Follow the bouncing message

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Earlier this month, the Email Experience Council released a report that said marketers aren’t uniformly quantifying bounces, which is a problem. But a bigger problem, said Deirdre Baird, president-CEO of Pivotal Veracity, is that many aren’t doing anything about those bounces even if they have been quantified.

Baird provides these tips to help marketers manage bounces, and stay off black lists.

Figure out where they’re coming from. Sometimes, a bounce is simply a full mailbox or the electronic remains of a job move; someone left a company without leaving your list. Sometimes, however, bounces are the result of over-eager salespeople looking to build a list, said Baird; salespeople who can get you black-listed since corporations commonly seed the Web with false e-mail addresses. “ISPs and spam filtering companies have spam traps planted all over the Web. Where b-to-b gets into trouble is when salespeople cruise the Web and, while trying to do their job, pick up those e-mails and add them to your growing list.”

Pivotal Veracity avoids this problem by requiring all salespeople to make phone contact with a prospect before they can be added to an e-mail list. Education is also key, since many times salespeople aren’t privy to CAN-SPAM discussion or rules.

Keep your bounce rate low. Everyone will have some level of bounce; however there is a line in the sand that, if crossed, may land you on a black list. You should make it a priority to check in with ISPs regularly, asking for your spam complaint statistics. “You want to keep it below 0.25% [of your total messages e-mailed to a domain],” Baird said. “You must take immediate action if it starts creeping up above that point. Once you get to 0.50%, you run the risk of being black-listed.”

Remedy your bounces. This is somewhat of a Catch-22, Baird said. Remove every bounced e-mail address from your list, and you run the risk of removing prospects and customers who like receiving your message. Don’t do anything, and those bounces will affect your relationships with ISPs and corporations, since neither likes dealing with messages that look like spam. “Hard bounce rules should be in place—two hard bounces and you should remove corresponding names from your lists,” she said. “B-to-b lists usually have a high level of Hotmail and Yahoo e-mail addresses. Don’t do anything and you’re raising your risks.”

Analyze which domains are most affected by bounce. ISPs and corporations aren’t going to tell you you’ve been black-listed. It’s up to you to monitor for this—and proactively prevent it. You can do this by organizing your bounces by domain, Baird said. “If you separate your bounces by domain and you see that one is getting high, you can contact the postmaster at that domain to discuss why it might be happening,” she said. “And if you see that all your messages are being blocked, you know you have a problem.”

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