Feb 24, 2010

Role addresses are not people

When you import a list into MailChimp, we reject any "role" addresses that might be on the list. I’m talking about emails like  webmaster@, info@, sales@, etc. Instead, we’ll give you a message that looks like this:


so if you have role addresses on your account that you know should receive your email marketing, we make you manually input those addresses.

That’s because role addresses are built for functions, not people

In other words, they’re often forwarded to multiple employees in a company, and they often change owners.  So it’s pretty obvious how sending your newsletter to a role address can lead to spam complaints that jeopardize the deliverability of our system. We even have a handy "tell me more" link to our knowledge base explaining all this, just in case. And manually inputting role addresses is a lot easier than manually begging to get off blacklists. Yet people still complain about having to manually input role addresses.

I think I know why. Even though we explain the reason for doing what we do, we offer no handy tips on how they can solve their problem quickly and easily.

So here’s a way you can deal with this. It’s not going to be super quick and easy, but if you really want those role addresses on your list, and if you really care about deliverability, it’s worth it.

After you import your list into MailChimp, and we provide you with a list of the rejected role addresses, download that list to your computer.

Next, go to the Lists page in MailChimp, and click on the "forms" link for that list you just created:


at the top of the next page, you’ll get a link to your MailChimp-hosted signup form:


Copy that URL.

Now go to your email program and BCC that link to the small handful of subscribers that you know are real human beings and that truly want your email marketing, but who insisted on using a role address when they originally subscribed to your list. I’m assuming it’s a handful. If it’s thousands of role addresses, (where BCC’ing is not a possibility), we’ve got a deeper problem here. Omnivore is likely to shut down your account, because a high percentage of role addresses pretty much smells like a purchased email list.

Anyway, send that handful of addresses a personal note from your own desktop email program, with your own email address as the reply-to, and using your own ISP or company mail server to distribute the message. If the prospect of dealing with the spam complaints and delivery issues that arise from mass-BCC’ing is bothering you now, then yeah—now you know why we feel the way we do about role addresses and preventing abuse complaints.

But if it’s just a handful of people you know, and who are already used to receiving emails from you, everything will be just fine.

Use a personal note like this:

Hello friends, customers, and subscribers.

I’m moving my email marketing to a product called MailChimp. Yeah, the name’s funny and all, but it’s actually a super powerful tool that will make my life a lot easier, and get useful content to you more efficiently and reliably.

Anyway, you signed up to my list a while back using your company’s role address. Something like "sales@" or "webmaster@"

Problem is, MailChimp won’t let me use that role address, because your company might be forwarding incoming mail to multiple people. Furthermore, those people will often change departments. It’s this philosophical thing they have. I dunno.

So this means that if you want to continue receiving my awesome content, please subscribe to my list using your own, individual  email address.

Here’s the link to sign up:

[link to your MailChimp signup form]



You might even consider customizing your welcome emails to include some kind of free prize, or free useful resource (like a whitepaper, PDF guide, whatever). That way, in the letter above, you can actually give people an incentive to go through "all that work" of signup up to your list again. Hopefully, your content’s so darn good, they’ll gladly go sign up, regardless of prize (but people still like those prizes!).

Again, we understand that this creates work for you, the publisher, and also work for that handful of recipients who signed up with role addresses. But over the years we’ve seen a lot of people get into a lot of trouble sending emails to role addresses that forward to someone who never signed up for anything.

It’s an unbelievable hassle proving your innocence to all the parties involved. You have to explain your situation to your ESP, the recipient who’s complaining, any ISP abuse desks that are blocking you, and that anti-spam organization that’s now globally blocking all emails that contain your company’s domain name (no matter where or who the emails are sent from).

Trust us. We know it’s an inconvenience, but when it comes to email marketing, an ounce of abuse prevention is worth a pound of role addresses.