What a good day to dust off another in my pile of unfinished blog posts and random ideas thanks to the folks @StrongMail for sharing “Marketing chiefs: Are you spamming your customers?

“And nearly one fifth (17 per cent) of marketers surveyed are not failing to remove email addresses from mailing lists after messages bounce back.”

Reminded me of a story from a year or so ago.  It was after dinner with some email friends when like the wine the email war and horror stories started to flow. 

Being a consultant I have to maintain a certain level of obliqueness when sharing stories.  Sure there’s the whole NDA thing, but more importantly I don’t like to kiss and tell; I don’t care what you think you see on my collar….

So I’m telling this story about a client company with a less-than-commercial email system owned internally by technology.  The company used a deliverability service; because they never bothered to weight the deliverability seed list to their distribution list they totally missed the flashing lights and sirens going off for the domain that comprised about 30% of their subscriber base.  And spam traps?  You don’t even want to go there….

We do all of the basic stuff, like stop mailing to defunct domains and anything with spam, abuse, or postmaster, and clean out just a whole lot of other junk, and then go to take a look at the bounce logs.  They don’t really have bounce logs – they were making high seven-digit channel revenues and they didn’t have any sort of bounce logs – hello; is this thing on? – but they had this little bounce counter software thingy that would at least kind of flag to suppress addresses under certain criteria.

Now, since there aren’t any RFC Bounce Code Police enforcing the stringent application of 4xx and 5xx codes, it’s not a bad idea to have a little more log information than “bob@foo.com is a 5″….  I’m just sayin’….  Anyway, it was what it was and it was what I had to work with at the moment, so whatamIgonnado? 

Then I learned that they were retrying hard bounces three times before ceasing to mail to that address again.  I know!  Three times!  Seriously! 

And as if that weren’t enough, the technology owners of the in-house email tools wanted to argue the wisdom of attempting to deliver an email that has been soundly rejected with a stated cause.  Of course we didn’t know what the stated cause was because we really didn’t have any sort of bounce logs to look at, and the bounce counter would purge bounced addresses after it counted and classified them and blah blah blah blah blah…. 

It’s all kind of a blur now, and I can’t remember if it took them 30 days or 3 months to finally stop retrying hard bounces three times.  There are just so many threes in there and I’ve been trying to block some of it out so that I’m not afraid anymore….

So we’re sitting around with milk coming out of our noses– which is weird since we were drinking wine, but whatever – and I tell my buddy, Dennis, sshhh….  The next day we’re on this deliverability panel at an email event and three quarters or more of the way through our session, he asks, “How many people here retry hard bounces three or more times?” 

I think that I might have blacked out for a moment, but at least didn’t fall out of my chair; that would have been bad.   The shocker came for me when I saw the number of hands that went up in the room.  Anecdotally I’d say maybe 20% of the room had their hand up. 

A brief explanation of the differences between what a hard bounce means and what a soft bounce means had pens to paper for more than those with their hands up.   From the looks of the survey quoted in “Are you spamming your customers?”  maybe more people should have attended that panel. 

The good people at the Email Experience Council’s Deliverability Roundtable have put all the email bounce codes in one place with the industry’s first bounce code directory making it easy to learn about bounce codes and what they mean in case you’re interested and can’t make it to an industry event.   You might miss some fun stories, but I can’t help with that. 

And the next time you visit Deliverability.com be sure to ask Dennis why retrying hard bounces three times is a bad idea.  He likes questions like that….