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How to Turn Hard Bounces into Happy Customers

by Paul Sokol

Post image for How to Turn Hard Bounces into Happy Customers

With the advent of the visual Campaign Builder, it’s easier than ever to quickly implement automated processes to support your business’ needs. As an Infusionsoft user, maintaining a clean active list of contacts can sometimes be a challenge, especially for those who have larger email lists. Managing hard bounces is important so you can get their emails to your contacts’ inboxes reliably and to keep your email reputation on the up and up.

You might recall from Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote at InfusionCon last year, he shared that his team reaches out to every person who unsubscribes from the WineLibrary email list and as a result, he’s seen a notable increase in sales and keeps his email list clean. Email marketing expert DJ Waldow examined this post-unsubscribe strategy and suggested it’s a good practice when you respect people’s time and privacy. Well, you can do the same thing easily within Infusionsoft, too.

For the scope of this tutorial, we’ll focus only on hard bounces, but you could apply this strategy to your unsubscribes. Just a reminder, people that unsubscribe will no longer receive automated messages, but you can still legally contact them manually or one-off email message for up to nine days after they unsubscribe.

However large your email list might be, it’s a best practice to make sure that your list is free from bad email addresses. If you send an email to a bad email address, it will come back as a Hard Bounce, which basically means the email does not exist anymore. If sent emails continue to hard bounce, this can actually impact your sender reputation and inbox placement. With Infusionsoft, we will automatically detect email address that result in hard bounces and prevent those people from receiving future emails. We do this to protect the reputation of our users and to maintain industry leading email deliverability. Yay for intelligent automation!

Plus, if you have customers with a bad email address, unless you have offline campaigns running, they aren’t really doing anything other than taking up space in your database.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Between all the day-to-day activities, how can I possibly stay on top of my bad email addresses (which takes a lower priority than my other tasks)?” The answer is simple: use automation!

This is an example of using an Automated Hard Bounce Email Recovery Campaign

Pictured above, I created this campaign with an Infusionsoft user recently and it was so simple and effective that I couldn’t keep it just to myself. The idea is simple: If any email hard bounces, automatically trigger two phone calls to that person to try and get an updated email address. Once that has been done, you can indicate that you’ve obtained a good email address with a simple Note Template. If there they no longer have an active email address, you can indicate that as well and prevent a second call task from being dispatched.

You can build this entire setup in about five minutes. Seriously!

Before building the campaign, there are only two things you need to do:

1. Go to Main Navigation > CRM > Settings > Tags and create a ‘Hard Bounce’ tag in an ‘Email Engagement’ category.
2. Go into Main Navigation > Marketing > Settings > Email Status Automation and create a trigger that applies the ‘Email Engagement > Hard Bounce’ tag when an email bounces at least once and is a hard bounce.

Now, you are ready to go into the Campaign Builder and implement this puppy!

The first goal is a Tag applied goal. Which tag kicks off this sequence? You guessed it, the ‘Email Engagement > Hard Bounce’ tag we just created. So now, when the email status trigger tags them as a hard bounce, it will start this recovery campaign.

The model for the Automated Hard Bounce Email Recovery sequence

The Recovery sequence itself contains two tasks that run one week apart. Inside each task, here’s a suggestion for what you can use for the Type, Title and Body:

Content for the Automated Hard Bounce Email Recovery Call Task

The second goal is a Note applied goal indicating that we have indeed received a good email address. The resulting sequence only removes the ‘Hard Bounce’ tag. This ensures that if their email hard bounces again in the future, this process will repeat itself. Also, by applying the note it will stop the Recovery Sequence; so if you reach them on the first call the system will not schedule a second call since the goal has been achieved.

The 'Hard Bounce Tag Removal' sequence model

Now you can go about your usual business and if an email hard bounces, you’ll get a task to follow up with that person. Once you get a good email address, just update it on their record and process the note. Done! Simple, yet effective.

If you really want to take it to that next level, you can build a Hard Bounce recovery widget for your dashboard too!

Go to the Main Navigation > Admin > Reports > Task Note Report. Hit ‘Start Over’ to build a new report. Setup your search criteria and columns to look like this:

Search criteria and column setup for a Hard Bounce Recovery Call Report

Click the green Search button and then hit Save at the top. Name the report ‘Hard Bounce Calls’, then check the box to put it on your user home page and hit Save! Now, you’ll never have to worry about emails that hard bounce. And you’ll be the first to know when they happen and what to do.

Do you have any ideas on how I can take this campaign and kick it up a notch? Leave a comment and let me know!

Update: You can download this campaign free into your Infusionsoft account from the Infusionsoft Marketplace.

  • Jonathan Thompson

    I like these recent type of posts. Detailed instructions on how to implement new processes. And the keynote from Gary Vaynerchuk’s was awesome! I still think about a lot of what he said. I implemented many of his suggestions this year.

    • Paul Sokol

      Glad you enjoyed it Jonathan!

      Which of Gary’s suggestions do you think has had the biggest impact on your business so far?

  • Lynn Mathers

    Paul! THANK YOU !! This has been a task nagging at me for a while now; “Someday when I have time I would like to go back and call all these “bounced” people and get a new email address for them…” This is just what I need to actually “put it on the calendar” and get her done!

    I love these kinds of simple solutions, with detailed steps and screenshots of the campaign builder process! Please share more if you come across them!

    • Paul Sokol

      You are most welcome Lynn!

      I plan to come up with lots more simple ‘campaigns’ like this that can help any revenue growing or time saving activity that people are reaching for.

      What other kinds of processes like this would you want to see? Where do you get stuck? What do you HATE to do, but know that it is critical that it be done?

      • Lynn Mathers

        (hmm… how about something for SOFT bounces?)

        • Paul Sokol

          I actually saw something about that the other day. It would pretty much be the same structure, except the trigger is when it is a ‘Soft Bounce – Mailbox Full’ :)

  • Wil

    “What’s the ROI of your Mother?”

    Paul this is an excellent post. I’ve been wondering what to do about all those Hard Bounce emails. I am stuck on your steps above, however. I’ve never built a campaign and so I’m stuck there.

    Reading this post will motivate me to be sure to read every Infusionsoft blog post that comes out now. This is powerful.

    Thus far, I’ve created my tag “Email Engagement -> Hard Bounce” tag. Now, I will go through the resources to learn how to build that campaign.

  • Nathan Paris

    Love this post Paul. Really simple, but a follow up that many forget about, or just dont have an easy means to do.

  • Rebecca Arendt

    Awesome information! I just created this campaign and published it in 10 minutes. Thank you.

    • Paul Sokol

      You’re very welcome :)

      To fostering great relationships through automation, huzzah!

  • Adam Lipkin

    Paul, awesome post. These are exactly the kind of posts we need. Solid hacks for users. Infusionsoft is such a great tool but what makes the platform amazing are the people like you that provide awesome ways to implement it. Thanks! I added another step to the recovery sequence some folks may like. If you’ve integrated an SMS text platform and have the person’s mobile number, you can send an http post to the person. Sample message —– It’s “your first name” with “your company”. Your email, ‘email address”,just bounced back. pls text me back your email again to make sure you receive future messages from us.

    • Paul Sokol

      That is a super ninja extension to the campaign!

      As far as it being a ‘hack’, it really isn’t. It’s all stuff you can do out of the box. It just takes a bit of creativity (like your SMS idea) and the patience to figure out how to make it work.

      If they reply with an email, does the system automatically update their email? Because that would be nuts. Totally hands off hard bounce recovery!

  • Aymeric

    Hi Paul, I can’t believe it! I was doing it all one by one before and had to stay on top of it before the next campaign came along but now we can automate it, YAY this is really awesome!!

    I’m new to IS and I’m a bit lost when it comes to your last step ‘configure a note template’ with the phone icon ‘Hard Bounce-Email Updated’ When I click on it, I put action type ‘call’, description ‘Hard Bounce-Email Updated’ and creation notes ‘This email was successfully updated’ (I did similar to this but with the Hard Bounce-no phone) Am I doing this right?

    Thanks again for this AW-SO-ME post and looking forward to more of these :)

    • Aymeric

      One more question: what is the best way to handle those contacts that have Hard Bounced and have no phone number? So far, I’ve manually opted them out from their contact detail page. Is this is the best practice to handle them or would you suggest something else?

      • Paul Sokol

        Glad you found it valuable Aymeric!

        As for the note setup, it sounds like you are doing it correctly. Just like how you can have a pre-authored email template for a certain purpose, you can have pre-authored notes; this is what we are using here.

        For people that hard bounce with no phone number, I would just apply the ‘Hard Bounce – No Phone’ note to their record, complete the task and forget about it.

        If someone’s email hard bounces, the system will automatically skip them for campaign emails and broadcasts. Sending emails that hard bounce can impact the deliverability of your emails so its like a built in safety switch in the software.

        If anything, just remove whatever newsletter/subscriber tags they might have since this will throw your actual subscriber counts off. If you have 1000 people with a newsletter tag, but 100 of them are hard bounces, you REALLY only have 900 newsletter subscribers.

        Pro-tip: If you do want to remove some tags, just add another sequence after the Hard Bounce-No Phone goal that removes the tags you want. No sense in wasting time with extra interaction if you are already applying a note :)

        By the way, about how much time do you think this campaign will save you every week?

        • Aymeric

          Thanks… it’s all working very well now on our side. To answer your question: the campaign itself will most probably save me 30 minutes a week. However, I have already been able to sign up a couple of clients by calling the hard bounce: found out who the new person in charge was, told them about us and voila! I was unable to do this with my previous email program… looking forward to more of these campaigns! Cheers :)

          • Paul Sokol

            That is a pretty amazing success story! Reminds me a lot of the Gary Vaynerchuk method of calling people who opt out.

            Essentially, this campaign frees up an extra 2 hrs/month for you.

            Just imagine what you can do with an extra 120 minutes :)

  • Jason Fonceca

    Wow… it`s simple and elegant, I`m definitely impressed. Great job, Paul. As well, even though I`m not an InfusionSoft user, this post definitely peaked my interest :)

  • Cindy Hank Morus

    I need a little more info on the Note Template. Where do I put it? I’ve followed all your steps so far but am stuck on that. Can you provide an example?

    OK. I created 2 email notes but how will it know which one to apply? Thanks.

    • Paul Sokol

      To use a note template from the contact record view, scroll down to the Notes section and you’ll see a dropdown with all available notes.

      To use a note template from My Day view, select the note section and Add Note; this is where the dropdown for templated Notes lives :)

  • Tim

    Hey Paul great post, implemented in less than 5 minutes. I have a question though, can you tell why the following is occurring?

    When I go to a contacts record to apply the note, I see 4 options in the note template dropdown. I see 1) A Note Draft, 2) A Note Draft, 3) Hard Bounce – Email Updated and 4) Hard Bounce – Email Updated.

    The “A Note Draft” is actually the “Hard Bounce – No Phone” note template. Any idea why the title doesn’t show up correctly and why they are both duplicated?

    • Paul Sokol

      This is something that should be fixed in a recent maintenance release.

      Are you still seeing this Tim?

      • Tim

        Yes, still seeing it.

        • Paul Sokol

          Shoot me a quick email paul.sokol (at) and we’ll see about getting this fixed :)

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