Do b-to-b mailers need to worry about bounce management if they mainly send to corporate domains?

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Answer: Absolutely. Bounce management is an important factor in maximizing deliverability and campaign effectiveness regardless of your audience. In fact, a good bounce management system is arguably more important to b-to-b mailers given the fragmented nature of their lists and the inconsistent bounce messages and less sophisticated filtering associated with corporate domains. Corporate domains are also motivated to filter more strictly to ensure security and protect resources and productivity.

Unlike a b-to-c list—where 70% of the addresses may be concentrated in a handful of domains—the typical b-to-b list is spread across hundreds or thousands of corporate domains. This presents unique challenges to the b-to-b mailer, since each of those domains may have different access rules, spam filtering techniques and bounce messages. A good bounce management system can help make sense of this mishmash of inconsistent data, to identify the reasons for failure and isolate trends. Only then can you diagnose the underlying causes and take the corrective actions that improve your bottom-line results.

As a b-to-b marketer, you should examine your existing bounce management solution in five key areas:

  1. Capture data. Make sure your system can capture all data streams—both synchronous and asynchronous bounces. An asynchronous bounce occurs after the SMTP transaction and takes the form of a “bounce e-mail” that’s received along with other inbound e-mails you get as a result of your mailing. This data stream is particularly relevant to b-to-b mailers since it’s how you’ll get a large percentage of bounces from smaller domains. Unfortunately, this is a data stream that’s often overlooked or incompletely captured by most bounce management systems.
  2. Interpret data. The right solution will be able to process incoming bounce data across the data streams and correctly interpret the myriad of inconsistent messages. This ability doesn’t come out of a recipe book. It takes continual testing and tuning to correctly interpret and map the data.
  3. Organize data. No one can cope with hundreds of different bounces messages, so the next step is to normalize the data and organize them into logical categories, such as hard bounce, soft bounce, block and technical failure. A good system will then map failures into reasons below the category level, such as “unknown user” under hard bounce.
  4. Make data actionable. Once organized, the system should generate reports that make the data actionable in addressing the causes of failures. These reports should directly track to the actions you take to hygiene your list, adjust your targeting, modify your creative, etc. It should feature intuitive drill-downs that allow you to use them as a diagnostic tool with the ability to pull up sample records to validate your conclusions.
  5. Maintain data integrity. Even the best-conceived bounce management system will degrade rapidly in our ever-changing environment. Therefore, this last criteria is an important one—it must contain a “future proofing” provision to stay abreast of changing bounce codes and messages.
Dave Lewis is VP-market development at StrongMail Systems (
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