Email Accuracy: You Can’t Guess Your Way to Growth

It’s been more than 50 years since the first versions of email were sent across the ARPANET, and although the technology has scaled to billions of users worldwide, one thing has stayed constant: the “user@host” address format implemented by the original developer.

That doesn’t mean reaching people has gotten any easier. As companies add and reallocate talent, enter new markets and territories, and adopt more security tools, corporate email systems are becoming increasingly complex.

Some companies may have different subdomains or address formats for each department. Over time, they could move from a simple name-based system to one that incorporates numbers or other unique identifiers. Mergers and acquisitions can lead to multiple legacy systems that are tied together for months or even years.

In fact, according to our research, nearly 80% of the Fortune 500 use more than one email domain or address pattern, and more companies are following their lead every day. For go-to-market leaders, that means reaching your next customer has become a complicated technical problem.

A decade ago, educated guesswork may have been enough to get by — you know one email, you effectively know them all. But in a world of increasingly intricate, constantly changing email patterns, bad guesses can stop your growth in its tracks.

Here’s how ZoomInfo solves that complexity for our customers, giving them more time to focus on connecting with prospects and helping them avoid deliverability problems that can handcuff their GTM plans.

How Email Patterns Affect GTM Operations

At ZoomInfo, we invest millions of dollars annually to ensure and enhance the quality of our business data, and we’ve secured multiple patents on our professional profile and contact information systems. With more than 140 million emails on our platform and more than 1.7 million email addresses verified daily, we are uniquely positioned to both monitor and navigate the complicated nature of business communications. 

To gauge how email strategies are changing, we examined how frequently we can detect multiple email address patterns at companies in our data set, both over time and relative to headcount.

The pace of change is incredibly fast: Between August 2022 and March 2023, we observed a 40% increase in the use of more than one email pattern and a 25% increase in the use of more than two email address patterns.

The number of email patterns was also closely correlated with the size of the company: 

  • For companies with at least 50 employees, about 21% had two or more email patterns. 
  • For companies with 100 or more employees, the share of multiple email patterns grows to about a third. 
  • At 1,000 or more employees, nearly 40% of companies can be observed using multiple email patterns.

Take the professional services firm Deloitte. It has over 400,000 employees in more than 100 locations around the world, working in divisions including tax, audit, and consulting. ZoomInfo’s analysis found that Deloitte alone uses 23 different email address patterns and more than 50 domains.

For CIOs and revenue operations leaders, this creates thorny problems that span the GTM operation.

At the most basic level, sellers and marketers who don’t have reliable contact information will simply waste time sending outreach emails that bounce and searching for the right contacts. That kind of repetitive, low-value work is a big reason sales professionals only spend about 28% of their week actually selling, down from 34% just five years ago.

And that lost productivity can quickly compound. Today’s most advanced sales teams are using proven GTM playbooks and integrated automation platforms to transform high-value signals into targeted, relevant outreach that helps them win against today’s longer sales cycles and larger buying committees. 

Without accurate data, many attempts at automation will never make it off the launch pad. Instead of sending outreach cadences that immediately build consensus when a good-fit account visits their website, teams relying on low-quality data will be greeted with a wall of bounced emails. In the meantime, competitors who are running a crisp, accurate workflow are pulling farther and farther ahead.

There’s another, more systemic problem lurking behind those bounced messages. 

When a sender generates too many hard email bounces — permanent failures, as opposed to an out-of-office reply — the companies providing internet and email services start to pay attention. 

What drives up bounce rates? Sending emails to former employees, addresses with spelling or punctuation errors, and sending to addresses that are simply made up can all contribute.

Too many hard bounces will trigger automatic systems that shunt more of your emails to spam folders. If bounces are too frequent, providers will block a sender altogether — a potentially crippling blow for GTM teams when a few minutes can be the difference between a qualified lead and a dead end.

Getting removed from email blacklists can also be a lengthy, expensive process, including purging certain emails from your system, asking contacts to opt-in again, or even cutting ties with some partners.

Generally, you want a bounce rate that is as low as possible. According to NeverBounce, a good target for marketing emails is below 3%, with anything over 5% potentially affecting email deliverability.

Guesswork Isn’t Good Enough

Despite these high stakes, there are a surprising number of providers that rely on guesses to fill out their business contact data. 

You don’t have to look very far to find data tools that tout a 9% bounce rate for even their verified emails. Even more risky: when services try to guess a contact’s email address, it can result in bounce rates of up to 40%.

ZoomInfo’s email data is sourced from hundreds of thousands of community contributors who agree to let proprietary machine learning track the email signatures of sent and received messages from their inboxes. This helps us acquire and associate impossible-to-guess emails, and continually validate them over time. 

Our technology, enhanced by our 2018 acquisition of NeverBounce, helps us understand the deliverability of email addresses in our database and lets our customers identify cohorts that will produce results that far outpace our competition.

That commitment to quality spans our entire data operation. 

For example: a service that relies on guesswork to compile an unverified list of emails may be able to tell you where someone works. But with ZoomInfo’s robust data matching and enrichment protocols, an inbound email address can be added to an already rich set of data, providing additional context such as name, job title, seniority, organizational charts, and phone numbers — our platform boasts over 65 million direct-dial numbers and more than 50 million contacts with mobile numbers.

ZoomInfo has built a combination of data scope and quality that competitors simply can’t touch. When your company’s reputation and growth are at stake, you simply can’t afford to guess.