An Introduction to Better Bounce Management

Since this is my first post on the Email Experience Blog, I thought it might make sense to formally introduce myself to all the eec blog readers out there: I’m Spencer Kollas. I have been in the email marketing business for about 7 years and currently serve as the director of delivery services at StrongMail Systems. I started out as a sender/marketer before moving over to the formal email deliverability world. Today, I spend most of my time working with clients to improve their delivery rates, increase their revenue and help them get the most out of their email programs. But enough about me…let’s get to the topic at hand—bounce management

I was reviewing some old files recently and I came across some information from March of 2007 when the eec came out with a research study on bounce management. This got me to thinking about how much has really changed since then. When looking at my daily work and interactions with clients, I am doubtful that it has changed all that much.

I still get questions all the time from clients asking what they should do about their bounces, how should they handle them, and what the difference is between hard and soft bounces. Given that response, I thought it might make sense to talk about this subject a bit. Plus, not only is it something near and dear to my heart, it’s also a topic that can help those who still aren’t sure what to do about bounce management.

In their report on bounce management, the eec highlighted three important reasons every marketer should have effective bounce management programs:

Performance evaluation. Proper bounce management provides crucial data on your use of email and the ROI that comes from it. By keeping track of this information and applying it back to your conversion numbers, you can see how to improve your ROI.

List management. Bounce data is key to keeping your list clean and to maintaining or restoring contact with customers. With proper bounce management you are able to remove the customers that are no longer actively using the email addresses you have on record.

Practice improvement. Your email system should furnish detailed data for diagnosing issues with your marketing practices (data capture, targeting, etc.) and for taking the corrective actions that will ensure both a good reputation and better deliverability. Make sure to look at your data, as this will allow you to see if certain receivers are blocking your mail or whether any other possible issues are occurring.

Now, if you are working with an ESP that is worth anything, they should have a bounce management process already put in place to make sure that their clients are following best practices. However, if you are sending email in-house, or you just want to make sure that your ESP is following best practices, those are the three areas you need to focus on when asking questions.

So what makes up a good bounce management system? Here are some basics that all programs should include:

1. Capturing of all data streams.
2. Correctly interpreting data.
3. Organizing (standardizing) data.
4. Making data actionable.
5. Being continually updated.

With a bounce management system that meets these requirements, you’ll be in a position to properly evaluate your performance, manage your list and improve your practices—all of which translate into better bottom-line results. So follow these simple rules and make sure that you have a system that meets your needs and both you and the ISPs will be happy. Good luck and good sending.

—Spencer Kollas of StrongMail Systems