The e-newsletter problem they don't tell you about

The e-newsletter problem you don’t know about

Don’t get me wrong. Sending an e-newsletter is a great idea. I’ve gained thousands of dollars of business from my subscribers. But there’s an e-newsletter problem nobody tells you about.

The problem? Delivery.

Your newsletters may fail to reach your subscribers’ in-boxes for reasons that have little to nothing to do with you. You can avoid some, but not all of these problems, by using a provider of e-newsletter services—like Constant Contact, MailChimp, or aWeber—instead of sending your newsletter via your email client, as I discussed in “Do NOT send your newsletter via your email.” But you’ll experience problems even with those providers.

Bounce list reveals problem

You may think that all of your newsletters are reaching your subscribers. But they’re not. For one thing, some subscribers divert your newsletters from their inbox using rules to divert them to other folders. An email provider like Gmail may direct your newsletters on its own initiative to a separate tab called Promotions. Also, some subscribers may forget they subscribed and mark your newsletter as spam. That’s for starters.

There’s more, which I discovered from going through my newsletter’s “bounce list,” a list of subscribers whom Constant Contact says didn’t receive my newsletters.

Every month I go through the “bounce list” for my monthly and weekly newsletters. Sometimes the bounces are temporary, as when an inbox gets overloaded while someone is out of the office. Other times, though not too often, the bounce reports are false, as I discover when I contact the bounced email addresses, and my subscribers say, “Susan, I’m getting your newsletters. I just read one.”

I think the most typical reason for bounces is that the subscriber’s company or internet service provider (ISP) blocks e-newsletters. There are ways for subscribers to request that their company of ISP allow your newsletter through. But that can be time-consuming for the subscriber.

One of my most surprising discoveries was that it can take years for an invalid email address to bounce. I only learn this when I go the person’s LinkedIn profile to contact them about a bounce, and I see they left their job long ago. Apparently, some companies don’t immediately deactivate email addresses of employees who leave. I can see keeping an email address active for one to three months. Keeping it active for one to three years, without even activating an autoresponder about the person’s departure, seems crazy to me.

What’s the fix?

There is no easy fix to this e-newsletter problem. One approach is to chip away gradually at undelivered emails by contacting subscribers on your bounce list. Ask them to update their email addresses or take other measures to ensure your newsletter reaches them. There can be a silver lining to this practice, as I discussed in “Boost your newsletter list’s power with this tip.”

Another approach is to periodically review lists of newsletter non-openers. You can then contact those who’ve been inactive for a prolonged period, asking if they’d like to unsubscribe. I’ve made a step in that direction, but I’ve found that identifying longtime inactive subscribers is a clunky, hands-on process with Constant Contact. Other providers may make it easier. For example, I believe some providers make it possible to generate a list of those who haven’t opened a newsletter for X number of months. Last time I checked, Constant Contact didn’t offer that feature.

Have YOU found a better fix to this problem? If so, I’d love to hear from you.