Your email "From" field is a big deal.

It's the first thing people see. It sends a clear message about your brand. And, it impacts every metric from deliverability to engagement.

We all know that no-reply@ is dying.

Most B2B marketers replaced no-reply with friendlier generic aliases like marketing@ or team@ over the last five years.

Maybe you set your templates with something like this and didn't look back.

But now we're in the middle of the next evolution - human aliases.

35% of the Cloud 100 emails have already gone human. This is a solid benchmark for the most forward-thinking B2B companies.

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Many other email variables are evolving in parallel to make your b2b email experience more human:

  • More campaigns use simple, plain text templates. 22% of the Cloud 100 have already taken this approach. And it's been proven to work better.
  • Email messaging has gotten more casual, personable, and conversational. More b2b companies are talking to buyers like humans, rather than jamming ads in their inboxes.
  • Top B2B companies are transitioning email from 1-way blasts to 2-way engagement and inviting people to reply and start a conversation.

If you're transitioning some of your email communication to come "from" a human, the next question becomes "Who?"

There are two common approaches worth diving into:

  1. From a "Spokesperson" Alias - this can be an alias related to a real person, or a fabricated persona.
  2. On Behalf of Reps - i.e. using the lead owner or account owner field in your MAP as a token in the from and reply-to.

These are not mutually exclusive. For most businesses, a mix of these options along with some generic aliases will be the most practical and deliver the best result.

To help with your analysis, I want to break down the pros and cons for each approach and give some examples in the real world ...

Sending From a "Spokesperson" Alias

In smaller companies the spokesperson is often the CEO or CMO. But that approach is not limited to small start-ups. For example, this Gainsight email came from their CMO, Anthony Kennada, using anthony@gainsight.com. However, this is not his actual email address.

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The executive approach isn't for every business. Your spokesperson can be a member of the marketing team, an internal thought leader, or a the person most closely tied to the campaign (e.g. the webinar leader for webinar emails). Your spokesperson can also be a made-up persona to ensure the alias has longevity beyond any employee departures.

At scale it's better to use an alias rather than your spokesperson's actual email address. From there you can route the replies to lead owners or the person best suited to pick up the thread, rather than flooding your spokesperson after each send.

Pros:

  • Brand consistency for your readers while maintaining a human feel.
  • If your spokesperson is a real person, like a member of the marketing team, you can leverage her true voice in messaging. This builds an even more authentic and human experience.
  • Flexibility in how you organize programs and manage replies across programs. You can have one spokesperson for everything, or have multiple spokespeople logically segmented for your business (events vs webinars, customers vs leads, Europe vs LATAM, etc.).
  • All replies get centralized, giving marketing control over how responses get routed, tracked, and you have the opportunity to mine auto-replies for data and enrichment.
  • It's a human address without some of the operational downsides that come when sending on behalf of reps (see below).

Cons:

  • Real human replies can be a pain to manage since they won't go directly to sales reps. Requires additional time to maintain SLAs and stay on top of responses (note: this problem doesn't exist for Siftrock users - they can use lead owner look-up routing to handle it automatically.)
  • If you use a real person and they change roles or leave the business, you'll lose consistency.
  • You'll build trust and recognition with your spokesperson, but that brand equity may not be easily transferred from your spokesperson to your sales reps when leads become sales qualified.
  • If you use a fake persona, it may feel disingenuous. Extra care is required to give your persona the appropriate voice without feeling like trickery.

Sending on Behalf of Reps

Sending on behalf of reps works well in many scenarios. The pros are immediately clear to most marketers, but the cons might be more nuanced in terms of the operational challenges and the brand risk. Here's a good look at some automated Zendesk emails I received that from an Account Executive (presumably the individual assigned to my territory or segment). In this case, the messages from Chris (my rep) were mixed with some broader communication from team@zendesk.com and relate@zendesk.com was used specifically for their conference (called Relate).

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Pros:

  • Replies go right to reps (and with Siftrock replies can also be tracked automatically in your MAP)
  • If your customers have a relationship with their sales rep or account manager, you can help help build the relationship even when the rep isn't engaging 1x1.
  • It can lead to consistency for the buyer, knowing that your communication comes from the same person across the buyer's journey.

Cons:

  • Replies can't be natively tracked in your MAP and the marketing team won't see them. This is problematic for logging replies as success, changing lead status based on a reply, and managing "manual" opt-out requests (note: Siftrock solves these for marketing automation.).
  • It's not representing your rep's true voice. Since messaging is crafted by marketing, it can't reflect the true voice of each rep, and could cause inconsistencies when reps actually engage.
  • As territories change or sales reps turnover, the look of your emails will also change.
  • Higher risk of overlap between sales email and marketing email. If a rep emails or calls a buyer directly while the marketing team is emailing on behalf of them, it can create a bad look
  • You'll probably flood your reps with OOO replies. They will hate this, and even worse, you'll miss the data in replies for cleaning and enriching records. (note: Siftrock users don't have this problem.)

More B2B Examples in the Wild

Let's take a look at how these approaches manifest in the wild (the wild = my personal inbox :))

Here's a look from Procore that is worth sharing. They use a generic marketing address for content, but their webinar emails come from Alicia Baumann. Alicia is the Sr. Webinar Producer, so it's natural that she's the spokesperson for webinars. This builds consistency around Procore's webinar program and builds Alicia's voice as part of their brand.

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LeadMD is a prolific company in the B2B marketing space. They use a variety of different human aliases associated with real people and occasionally mix in marketing@leadmd.com. I think this variety gives a nice feel because it looks like many different people are involved and communicating with me. Some of the emails even come from the President, Justin Gray, and as you see here he does reply when people engage.

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UberFlip knows content. I've been a long time follower of their brand and noticed their approach is similar to what's shown above with LeadMD. Many of the content emails come from marketing@uberflip.com, but they've mixed in event messages from Sarah Askett, Events Manager, and the occasional message from Tara Robertson, Director of Revenue Marketing.

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Notice that most of these companies use a variety of from addresses. Creating some variety keeps your brand fresh in the inbox and ensures that you to "wear out" any particular spokesperson alias.

Wrap-Up: B2B Marketing is Going Human

There's no doubt that B2B email is becoming more human. That's probably because B2B marketing is becoming more human. The buzz around ABM, personalization, bots, and AI is at peak height. But the core of these trends is about businesses getting more human.

The best companies recognize that buyers will engage on their own terms - not what's most convenient for the company. We can adjust to the buyer and open our doors across all channels, or we can lose their attention quickly.

For email, your "From" address is one big factor in this evolution. The generic address will still have it's place for many campaigns. But companies that use human addresses as part of a conversational email strategy will get more engagement, better results, and differentiate their brand in the inbox.

Adam Schoenfeld
Adam Schoenfeld
Adam is CEO and Co-Founder at Siftrock, data geek, golfer, and breakfast enthusiast. He is passionate about data, marketing, and creating simple solutions to big business problems.
Published Tuesday, February 20th 2018