B2B Marketing & Personal Email Addresses

Aaron Slusky April 7, 2015

Since I’ve been working in paid search marketing, the question surrounding the validity and quality of personal email addresses has been a hot topic, especially as it relates to B2B lead gen efforts. Here are several reasons B2B digital marketers should not discount personal email addresses.

Why do so many business buyers use personal addresses?

Below is a summary of recent information published across the web explaining why it’s not wise for marketing or sales teams to overlook leads containing personal email addresses. While business email contacts are preferred, the vast majority of form leads will often be in the form of a personal email contact.

Top of the Funnel: People using personal email addresses (gmail, yahoo, etc.) are likely interested in your product or service if they are taking the time to fill out a form to receive a white paper, guide, or infographic. However, purchasing might not be a top priority at this time. They are simply collecting information and doing their research.Comfort: Some people may choose to use their work email address exclusively for internal work correspondence.

Legitimate Site: Many people use a personal email address until they are sure that the requested information is coming from a trusted, legitimate site and that the information is what was expected.

Anonymity: The prospect may have a personal email address they use to collect initial information, but is not ready to be identified in their business role.

Flexibility: A personal email address may be more accessible outside work hours, while traveling, or while working on a home computer.

Spam: A personal email could be preferred because services such as Gmail have made it difficult for “perceived spam” to get through into in-boxes.

3rd Party Research: Companies may hire consultants to research potential solutions, and these consultants often use their own personal email address.

Start-Up Companies: The prospect may not have a company email address yet.

Large Company: Some individuals within large companies want to conceal the fact that they’re from a well-known, large company. They may be looking for information but do not want to be contacted by a sales representative as they realize their company name may raise a flag.

Nurturing is a must for the B2B sale!

Personal email addresses will often convert at a lower rate than business addresses (especially in the short-term), and personal email contacts may drive lower average revenue per lead compared to business contacts. Having said that, personal addresses come in much larger numbers than business addresses – especially when marketers cast a wide net.

Having a strong nurturing process is a must for all of these “top of the funnel” form leads. In my opinion, it’s not wise to “cherry pick” leads with business email addresses and immediately move leads with personal email addresses to a “Not Prospect” status. Why? I’ve seen sales opportunities from personal email addresses account for ~20% of total opportunities (even with a complex B2B sales cycle). This demonstrates the significant opportunity associated with personal emails and justifies the lead nurturing effort required.

Assign Lead Value

I recommend that marketers place an estimated value on each “lead status” (for example: initial lead >> qualified lead >> suspect >> opportunity, etc.). This enables marketers to determine how leads containing personal email addresses perform versus business email addresses, over time.

As you work to better understand “quality leads”, I encourage a strong dialogue between the sales and marketing teams. Clear lead definitions and assigned values will certainly help to determine the ROI associated with personal and business email contacts.

Lead Qualification

Lead Quality vs Volume

Before I sign off, a quick test that may be worth utilizing is one that was performed by Kentico – on their own website leads.


As you can see in the above chart, when Kentico forced the submission of a business email address, the total volume of leads plummeted. Kenitco decided that the best solution was to proactively request a “business email address”, but not validate the actual address submitted.

What do you think?

I would love to hear how you are handling inbound leads from personal email addresses. If you value these leads differently than leads containing business email addresses, how are you addressing this within your organization or agency?

In my next post, I will discuss a few items that may improve your lead qualifying process without sacrificing conversion rates and overall lead volume.

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