Dealing With the E-Mail Change of Address

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While e-mail has become a tremendous tool for customer relations, not all the luxuries we enjoy in our postal marketing efforts have entered the interactive world.


Since 1986, the U.S. Postal Service has helped save postal mailers millions of dollars through the National Change of Address program. With more than 40 million Americans changing their physical addresses annually, the NCOA program created the most comprehensive service to help marketers identify address changes. Unfortunately, there is no standardized process for notifying mailers of changes of e-mail addresses.


Communicating with existing customers has become far more frequent with the emergence of e-mail. Many marketers are e-mailing at least one house file message per month, and some are even sending a house file message per day. Yet most conservative estimates reflect a 20 percent annual change in e-mail addresses across the board. A problem arises when nonfunctioning or undeliverable messages are returned.


Just because an e-mail message is sent does not mean it will be received. An often overlooked aspect of e-mail marketing is the campaign bounce rate, or the amount of sent e-mail messages that are undeliverable to the intended recipient. Allowing e-mail address changes to diminish your e-mail customer database by 20 percent every year will have a dramatic effect on your overall business.


As a marketer, you can institute a simple process that will allow you to continue to communicate with your customers via e-mail. The first step is to collect all of the bounced e-mail addresses returned from a house file mailing and then match them up with their corresponding postal addresses. Once all the correct offline contact information has been gathered, a simple postcard mailing should be developed. Some of the more successful direct mail campaigns for updating e-mail addresses have provided individuals a premium for returning to the site to update their information.


A postcard mailing vs. the cost of acquiring a new customer should signal marketers to take a closer look at their bounced messages. Your e-mail transmission house or service bureau, if you use one, should be maintaining and continually updating your bounced message files.


Before matching the bounced e-mail address information and postal addresses, you should first retry to deliver the message. Instituting a second and third retry program is essential because destination servers can be temporarily out of service or unavailable. Sometimes, the servers that process incoming e-mail intermittently fail because of communication errors, hardware failures or local network problems.


These outages typically do not last for more than 24 hours, so an e-mail address that may appear invalid on a first attempt may actually prove 100 percent functional several hours later. A retry program may result in as much as a 30 percent delivery of previously bounced messages.


When initiating a retry program make sure to negotiate that no additional costs will be added to your overall transmission fee for the attempts made to deliver your original message.


Steps can be taken to lower the overall bounce rate of an e-mail marketing initiative. In all your house file e-mail messages, it is important to give the recipients the ability either to change their current e-mail address information or add additional addresses. Maintenance pages, where individuals can view and update their contact information on file, are the most common mechanism used. In each e-mail that is deployed, it is essential to link to a maintenance page or some other update procedure.


Gaining a better understanding of your bounce rate will improve your retention marketing efforts and allow for greater overall growth. Instituting retry programs and providing a maintenance page link in your house file e-mails will help overcome the growing problem of undeliverable e-mail messages.
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