• United States

Combating e-mail bounce-back

Jun 30, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

Online tools help manage unwieldy databases, keep contacts current.

Online tools help manage unwieldy databases, keep contacts current

Phillip Mrozinski had the outdated-database blues. The independent financial planner relied on a CardScan scanner to capture business card information. But his efforts to build a large database worked almost too well: His contact list had ballooned to nearly 2,500 entries and had become unmanageable.

Outdated entries meant e-mail bounce-backs were frequent, and phone numbers he called sometimes had been disconnected or changed. “It’s a real problem,” says the Boca Raton, Fla., consultant — one that sometimes made his database seem useless.

Some 37 million people and 2.4 million small businesses in the U.S. relocate each year, according to the U.S. Postal Service. And New York e-mail forwarding service Return Path speculates that nearly a third of all e-mail addresses change annually. How do you keep up?

Several Web-based services want to help. Their products automatically (or with prompting) e-mail everyone on your list and request they confirm or correct their information.

“People’s databases get out of control, too many bad contacts and too much dead wood,” says Karen Fredricks, president of Tech Benders, a Boca Raton technology consulting firm and certified Act consultant and trainer. “These services allow you to maintain a good, healthy database,” she says.

In January, Mrozinski turned to AccuCard, a free service offered by Corex for buyers of its $300 CardScan business card scanner. Similar services are also available from AddresSender, Plaxo and GoodContacts.

You configure the service to run automatically or on a schedule, then select the contacts to query. The service sends messages to all selected contacts requesting the recipient verify the contact information. If the data is correct, the recipient clicks “Yes – Confirm” in the e-mail. If corrections are needed, he clicks “No – Modify,” which launches a browser window where the recipient can make changes. Corrections are then e-mailed back to the user, who can choose to have the contact updated automatically or upon review.

This is by no means a perfect system. If the e-mail reaches an undeliverable address, it bounces back to the sender, creating more e-mail. And there’s no way to ensure recipients open the e-mail and respond. Consider ways to personalize the message so it attracts attention and isn’t deleted as spam.   

Plaxo is free, and works with Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. GoodContacts Solo costs $50 per year and works with Outlook, Outlook Express and databases with less than 10,000 names. An upgrade module to Act costs $50; an upgrade module to Microsoft Exchange and ODBC databases costs $400.

AddresSender works with Act, Outlook and Outlook Express. Prices vary, depending on frequency of updates. Accucard works with Act and Goldmine, and currently is beta testing for Outlook.