It's that time again! Let's spend a few minutes decoding those delicious deliverability and email marketing acronyms -- it's DELIVTERMS from Spam Resource!

This is a simple one (for some folks), but believe it or not, I do get asked about this from time to time. Throwing around shorthand and abbreviations can confuse people, so it's important that we pause occasionally, and give folks a chance to catch up.

In email marketing and deliverability, we often talk about B2C marketing versus B2B marketing.

In B2C email marketing, we're talking about businesses (B's) marketing to consumers (C's). Some folks might also call this DTC (direct-to-consumer) marketing. What it means is email marketing where the target audience is the actual buyers or potential buyers of a consumer-oriented product or service. If I make cool purple widgets and sell them from my online store, I'll probably build up my email list by way of my newsletter signup, an opt-in process during the purchase/checkout process, etc., and I'll probably contact them again later, via email, trying to sell them a second purple widget. (Or maybe a cool green one.)

In B2B email marketing, we're talking about businesses (B's) marketing their product or service to other businesses (B's). Think of an online store -- or even a "brick and mortar" store, like my friend's wine store. They use Square to manage online and in person orders, and they also use Square to help them with email marketing efforts. That means Square is active in both the realms of B2C and B2B marketing. For B2C, they help my friend's wine store communicate directly with the wine store's customers. But Square is also active in the B2B realm themselves, marketing their own products and services to businesses like the wine store. So when Square is mailing their own customers, offering them additional products or services to help those customers sell better to THEIR customers, that's B2B email marketing in action.

B2B email marketing and B2C email marketing have different deliverability challenges. The target audiences are different, and even the mailbox providers that an email marketing platform sends mail to are somewhat different for B2C versus B2B:

  • B2C email marketers are sending primarily to the top consumer mailbox providers. In the US, that means Google (Gmail), Yahoo, Microsoft (, Apple, and Comcast at the big end, followed by a bunch of smaller providers.
  • B2B email marketers have lists that look quite different (many more different domains, beyond but ultimately, at the big end of things, Google and Microsoft host a ton of mail for business domains. But then there are also various B2B mailbox providers and email security services, that are more often seen in the B2B realm. Examples of these include Barracuda, Proofpoint, Mimecast, Cisco, Appriver, Rackspace, and there are zillions more out there. This is one of the things I track with my Wombatmail data.

For a lot of companies trying to sell to other companies (B2B), they often start small and are sending very low volumes of mail. They also sometimes engage in sending "cold lead emails" -- usually low volumes of unsolicited email advertising (aka spam), and the low volume combined with low engagement of the emails means that a B2B email marketing misstep can cause deliverability issues that are particularly difficult to resolve.

And it's probably fair to say that most of the time, when talking about email marketing and deliverability issues, guidance is typically B2C-oriented. That tends to be where the big email volume (and thus the big challenges/big money) are. Because of this, I wouldn't always assume that non-specific deliverability guidance applies to B2B scenarios. Always best to investigate and ask before assuming, as there's a good chance that somebody's deliverability guidance was generally B2C-oriented, even if not stated explicitly. (I know I'm guilty of this!)

Want to learn more?

And of course, don't forget to check out the DELIVTERMS section here on Spam Resource, where we define the common terms used in email technology and deliverability.

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