Email Marketing: Dealing with “Out-of-Office” Replies and Bounce Responses

A Pain in the Inbox

Have you ever run an email campaign or sent out a newsletter over the Holidays? If you have, and you sent your emails from your regular email address, you probably found that your Inbox was flooded with automated messages from recipients who were on holiday. Father Christmas just got you a big old bag of automated electronic mail reminding you of how seemingly no-one but you is working. Great.

This problem is actually prevalent any time one sends out to a large database of recipients – not just the out-of-offices, but also automated bounce reports. I had a client ask me recently what the best way to handle this is, that’s why I’m here, writing this blog post.

Not such a great idea: using a “No-Reply” email address

I’m constantly amazed at how many companies use no-reply email addresses. Back in 2011, Campaign Monitor wrote a good post about why no-replies are a bad idea, and it still holds true today. Suffice to say that you need an address that is monitored regularly, has good deliverability and promotes communication with your recipients – a “No-Reply” is specifically asking them not to engage!

Set up a dedicated email address

The best scenario to avoid having your Inbox flooded is to create a dedicated email address specially for handling your email campaign responses. Some suggestions below:-

notifications@company.com
news@company.com
newsdesk@company.com
newsletters@company.com
hello@company.com
marketing@company.com

Once you’ve set up this address separately in your email client (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) you’ll be able to keep your regular business emails entirely separate from this Inbox, which will get all of the auto-responses. Then in your free time you can sift through these emails for genuine responses.

Automation – finding genuine responses should be a cinch

Most email clients will allow you to create a set of rules (a.k.a. “filters” in Gmail) with which you can set parameters whereby incoming mail gets filed under specified folders. The most common of these would be to look for keywords either in the mail itself or from the sender’s email address. It can be super handy if you set parameters for your email client to file all automatic responses under a folder called “auto-responders” i.e. everything that includes content or subject lines like:

“Out of office”
“Out of the office”
Autoreply
no-reply
auto-response
“Delivery Status Notification”
“message status – undeliverable”
“no longer working at”
“unattended mailbox”

And likewise, you could set up keywords that flag important issues that would need your attention like:

“spam”
“unsubscribe”
“POPI”
“unsolicited”

Whilst not perfect, this should filter out most of the automated responses and make your life that much easier when checking up on campaign responses.

Paddy Crook
Paddy Crook
Digital Marketing Manager at DotNews
Paddy completed his BSc at Rhodes University and has specialised in email marketing, social media, ppc, ad-serving and other online marketing mediums. Having returned from working with a UK-based multi-national company where he analysed the effectiveness of online campaigns, Paddy has a broad knowledge of the channels and techniques used within the digital space and how best to apply them to professional practices.

Paddy completed his BSc at Rhodes University and has specialised in email marketing, social media, ppc, ad-serving and other online marketing mediums. Having returned from working with a UK-based multi-national company where he analysed the effectiveness of online campaigns, Paddy has a broad knowledge of the channels and techniques used within the digital space and how best to apply them to professional practices.

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