Conventional wisdom says to optimize email campaigns for the times when your customers are at their desks. Here's a good reason to flip the script on that thinking occasionally, especially during major holidays like Thanksgiving. Sending when people are away from work will generate high volumes of "out of office" replies and these auto-responders can be converted into valuable data. Over 50% of the time, auto-replies contain new contacts (i.e. Sarah's OOO suggests contacting her colleague Steve, and includes his email and phone). Auto-replies also contain tons of information about your existing contacts that can improve data quality and deliverability. For this reason, many b2b marketers are designing campaigns to send during Thanksgiving week, especially Wednesday and Friday, and optimizing for "out of office" replies.

Let's breakdown the 3 benefits to getting those Thanksgiving week auto-replies:

1) Find new contacts for marketing and sales.

We've found that 50% of out of office messages contain a new contact. On average, B2B emails campaigns get 2-3% auto-replies per contact, but on Thanksgiving week you could see 20-50% auto-reply rates. If 25% of your contacts are out of office for Thanksgiving, and 50% of those have a new contact referenced, you can grow your database by 12.5% in just one email send. These new contacts can be a great way to broaden your coverage for ABM. Once you find all these new contacts, you can send them to your SDR team for personal outreach, include them in your LinkedIn ad targeting, send a soft touch email, or add to your direct mail program. However you decided to engage, you now have more coverage on your target accounts with validated new names.

2) Enrich existing contacts to optimize your next campaign.

When you get an out office reply it can contain information like an email signature, a mobile phone number, departure date, return date, a and vacation location. That's a lot of additional data and context to help you hit the mark next time you send a campaign to that contact. Now scale this across hundreds or thousands of auto-replies for Thanksgiving week and you can imagine the impact. The return date can be especially powerful to make sure you time your next message appropriately.

3) Validate data to improve list quality and deliverability.

There are likely some contacts in your database who have never engaged. When you look at these contacts, you may be asking: "are these even accurate emails? Is my data bad? Is this impacting my deliverability?" Getting an out of office reply is one simple way to validates that the email address you pinged is real. This can at least assure you that you aren't spending time and money sending mail into the ether. You won't validate your whole database by doing a Thanksgiving week send, but you could get optics for 20-50%.

Want to try this tactic during Thanksgiving week? Here's how to make it happen.

First, pick a segment of your database and schedule an email send for peak OOO volume. Focus on the segment where seeing auto-replies will be most valuable. It might be your least active prospects, it might be your outbound SDR account targets, or it could be your whole list.

Second, make sure you accept replies to a real inbox. These messages won't be hard bounces - they will come back as replies. If you use a "no reply" address that doesn't actual capture responses, then you'll miss all this important data. You want both the "from" and "reply to" fields pointed to an actual inbox (or a virtual inbox like Siftrock).

Third, categorize responses and mine the data. Once you have the replies, you need to extract all the critical intelligence and convert them into structured data that you can push into your marketing and sales tools. You can completely automate this process by using Siftrock. It even integrates with Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, and Act-On. If you want to drive more pipeline in Q4, why not get a Siftrock account for the holidays?

Adam Schoenfeld
Adam Schoenfeld
Adam is CEO and Co-Founder at Siftrock, data geek, golfer, and breakfast enthusiast. He is passionate about data, marketing, and creating simple solutions to big business problems.
Published Sunday, November 20th 2016