doesn’t mean you should ignore list hygiene best practices. Because marketing emails sent to Gmail addresses are less likely to disrupt their workday, I believe Gmail users may ultimately be more open to receiving and reading your messages. However, at the same time, I believe Gmail users who are less interested in ongoing communication are more likely to completely ignore messages rather than unsubscribing, thus reducing list self-cleaning.
This is why it's essential to monitor your Gmail contacts (and all contacts for that matter) for engagement. That way, when subscribers do become unengaged, an automated re-engagement campaign can be deployed to these contacts. Here’s how it works:
First, choose a specified non-event, such as 30 consecutive days or emails without receiving a single open. Choosing the number of emails or days will likely depend on your send cadence. After a contact reaches this milestone, an automated series of emails are sent. These messages should have a subject line that is a break from your normal brand voice, with the whole idea being to inspire an email open. After taking this approach with a couple of messages, and still not receiving an open, a “break-up” message is then sent. This is a message that clearly spells out in the subject line that unless they open, they will be unsubscribed.
If you want to take a more aggressive approach, you can require the user to not only open the email, but also click the message. Again, be sure this is clearly stated in the promotional copy. This is also a great time to ask the contact to update their preferences, including contact info. If the engagement is ultimately unsuccessful, the contact is unsubscribed.
By proactively cleaning your email list, you will help ensure your sender reputation remains strong.
In my opinion, Gmail addresses can be extremely profitable in today’s B2B environment. As you plan your 2019 marketing strategy, don’t leave money on the table by ignoring these prospects. They just may hold the customers you’re seeking. And if you have been sending to Gmail contacts but haven’t analyzed your engagement with these contacts, now is the time to do so. Create a well-thought-out marketing plan that not only target these prospects but also maintains your sender reputation while doing so.