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Improve Your Email Bounce Management in Marketo Engage


Email campaign operations teams often take the lead on managing the actual email send process, but can also help your company maintain deliverability and sender reputation.

This blog focuses on the impact of bounces on your email marketing efforts and how to successfully manage them in Marketo Engage.

What is an email bounce?

An email bounces when the recipient’s email server says “REJECTED!” and refuses to deliver or accept your email. Often the offended server provides you with a coded response as to why it denied your marketing efforts, and we put these in two categories: soft bounces and hard bounces.

Soft bounces usually indicate temporary errors that prevent your email from being delivered. Typical reasons for a soft bounce include the recipient having a full inbox, server timeouts, and other technical issues.

Hard bounces indicate a more permanent or serious problem including a user is not found, email address is invalid, or your domain is registered on a spam or block list by the recipient’s email server.

Why should companies manage bounces in their marketing automation platform?

A consistently high bounce rate is a red flag for your email service provider (ESP) and can lead to them suspending or even canceling your account. This can also land you on global spam or block lists and make it impossible for your emails to land in the inbox.

Most marketing automation platforms (MAPs) have some form of built-in management of hard bounces, such as automatically setting records to Email Invalid.

Chronic soft bounces should also be managed in order to maintain a clean database and protect your sender reputation. Marketing operations managers often need to create their own solution here and there are several ways to approach this.

When should a company create a bounce management program?

Email delivery programs, including bounce management, are often some of the first programs we recommend for setting up a new MAP instance – especially if your team expects to send a large volume of emails.

How can you create a bounce management program in Marketo Engage?

A simple bounce management program is easy to build and customizable to your business’ specifications. It can even include a Bounce Directory of Smart Lists and reports to provide greater visibility into the bounce categories and volume of bounced records.

Using the example in the image to the right, let’s dive into the specifics of this bounce management process:

In this instance, when a bounce message is received, a Marketo scoring field is updated, Bounce Counter, +1 to indicate that a bounce has occurred regardless of type. When this counter reaches a determined threshold, a Soft Bounce Exclusion campaign is executed. This marks the record Marketing Suspended and updates the Marketing Suspended reason with details.

When a hard bounce occurs, particularly a Category 2 (email invalid) bounce, the Hard Bounce Exclusion campaign is executed. While Marketo automatically marks these records with Email Invalid, this updates the Marketing Suspended field and adds a Marketing Suspended Reason field which can be referenced in future reporting and audits.

When a record on the !Active Bounce Lists logs a successful email delivery, the Bounce Counter is set to =0 and the campaign removes them from the list. This allows records to reset when temporary bounce errors are resolved, while frequently bouncing emails are removed from future email campaigns.
Who should manage email deliverability at your company?
The more diverse our multi-channel marketing channels become, one constant remains: email marketing. In most businesses, it’s the bedrock of prospect and customer communication.

Given its ubiquitous nature, everyone at your company should be in charge of maintaining best practices for email deliverability including:

  • Utilizing permissions-based marketing processes
  • Maintaining data hygiene and keeping your database up-to-date
  • Sending valuable email content that is relevant to your target audience
  • Honoring opt-out and data-removal requests
  • Refraining from over-emailing records into oblivion


Adding additional operational processes and transparent reporting for bounces in your MAP can improve your overall deliverability, and email marketing stats, and protect your sender reputation. This is a quick and easy way to proactively manage your sender reputation – what’s stopping you?

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