According to the "Direct Marketing
Association"*, good list management facilitates message delivery and more
importantly will help build consumer trust. In that respect, sending e-mail to
addresses that don't or no longer exist is regarded as the type of "bulk blast"
behaviour typical of spammers.
Develop a list hygiene policy
With this in mind it's important from
both a company policy and email marketing best-practice perspective, to ensure
you have procedures in place that will address areas that will impact on your
list. These include:
Format, syntax and domain errors
Problem addresses such as role addresses
Processing of remove requests
Handling of bounce-backs, including
communicating unsubscribe time frames to each recipient, suppression of known
invalid addresses, and address format validation
Aside from the overall goals of
improved customer experience and of course increased campaign ROI, the goals of
the policy should be to:
Minimize bounce rates
Keep incorrect, incomplete, or out-dated
addresses to an absolute minimum
Process online remove requests immediately
Try to process remove requests received
offline within ten business days
Tell those opting out how long it will take to
Managing recipient expectations is a vital part of this
engagement, and will reduce the likelihood you will receive complaints.
Hard and soft bounces**
A hard bounce describes when a sending
server receives an error code number describing a temporary or permanent
failure situation. Hard bounces should be suppressed immediately and these
addresses removed from your list.
Soft bounces are usually to do with a
delay, and may return a message like MAIL
DELIVERY FAILURE or DELIVERY FAILURE.
These should be tracked to maintain list validity. A general rule is to remove
these addresses after three soft bounces.
One of the single-most important
aspects of email management is education. This goes for all stakeholders - the
email marketing user needs to have done sufficient homework and analysis on the
target market and ensure the content (in as much as possible) is relevant to
the recipient. Likewise, recipients who don't wish to further communicate with
your business should have a very clear path to specifying not to receive
communication again. Below are some best-practices as per the "Direct Marketing
Promote the benefits of adding legitimate
sending address to the personal "approved list/address book" on registration
pages, e-mail communications headers and marketing materials. Benefits of being
listed in the address book often include further delivery assurance of
requested e-mail communications to the inbox.
Encourage recipients to use the provided
remove/unsubscribe capability to remove themselves from legitimate marketers'
lists from which the customer receives legitimate, permission-based e-mail
communications, instead of reporting these as "spam." Make the unsubscribe
option easy to find and use.
Show recipients how to improve delivery by
their Mailbox Providers and provide information on adjusting e-mail filters on
Educate Mailbox Providers and recipients about
what is spam and phishing, how to avoid falling victim to e-mail fraud and how
to avoid falsely tagging legitimate e-mail as spam.***
It is also important to note that gaining permission from your
recipient isn't a static process. Your mail may land in the mailbox, but for
whatever reason not have been opened or content inside clicked. This may
indicate that this individual is at best busy or at worst passive or
indifferent. Either way, it's an address that adds cost to your campaign. Below
is a good example from the FT.com of how to proactively engage the recipient on the content,
and automatically unsubscribe them if necessary:
Source: Return Path, "Creating
Subscriber Experiences That Maximise Returns for UK Marketers", 2009
In the next blog we will look at some hints and tips to help grow your list.
Follow me @Sage_CRM_DavidR
*"Email Delivery Best Practices",
** A bounce message, also called a
Non-Delivery Report/Receipt (NDR), a (failed) Delivery Status Notification
(DSN) message, a Non-Delivery Notification (NDN) or simply a bounce, is an
automated electronic mail message from a mail system informing the sender of
another message about a delivery problem. The original message is said to have
*** An easy-to-understand graphical
guide for consumers is available from The DMA online at http://www.the-dma.org/antispam/E-mail_Chart.pdf