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One of our customers asks us to send out marketing mail. We manage their subscriber list in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and use a remote desktop tool to send the mails through their network via the Sendgrid SMTP server. When they receive unsubscribe requests after another mass mailing, they pass this along to us and we manually deactivate the relevant contacts in CRM. The unsubsribe link happens through a reply mail with the subject "unsubscribe".

With a recent unsubscribe wave, we found that about a dozen of the email addresses that sent such a reply, we could not find in our system, neither when searching for the first name, the last name, the email address, the domain nor parts of any of these. This isn't just "they're in there, but with a slightly different email address", because we found and deactivated a number of those through searching for the names. This is a case of "Either they're not in the system, or they're in the system with completely different credentials."

Obviously the method we're using for unsubscription is flawed and we're currently investigating alternative methods of managing the mailing list, but the problem is that those email addresses asked to be unsubscribed, but we are unable to unsubscribe them because we cannot find their registered address. If we do not unsubscribe them, we run the risk of blacklists and complaints about spam, which will affect the reach of the mailing, our reputation and our client's reputation.

How should this situation be handled?

  • Is there anyway for you to create a block list, and add all those who to subscribe to that? And then compare that to your send list on each mailout? – wildandjam Jun 19 '14 at 13:17
  • that wouldn't really help, because I still have no way to compare the block list to the list I'm preparing to send. Even if I made a list of unsubscribed contacts, I cannot match the unsubscribed contacts to the contacts that are in the system. My problem is that ex. I need to unsub John Doecile (a pretty unique name) with email john.doecile@example.com, but I have noone with the last name Doecile, nor do I have something like Doecile.John@example.com or John.Doecile@example.net or JDoecile@example.com that might conceivably be a match. – Nzall Jun 19 '14 at 13:19
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Email Forwarding

Email forwarding can often break email-based unsubscribe requests. If you are using a simple mailto link within the emails, then when they click this in their final email client, the return value will be populated with the final destination email -- which of course you may have never seen or recorded.

For example, if you send email to johndoe@domain.com and it is forwarded to janedoe@domain.com, when Jane Doe clicks your mailto link, the email will be from Jane Done, which you likely do not have in your system.

If you are sending HTML based email, I highly recommend that you use web-based unusbscription methods. This allows you to hard code the original email or a token so you can remove the original email from your list.

If you are sending text based email, then your options may be limited. Certainly mailing list software can handle forwards but the users have to use the Reply-To or Forward feature of their email clients. This preserves the original email which the software scans for a matching subscribing address.

  • We think the redirects is what we're struggling with. We already have decided to implement a solution involving web-based unsubscription linked to the contact in Dynamics CRM. Our struggle is how we could ethically handle those 12 unsubscribes that for now, we cannot match to an actual email address. They mailed to unsubscribe, so they're expecting no more messages from us, but we cannot figure out who they are in our system. – Nzall Jun 19 '14 at 14:37
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    I recommend personally emailing them again - not from your list - and simply explain that you cannot find their email and perhaps they subscribed with a different email. Advise them if they receive another email to forward that response to you directly and you will personally get them removed. That will likely result in a better outcome than continuing to mail them and get spam complaints. Be sure to include full contact info on your email -- including a phone -- most people will not call but it lends to credibility. – jeffatrackaid Jun 19 '14 at 14:41
  • I think replying (by email) is the only thing you can do. However, this is potentially open to abuse, as it's now possible to unsubscribe another user without email validation - unless you are able to validate some other personally identifiable information? – MrWhite Jun 20 '14 at 18:57

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