Archive for August, 2009

Email bounces and database updates

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Commencing an engagement earlier in the summer with a company for which I had previously worked, I was issued with an Exchange account for internal communications whilst on-site. Not surprisingly, my external email address was the same as it had been when I was employed there, since it adopted a standard format comprising my first and surname together with the company’s domain. What did surprise me though, eighteen months after leaving the company, was the steady stream of emails I began to receive from lists to which I had been subscribed before I left.

Now perhaps I should have diligently ensured, before moving on, that I had unsubscribed from these lists or informed their senders of my change of address. The reality though is that this is often harder than it seems, between keeping track of the lists to which you have subscribed and knowing how to advise your new details. It’s usually not the highest priority when moving on either.

These emails sent to my old address would certainly have been bouncing back to the originator for quite some time. The failure, or conscious decision, by these senders not to process these bounces and use them as an opportunity to update their databases is astonishing. Across the entirety of their databases and subscriber lists, given the rate of decay of business data, these senders must experience significant volumes of email delivery failures.

Just as with spam, it’s tempting to dismiss such considerations on the grounds that the cost of continuing to send to dead addresses is minimal, the effort of doing something about it substantial and the overall impact negligible. This is not the case however, and persisting in sending to bounced addresses can lead to deliverability issues and represents a missed opportunity for database management.

Repeatedly sending to non-existent addresses and incurring the bounce back messages this generates gets noticed and can lead to being placed on spam offender lists. This could cause all email to be blocked by spam filters with obvious dire consequences for campaign effectiveness. You may not even know that here is a problem, except for the rather disappointing response rates.

Failing to update marketing databases with bounced addresses also means that the opportunity to track the fact that the record itself may be invalid is also lost. If other activity is being driven from the database, such as DM, then significant cost can be incurred sending to contacts who are no longer there. Acting on email bounces also offers the opportunity to proactively update the database. If an individual represented a high value contact (someone in a senior position or a frequent purchaser), perhaps it’s worth a call to establish where they’ve moved in order to re-establish contact or identify a replacement?

I’m not complaining that I’m receiving some of these emails again, and it may even be to some of the senders’ benefit in the end. But the likelihood of this situation arising is tiny and the potential negative impact significant. There’s no excuse for bad practice.