How To Profit from Email Opt-Outs and Bounces
There’s gold in them thar rejected email addresses, and most businesses don’t mine for it.
List clean up is never fun, so it gets deferred to the bottom of the to-do list. But cleaning up your email list after each marketing email gives you additional insight into your customers and the kinds of information you should or should not be emailing to them. These are the 4 kinds of undeliverable email addresses you should clean up:
1. Bounced emails come in two flavors: Soft bounces are technically correct email addresses that temporarily don’t deliver because the recipient’s email server may be busy or their email inbox is filled up. Or the internet gods are just having a bad day–who really knows? But the next time you send email to these addresses, they deliver with no problem.
Hard bounces (or what Swiftpage calls “3 bounces”) are dead email addresses. In today’s business environment, it probably means the recipient no longer occupies the chair at his former company or the company itself has gone out of business.
If it’s the former, who took his place? If no one did, who’s now in charge of the decision making for your products and services? Hard bounces must be updated so you don’t lose future opportunities.
2. Invalid email addresses. Sometimes a missed keystroke can render a good email address worthless. Maybe *someone* left out or added a character or transposed characters. Often you can fix these email addresses just by looking at them. If not, sometimes they can be corrected by looking up the company’s website to see what naming convention is used.
If you have very many invalid addresses, however, that’s a sign that *someone* is not being careful with data entry. Check the record creator field in your ACT! database to see who entered these contacts. If you see a trend, have a data quality conversation.
3. Duplicate email addresses often indicate a global duplicate problem in your contact database (where there’s one, there’s many). But regarding emailing them, most email service providers, like Swiftpage, won’t send the same email address more than once in a single email transmission, although they will document them so you can clean them up.
But if you segment your list, as you should, you could be over-mailing these duplicate addresses, and that could lead to higher opt-outs. Sometimes duplicate emails are caused when multiple people at the same company share an [email protected] or [email protected] address. In my opinion, you should never mail these addresses anyway because they’re used internally by the company to filter solicitations from true inquiries from their customers.
Instead, be more proactive at point of data entry to get your customer’s personal email address. In fact, set up a dynamic group in your contact database, like ACT! 2010, to pull these kinds of addresses for targeted follow up. For your bigger, global duplicate problem, use a duplicate checking tool like Patricia Egen’s Duplicate Remover Expert Wizard or Ingo Lange’s Workflow IT.
4. Opt-outs are a great excuse for mini-market research. Call them to find out why they asked to be removed from your list. Do they not want to receive your emails (why?) or did they fire you as their vendor? Many times when I follow up, I find out my reader mistakenly hit the “leave this list” button because he didn’t know the email was from me or he thought he was opting out of a single promotion instead of opting out forever. Ouch. That means I must make adjustments to how I present my messaging. An opt out is just the canary in the mine; there are possibly hundreds more who may not have understood something I wrote.
Sometimes when I follow up, the recipient tells me he switched to a competing service. While I’m angry with myself for not uncovering this defection sooner–or getting the opportunity to prevent it–it does give me a chance to find out why I lost the business. More important, can I uncover market trends or a gap in my service I wasn’t aware of? Which other of my customers might I be at risk to lose to this same reason? How can I course correct moving forward? I also schedule a follow-up call for 11 months in the future. I already know my customer won’t find nirvana using a competitor, but I’ll give him that chance to find out on his own, then be there to win him back. (And I’d be willing to bet money that my competitor won’t follow up in 11 months!)
One of the biggest mistakes I see emailers make is not following up with their bad email addresses. Besides the benefit of cleaning up your list and finding new opportunities at companies where previous contacts are gone, keeping a clean list actually improves your tracking metrics. When the number of emails you send is close to the number of emails that get delivered, you’re golden.