It's common practice in B2B marketing to require business email addresses on websites and online forms, but does this requirement leave valid leads on the table?
Despite the rise of social networks and other channels, there is no doubt that email marketing remains strong.
To expand a company’s email base, websites and online forms are designed to gather as many visitor email addresses as possible. And in a B2B environment, visitors who submit company emails qualify as stronger leads than those who submit free ones (gmail.com, yahoo.com, etc.).
Should this always be the case? Don’t some company buyers use their personal emails when doing pre-purchase research?
Are valid leads being overlooked if using personal email addresses?
The easiest way for us to answer this is to jump into our big data and analyze our 9-year-long list of customers, backwards from the start of the company. Here is what we found:
- 22% of our customers used free email address in communication with us
- 7% of our customers used free email address in their first contact with us
So it seems that quite a few business contacts prefer using personal email accounts in their communications with us.
What are the most common free email addresses that our customers use?
How does revenue gained through personal emails differ from that gained through business emails?
Our research found that:
- When a sales account was initiated with a personal email address, the average spend was 55% lower than average.
The data shows that ignoring leads using free email addresses could lose us 7% of our customers, but only 3% of our revenue.
Does Geography Play a Part?
Well, it seems that the percentage of people using personal email addresses is similar across markets: USA 6%, UK 5% and Australia 9 percent. However, average spending (when first contact is made via a personal email address) differs dramatically. In the UK, sales processed after first contact was made via personal email address are 30% lower than average, while this figure is 45% for Australia and 70% for the USA!
So, it seems that though it is not always business-smart to ignore users who submit personal email addresses, there is a marked drop in revenue gained through these leads.
Why are Business Emails so Valuable to the Sales Team?
Site visitors are often armed with two email addresses from which they choose when submitting data on websites; their work/business email and personal email. Moreover, in some cases they use third email address which they reserve for predicted spam so as to keep the other two clean.
The most valuable of these for the Sales team is the business email because it:
- tends to be accessed more regularly than personal email
- can be read at work and doesn’t invade private evening time
- signifies a better fit to your business if you are in the B2B market
- presents a formal identification of source which can be read as “I expect to be contacted,” unlike personal email
- increases the chance of matching the company to the person (either manually through LinkedIn or through business directory services such as DATA.com)
- enables easier gathering of lead intelligence before first contact
So, one way to ensure your Sales team focuses on leads with business email addresses is to set up your lead scoring system in a way that rewards those leads with more points. But wouldn't it be great if you could increase the number of business emails submitted to begin with?
Editor's Note: Read more of Petr's Lead Scoring tips in Lead Scoring Rules for B2B Companies
How can you increase the number of business emails submitted?
The answer is simple: Ask!
A] Test changing the field caption from “Email” to “Business Email” and see what results this brings. Of course keep in mind the possible negative aspects of this change -- possible decrease in CTR and increase in number of fake emails submitted.
B] Take a more direct approach; add a validator to the “Business Email” field that ensures that no free email addresses can be submitted. The above-mentioned negative aspects could be even stronger here.
The following table shows how these two approaches worked for us in tests conducted on our own online forms.
But let’s see how these numbers look on 10,000 visitors:
Remember that only proper A/B testing on your own website will give you figures relevant for your business.
From our analysis, we chose option A for the following reasons:
- Compared with the Original, it provided 8% more business emails for just an 18.5% drop in overall number of emails.
- Compared with option B, it delivers nearly three times as many leads and better aligns with our company ethos in the way we treat prospects and clients. It also means that we don’t suffer a 3% hit to revenue (incurred if all personal email contacts were ignored).
Results like these are highly subjective and will depend on your market, industry and business. This article has demonstrated just a few ways to analyze your own data through A/B testing. These results may also help you more appropriately assign points to leads that use business email addresses on your site. For sophisticated online marketing on your website, your CMS/CXM solution should provide you with such online marketing tools as A/B and MVT testing, Lead Scoring and Marketing Automation.