How a 5x Marketo Champion Mines Email Replies for Valuable Data

Josh Hill, 5x Marketo Champion and a frequent speaker/writer on B2B demand generation, wrote a very thoughtful framework for mining email replies that hit home for many of our users. Josh is the Senior Manager of Marketing Automation at high-growth tech company and he runs Marketing Rockstar Guides where he has created some of the best guides to marketing automation you can find anywhere. His recent post outlines a thoughtful approach to automating reply management in Marketo and includes an awesome framework that we wanted to share.

Why did this topic make it onto Josh’s radar? Here’s how he sums it up:

“Email replies can be mined for valuable list building details, including new leads, bad leads, or organizational changes. Which salesperson doesn’t want a “Let’s chat” reply? Wouldn’t Marketing love to record a reply as a Success in a Program?”

Every B2B marketer has experienced the annoying flood of auto-replies that comes back after each email send. When looking at the overflowing marketing inbox, many people then start to ask: “How do I leverage the data in these replies?” Josh breaks down 5 simple and practical actions you can take from reply data:**

  • 1.) Update & Clean Records
  • 2.) Marketing Suspend for 14 days
  • 3.) Forward to Sales Rep
  • 4.) Extract New Contacts for Sales
  • 5.) Human Review

From these core actions, Josh maps in the different types of email replies and some useful notes and considerations for anyone setting up this automation (see the table in his post for details). Looking at each of these goals, here were my take-aways from the framework:

1.) Update & Clean Records

Reply types: Left Company or Retired, Bounce, or Human Unsubscribe. When an email address becomes invalid, these auto-replies will give you the data needed to clean-up records. Automating this process helps with deliverability and overall database health.

2.) Marketing Suspend for 14 Days

Reply types: Vacation, Out of Office, or Soft Bounce. Hitting the pause button on nurture campaigns when your contacts are out of office is one small step to ensuring your message is delivered at the right time for each of your prospects.

3.) Forward to Sales Rep

Reply types: Human Response, excluding Unsubscribe. With the rise of ABM and increased personalization, email marketing is becoming a more of a two-way channel. Surfacing the real human replies to your sales reps can help drive revenue and improve customer experience.

4.) Extract New Contacts for Sales

Reply types: Left Company, Out of Office, Vacation. We’ve found that 30-50% of the time auto-responders will contain a referral contact from the same company. Josh calls out the the “Left Company” use case as a particularly important opportunity to find a replacement for your now invalid lead. This is critical data for ABM and account-based sales.

5.) Human Review

Reply types: System, Unknown. Now that the vast majority of replies have been filtered and automatically processed, just a handful of messages need to be surfaced for human review. Generic system replies and emails that couldn’t be categorized automatically are worth a periodic human review. The good news in following Josh’s framework is that the human side of this process only applies to a handful of emails instead requiring that you sift through thousands.


This framework for extracting value from replies is one of the best we’ve seen to cover all the different scenarios and types of data. The post also details how to set-up Drift Email for Marketo to help automate this process at scale. On Drift Email’s capabilities, Josh says:

“Tools like Drift Email are a solid martech stack add on that helps marketing ops scale systems for just a few hours of setup work.[…] I recommend Drift Email to any marketing ops team. Humans should not spend hours filtering email replies – it’s not scalable. Drift Email’s support is solid, they are open to suggestions, and the product works.”

We were thrilled to received this review from Josh, but more importantly love to see experts in marketing operations and demand generation talking about unlocking the value of replies with our without our software.