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Article first published March 2012, updated March 2019

“If I send a campaign to my entire list at once, my inbox is instantly swamped with bounce notifications and out-of-office replies. What do I do?”

Given that email marketers should not be using a no-reply address, it’s essential that replies to your campaigns end up in a monitored mailbox. This means pointing the From: and Reply to: email addresses in your campaigns to a real email address, read by real people.

Even the humblest announcement can attract important emails, like sales leads, customer feedback, and unsubscribe requests. In this post, we’ll explain email bounce best practices and some general email marketing best practices for managing replies.

Email bounce best practices: dedicate an email address to replies

Receiving numerous replies and bounce-backs to your regular work address can be immensely frustrating, especially if they trickle in over a period of hours or days.

When discussing how to fix email bounce back, setting up a new, From/Reply-to email address to handle replies (like info@yourdomain.com) is always a good idea. If you’re already using Google Apps, this is easy to do yourself. Otherwise, ask your tech team for a hand.

Once you’ve set up an email account, you can set it up in your regular email client. Note that replies can go to either the From: or Reply to: address (depending on the recipient’s email client), so you can count on bounces, out-of-office replies, and more going to either specified address.

Rules rule

Once you’ve got a unique email address for replies, it’s time to separate the human from robot-generated email.

As with many email marketing best practices, doing this manually can be a laborious process, so often the best thing to do is to create a folder in your newly-minted email account and siphon all automated “robot replies” into it, leaving only the important emails in the inbox.

This can be done using rules (or filters), which can be created in many of the major email clients, like Gmail, OSX Mail, Outlook, and more. For example, you may create rules like:

IF email subject includes:

  • “Out of office”
  • “Out of the office”
  • autoreply
  • “Delivery Status Notification”
  • “message status – undeliverable”

OR email content includes:

  • “no longer working at”
  • “unattended mailbox”

THEN move the email to my “Robot Replies” folder.

Rules can also come in handy for highlighting or flagging important messages, such as those with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Develop your own email bounce best practices as new factors arise.

Creating a filter in Gmail

Make it a morning ritual

Remember to regularly check your reply address.

With smaller sends, you will probably be able to deal with replies from the comfort of your desktop email client. You may want to take a more distant approach if you’re a massive sender and simply check in once or twice a day.

Make it a routine, cup of coffee in hand, even if it’s been days after your last send. Sometimes relevant emails get filtered out too, so remember to give your “Robot Replies” folder a skim before you hit “Delete All.”

Email marketing best practices: how to leverage out-of-office replies

Many marketers confidently filter their out-of-office replies to a specific folder and leave them there indefinitely, which is a huge mistake.

You can use out-of-office bounces to your advantage. Instead of worrying about how to fix email bounce back, use these email marketing best practices to leverage your out-of-office replies.

1. Create a set of follow-up email campaigns.

We can’t overstate the importance of personalized emails. Not only do 67% of customers believe it’s important for brands to adapt their content for different contexts, but almost half of customers get frustrated when brands don’t use data they’ve collected to provide personalized material.

Create a set of follow-up email campaigns you can send out at a later date. Include a highly personalized message along with a special deal or coupon that relates to the person’s absence (if possible and appropriate).

  • Business trip
  • Vacation or pleasure
  • Death in the family
  • Birthday or holiday
  • General absence

Don’t go crazy with automation here. You definitely don’t want to be the brand that sends a “happy anniversary” message to someone who is mourning a family member’s passing.

With the right copy and tone, subscribers will care that you took a few seconds out of your day to think of them, and they’ll remember it.

Did you get an auto-reply after sending out your holiday weekend campaigns? Follow in the footsteps of Casper: send an extension coupon.

Did you get an auto-reply after sending out your holiday weekend campaigns? Follow in the footsteps of Casper: send an extension coupon.

Source: Really Good Emails

2. Update information about the subscriber.

Auto-responder emails give you an excellent opportunity to learn about your subscribers. Take note of everything they mention in their reply.

  • Are they traveling for business? Do they travel for business on a regular basis?
  • Do they travel for pleasure on a regular basis?
  • Where do they travel?
  • Is the subscriber’s family with them? Do they mention children or a spouse?
  • Which holidays do they celebrate or find significant?
  • What’s their job role or position in the company?
  • Are the contact details you have accurate?

Be careful not to take any contact information of people who haven’t specifically given you permission to contact them.

Pizza Hut knows birthdays aren’t the time for 15% off coupons; They’re the time for free stuff.

Pizza Hut knows birthdays aren’t the time for 15% off coupons; They’re the time for free stuff.

Source: Pinterest

3. Re-evaluate your metrics.

First, you’ll need to set up a new class of metrics for analyzing results from your follow-up messages sent after your subscriber returns. Since these campaigns are highly personalized, you’ll likely see high open rates and even conversions if you’ve included a coupon.

You’ll also want to take note of these subscribers’ future metrics. Did sending a personal “welcome back” message affect performance in subsequent campaigns? Did the subscriber take time to reply to your email?

Wrap up

Don’t worry too much about how to fix email bounce back from out-of-office replies. In most cases, the email will get delivered when the subscriber returns. The most important thing to do is send from a valid email address and use those auto-replies to your advantage, if you have the resources.

Do you need help creating automated emails and customer journeys based on triggered events? Dive into our in-depth guide to get started with the email marketing best practices on automation.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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