One of the most common questions I’ve been asked in regard to email newsletter campaigns is the differences between hard bounces and soft bounces.

Most professional mass email applications, including Jack in the box’s own Mailbox system, allows for the client to view activity reports on their active e-newsletter campaigns. The bounce rates of any email campaign is an important number that you’ll want to keep a close eye on if you want to make the most out of the database you are working from. You may have heard the axiom “He who has the largest database wins!” from the world of sales, but it’s no good having a large database if a large portion of your contacts are ‘rotten’.

A great database for the purpose of email marketing is akin to having a great lawn. Campaigning with a poor database is just as wasteful as watering a very large lawn infested with weed … sure the water is getting to the good areas of grass, but it’s also being wasted on those unwanted weeds.

The smart thing about mailing systems like our own Mailbox, is that you get instantaneous feedback on when your emails are being delivered successfully, and when they are bounced if they hit a ‘weed’.

A hard bounce occurs when the outgoing mail system receives a definite failure code, as a result in the case of a dead account, a failed email address, or where the email server does not exist at the time of sending (i.e the server could be down) etc. In these circumstances, it’s a good idea to check the email address for any obvious errors, such as leaving off the .au prefix from an Australia based mail server, or a simple spelling mistake, then make the necessary corrections.

A soft bounce is logged when the recipients email address exists, but the email is temporarily undeliverable. This will occur when the recipients mailbox is full, or when the recipient has set up an automatic out-of-office auto-reply while they are off on holidays. In our Mailbox system, these contacts will be kept in the database, but the system will automatically unsubscribe an email address after three consecutive soft bounces, where as hard bounces are automatically unsubscribed.

If you want to make the most out of your email campaigns, I recommend you take a little time to maintain your database, it could be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal (or toolshed). And like a healthy beautiful lawn, it needs a little tender love and care to make it remarkable.