How to Defeat B2B Data Decay in Your Email Marketing Database in 2024

March 1, 2024

ViB Editorial Team


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Seeing lower open rates, more bounced emails, and poorer B2B email marketing performance than usual? Instead of the usual suspects like your subject line or email cadence, B2B data decay in your email marketing database could be the culprit. 

And with 2024’s creeping new email regulations (think Google, Yahoo, and other mailbox providers), bad emails in your list could seriously hurt.

In this blog, we’ll explore how B2B data decay affects email marketing campaigns and what you can do to defeat it. We’ll also discuss the importance of data quality, how it impacts your email performance, and tips if you’re working with B2B data providers to source for contact data.

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What is B2B data decay, and why does it happen?

B2B data decay is a natural occurrence where the information in your email marketing database becomes less accurate over time.

When decay happens, marketers could see negative impacts on their email sender reputation, email marketing ROI, and ultimately compromised demand generation results.

B2B data decay happens due to several reasons, mostly relating to company changes, or not having proper data maintenance over time.

Top reasons for B2B data decay

  • People shift roles within their company 
  • Employees take jobs at different organizations
  • Companies merge or acquire new businesses 
  • Companies rebrand or reorganize and change contact information 
  • Lack of continuous data maintenance resulting in more incomplete, inaccurate, or duplicated records
  • Using B2B data providers or contact lists that rely heavily on third-party data sources – let’s unpack this quickly.
reasons for b2b data decay

Tip: make sure your B2B data providers don’t accelerate data decay

The problems caused by data decay are compounded when opting for outsourced lead generation services or third-party B2B database providers, such as email list providers. 

The biggest challenge when working with one is that you don’t have much control over how these data providers collect, store, and maintain their data. 

Be sure to research how service providers source for B2B contacts, and put together their email marketing database, so you limit its decay rate.

Think of the four main types of consumer data, each with different collection methods: zero-party, first-party, second-party, and third-party.

  • Zero-party and first-party data are your best bet because they are directly collected by a company, from its consumers.
  • Second-party and third-party data typically fall short in accuracy and relevance, because they are aggregated through data-sharing partnerships or a range of public sources. 

That’s where it gets problematic.
Most B2B contact database providers primarily use second-party and third-party data — because it’s easier to collect at scale. What’s more, it’s not easy to regularly maintain millions of data records to ensure that they’re always updated, accurate, and complete. This is a serious oversight.

For example, imagine submitting your information to a job search website. That data could end up being sold to recruitment agencies and employers. However, your data could still continue to be sold and used even after you land a job.

What is the B2B data decay rate today?

According to a variety of studies, B2B data decays at a shockingly high rate. 

The exact data decay rate depends on the industry, and the number has changed vastly over time too. Today, it’s generally estimated that 70% of B2B data decays per year

Two decades ago, a study by Marketing Sherpas estimated that approximately 32% of Americans change their email address each year.

What’s more, interacting with decayed lists can waste up to 70% of an organization’s prospecting efforts

How B2B data decay impacts your email marketing database and performance

Ever wondered why some of your emails never reach their intended recipients? Yep, B2B data decay is one of the main culprits here too.

Outdated, inactive or invalid email addresses in your list can lead to hard bounces, high unsubscribe rates, and even being marked as spam — ultimately contributing to low deliverability rates.

Technical impacts of data decay on email marketing

1 – Hard bounces

If you’re sending emails to an outdated, inactive or inaccurate lead list, you may experience a higher rate of hard bounces. This occurs when there is something wrong with the email address you’re trying to reach, resulting in a permanent email bounce in your marketing automation platform. 

High hard bounce rates can harm your sender reputation, and ISPs may start blocking your emails or sending them to spam folders.

2 – Unforwarded emails

When email addresses you’re trying to reach are no longer in use or haven’t been properly retired in a company, your email could remain in an unused and forgotten inbox. This can lead to missed opportunities, lower engagement rates, and wasted resources.

3 – Email authentication

ISPs and email clients use authentication protocols to determine whether or not an email is legitimate. If your emails fail authentication checks, they may be marked as spam or blocked entirely, resulting in lower open and click-through rates, and damage to your sender reputation.

4 – Increase spam complaints:

Sending emails to inactive or inaccurate addresses can increase the likelihood of receiving spam complaints or being automatically marked as spam. These happen when recipients flag your emails as spam, or when email service providers penalize your domain or ISP.

Note: 2024 has brought some enforced spam-rate thresholds, e.g. Google’s 0.3% limit. Make sure you never exceed that!

5 – Low deliverability rates and sender reputation score:

This is the bottom line. If the issues above keep occurring, they can damage your reputation over time and bring down your deliverability rate, which is largely determined by your sender reputation score. 

Your sender reputation score determines whether or not your email will be trusted, and a low score can result in your emails being relegated to spam folders or not being delivered at all. 

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to regularly maintain and update your email list to ensure a healthy sender reputation and successful email marketing campaigns. 

It’s not just a technical issue, though. Poor data quality can also negatively impact your email marketing performance and your ability to convert prospects into customers, ultimately resulting in a lower ROI

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Performance and ROI impacts of data decay on email marketing:

1 – Lower open and click-through rates

Having outdated or inaccurate email lists can result in lower open and click-through rates, which in turn can affect the success of your email campaigns. With fewer people opening and engaging with your emails, you may not see the desired ROI.

2 – Higher unsubscribe rates

Unsubscribing is a natural way for readers to maintain control over their inbox and their preferences — especially if they don’t recognize the cold email that’s suddenly in their inbox. 

However, too much of these and your sender reputation gets hurt too. Keep in mind too that taking away the control from readers to unsubscribe doesn’t help a business in any way. It increases the chances of emails transferring into the spam folder and tarnishes your image.

3 – Reduced brand reputation

Poor email deliverability due to outdated or inaccurate email lists can result in a reduced reputation among recipients and email providers. This can affect future email campaigns and ultimately harm your brand’s reputation.

4 – Reduced ROI

Finally, putting them all together, lower open and click-through rates, higher unsubscribe rates, and a reduced brand reputation can all lead to a lower return on investment (ROI) for email campaigns. 

In fact, according to Eloqua, the cost of one bad email address in your contact list is $11. One company also reported that addressing data decay can help increase efficiency by over 300%.

Therefore, it’s crucial to remove outdated and invalid email addresses (aka avoiding B2B data decay); and also focus on building the right B2B data foundations, to maintain optimal email deliverability, open and click-through rates, and ROI.

See the 10 B2B data providers we trust

How can I better manage B2B data decay?

Maintaining the quality of your B2B database is crucial to your email marketing success. Poor data can harm your campaigns by reducing your open rates, click-through rates, and overall sender reputation.

To both update your existing B2B contact data, and ensure that your data remains of the highest quality over time, you’ll need a two-fold strategy.

That means establishing systems for both managing the data you already have by cleaning it thoroughly and preventing decay in incoming data by establishing the right foundations.

Step 1: How to clean your data to manage data decay

Cleaning your data involves identifying and correcting any errors, inconsistencies, or redundancies in your email marketing database. In this section, we’ll provide some tips and best practices for cleaning your data to manage data decay.

1 – Remove outdated information

Regularly remove outdated information, such as inactive contacts or old product offerings, from your database to keep it streamlined and relevant. For example, if contacts have been inactive for 3 months, you could push a re-engagement email sequence before updating their contact status.

2 – Remove duplicates

Duplicate data can create confusion and lead to inaccurate reporting, so it’s important to develop a process for identifying and merging duplicate contacts. You can easily use automated tools or manual processes to remove duplicate entries from your database.

3 – Update contact information

Establish procedures to regularly review and update contact information such as email addresses, phone numbers, and mailing addresses. This will help ensure that your communication efforts reach the intended recipients. A good tip is to reach out to your email marketing database contacts periodically using surveys to ensure you have their most current information and wish to remain opted-in to receive your communications.

4 – Check your data for accuracy

Regularly verify the accuracy of your data, or enrich it, by cross-checking it with reliable sources, such as LinkedIn profiles, public databases, or industry associations.

5 – Standardize data

Standardize your data by using consistent formats, such as date formats, phone numbers, and address formats. This can make it easier to search and sort your data. To help you execute these processes, make good use of automation tools like data validation, deduplication, and data enrichment software. Consider tools like Informatica, Datameer, Talend, or QuerySurge to run data validation tests on a regular basis. 

6 – Assign data quality standards

Finally, assign data quality standards or guidelines for each of these processes. Just like how B2B marketers rely on campaign calendars, create a set of rules that dictate how often your database should be checked, updated, and cleaned, such as quarterly or biannually.

A good rule of thumb is to conduct a database-wide audit at least once a year. This will help catch any data decay early on and prevent it from affecting your email marketing campaigns. For your automated data cleaning tools, ideally run them once every few weeks to validate and update your data on a regular basis.

By implementing these regular habits, you can help ensure that your contact database stays accurate and up-to-date, which can improve the effectiveness of your B2B marketing efforts.

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Step 2: How to prevent data decay by building a strong data foundation

While managing and cleaning your existing data is important, preventing data decay from entering your email marketing database in the first place is equally crucial. 

Here, we really want to emphasize the importance of sourcing zero-party and first-party data as the best sources of clean data for two main reasons:

  • You have complete control over the quality and accuracy of zero-party and first-party data since they are sourced directly from your own customers or audience.
  • Customers who provide their own zero-party and first-party data are more likely to engage with your emails, as they have already expressed interest in your company or brand. This leads to a higher likelihood of conversions and ultimately contributes to the success of your email marketing campaigns.

With that, here are some ways you can build stronger data foundations with zero-party and first-party data in mind.

1 – Attract direct opt-ins, such as with surveys, polls, and forms

When people opt-in to receive information from you and provide their contact information, that’s the best data because it’s verified at the source. Employ a variety of tactics, like content marketing, to encourage people to willingly enter your email marketing database. 

Top tip: provide valuable incentives like rewards to encourage them to respond to your survey.

2 – Encourage customers to update their own data

A powerful way to build trust in your industry is to be transparent about your data collection processes and policies. An important aspect of transparency is providing your prospects and customers with a clear and easy path for updating their information, such as when their email address changes.  

Set up an easy-to-use customer portal or a preference center. Similar to what we’ve mentioned above, reach out to the contacts in your email marketing database periodically using surveys to ensure you have their most current information and wish to remain opted-in to receive your communications.  

3 – Engage with audiences in meaningful ways

Because the best quality data comes directly from the source — zero-party and first-party data — maintaining ongoing contact and communication with your target audience increases the chance that they will share their best data with you and even update their contact information themselves, such as when they switch companies.  

4 – Use high-quality, trusted B2B data providers

If you want to reach out to data service companies to either build a new list or expand your in-house contact lists, make sure these outsourced vendors are selling high-quality data. Reputable B2B data providers do the hard work of gathering, filtering, updating, and cleaning data for you so they don’t introduce any data decay into your system. 

Thumbnail of ViB B2B Marketing Trends Report

Discover the latest trends and statistics — and the key actions B2B marketers and leaders need to take today. 

How ViB maintains quality B2B data

B2B data providers, or contact database providers, are companies that offer access to their databases of business contact information. The best B2B data providers supply companies with high-quality contact information they can use to improve the results of their marketing programs, including email marketing campaigns. 

Here are a few scenarios where working with a data provider can benefit your business:

  • When you’ve reached saturation with your own database
  • If you don’t have the time or resources to DIY
  • When you need to expand your known contacts 
  • When you need to expand into new markets
  • When you need to make data-driven decisions

ViB maintains the highest quality B2B data for our clients’ marketing programs in our ViB Community. Our zero-party data-based ViB Community includes millions of technology professionals — all pre-qualified and ready to buy. In fact, they have subscribed to our ViB Community specifically to hear from companies about solutions they need. 

What’s more, we offer companies the opportunity to not only access our well-scrubbed ViB Community, but also the opportunity to have us send your email campaigns to a targeted list of prospects from within the ViB Community.

As a top-of-funnel lead generation tactic, using ViB Emails can help you drive awareness, get campaign results, and push your existing sales operation even further toward optimized success. Our clients are achieving exceptional email marketing results, including Cloudera, Nutanix, and AtScale.

See how Nutanix achieved one of the highest MQL to SAL conversion rates

ViB’s results have far exceeded all of the other vendors we’ve used over the last few years.
  Sheila Madrigal, Senior Manager, Global Email Marketing, Nutanix

How ViB Emails prevent B2B data decay

To ensure our clients gain the highest quality results from their email marketing lead generation efforts, we maintain rigorous standards for data quality. You’ll gain these clean data benefits from ViB Emails: 

1 – Recipients have opted-in to receive emails about new tech companies

To ensure that recipients are interested in receiving emails, ViB uses a community-based approach and a user-friendly portal. Members can easily provide their contact information and specify the types of notifications they want to receive, such as emails about new tech companies. 

As a result, recipients are self-qualified and have provided their zero-party data, meaning that they are more likely to engage with the emails they receive. By using this approach, ViB is able to provide clients with a high-quality and engaged audience for their email marketing campaigns.

2 — ViB Emails helps to send each email from ViB’s email domain

One key benefit of ViB Emails is that we send your emails from our own email domain. In other words, instead of providing clients with a list of email addresses, we take a different approach by delivering each email using a recognized ViB domain on behalf of the client. 

This means clients don’t have to manage any email deliverability issues or hard bounces. Moreover, community members who receive the email already recognize ViB’s sender domain, which helps to encourage open and click-through rates. 

By tracking these clicks, clients can add only qualified contacts to their database, further improving data quality without too much hassle.

3 — ViB Emails maintains regular data cleaning practices.

On top of implementing procedures for community members to regularly update their information, our scale of over 10 million community members also enables us to maintain consistent and efficient data hygiene practices that surpass those of most other service providers. 

We have a dedicated team and automation tools that perform weekly data cleaning and removal of members for abuse, blacklisting bad actors, and domains. This means that our clients can rest assured that their campaigns are being sent to a high-quality database of engaged leads, which in turn, leads to better lead generation results.

See the 10 B2B data providers we trust

Who are today’s best B2B data providers?

When you partner with a B2B data provider it’s critical that you choose well. The right provider will help improve your results, as well as help build your brand name. The wrong provider will not only deliver poor campaign results but also put you at risk of lowering your brand image in the marketplace. 

Here are a few scenarios where working with a data provider can benefit your business:

  • When you’ve reached saturation with your own database
  • If you don’t have the time or resources to DIY
  • When you need to access specific targeted data
  • When you need to expand your known contacts 
  • When you need to expand into new markets
  • When you need to make data-driven decisions

You can improve your chances of choosing the right B2B lead generation agency and data providers when you consider the key factors of evaluating partners, including:  

  • Types of data offered: Most data providers offer basic contact information or demographic data, but some also offer firmographic, technographic, and behavioral intent data
  • Types of data sources: Most data providers use second and third-party data. The best use zero-party and first-party.
  • Industry and service specializations: B2B data providers typically specialize in a specific industry or geographic region. You’ll want to work with one who specializes in your industry. 
  • Performance: Look for B2B data providers with a history of successfully helping companies gain high-quality leads. 

Get a headstart with our comprehensive review of the top 10 B2B data providers we trust.

TLDR, aim for the highest quality data

Data-driven email marketing campaigns can optimize lead engagement and drive conversions. But only if the B2B data lists are free from excessive data decay. 

Use the guidelines listed above to either establish better data maintenance practices in your company or to choose the best B2B data service partner to support your marketing programs. 

ViB Emails provides our clients with the highest quality data, zero-party and first-party data for their email marketing campaigns and other marketing programs. That’s why we’ve established best practices to ensure our data is free from data decay. In this way, we consistently help our clients gain more successful email marketing campaigns — so they can achieve their business goals.

This means that because our leads are warm and opted-in, you don’t have to do any of the work to ensure you always have high-quality leads. 

We do the scrubbing and data hygiene work to help optimize your email deliverability, open rate, and click-through rate. Our goal is to help your company generate the downloads and registrations you need to keep your business successful.

There’s a better alternative to buying lead lists and tedious list cleaning. Try ViB Emails’ unique community-based approach to lead generation — and reach up to 75,000 contacts with a low-cost trial.

Try ViB Emails without the risk

Open to sending one email of your choice to up to 75,000 technology contacts in our ViB Community?

Gain first hand experience into how ViB Emails can help you drive awareness, get campaign results, and push your existing work even further. 

Sign up for a discounted trial here

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