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An AOL Email Address That Cost a Business Owner $32,000

We all make mistakes in running a business, and I hear a lot of horror stories all the time. Once in a while I’ll hear about some really strange horror stories and maybe this one isn’t strange but the impact felt was pretty intense.

It’s something that could have easily been avoided, and really it should be a “first step” when you’re starting a business.

This happened a few years ago but I just remembered the conversation I had since someone asked me a question about sending email to a client that has an AOL email address. He kept getting his message declined by the mail server.

It slipped my mind once again, and then I had the same issue I just tried helping him solve. Somebody emailed me with a question about Mobile Renegade (I’m an affiliate) and I tried responding… only to get the same message declined, mail undeliverable email.

Lets get to it!

The $32,000 Mistake That Could Have Been Avoided…

and it’s my fault…

So this client of mine, paid for hosting and website design services. Of course I can include email and set them up but after the project was done and name servers changed to one of my servers I send out an automated email to let me know if they want any emails set up with the domain name instead of using a free service like

He asked if we can wait a bit to set those up because he wasn’t ready to make the transition. No problem, less work for me.

The reason I say it’s my fault is because I let it go without pushing the issue. I never followed up about the emails, I figured if he wants them then he’ll let me know.

I could have followed up, I could have explained how it’s important, but I never would have imagined that the thing that would make him move and let me know he’s ready, was because he lost out on a 32K job.

He said he talked to a client, a previous client that uses him for a lot of work wanted a proposal on a job and it’s was something he needed quick because they were “ready to act”. He asked for the client to send him over the job specs and he’ll get a quote over to him ASAP.

Well what happened next is that I guess the client sent the specs and scope of the work.

The problem? AOL rejected the message.

Usually when AOL rejects a message your mail server will send an email to you about the message being undeliverable. Perhaps my client’s client, didn’t have a mail server that did that.

It’s easy to think that maybe my client should have called and followed up on the job in a day or two, but he did follow up a week later. Unfortunately, a week later was a week later too late!

The job was needed for a quick roll out of fleet vehicles, my client does fleet installations and vehicle wraps along with billboards and other signage. Within a couple days of not hearing back from my client, his “lead” received a quote from another company, and the sale was closed.

During the follow up, a week later, he got the information about the job and asked how much “the other guy” bid the project at.

The competing bid was for $39,000. My client said he would have bid the project at $32,000.

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What Can You Learn From This?

You should always push your clients to have a “branded” email address, ESPECIALLY if their existing email is with AOL.

The common problem with email addresses is that if you have a shared server and send email, you will often times get this message in response:

This is the mail system at host

I’m sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be delivered to one or more recipients. It’s attached below.

For further assistance, please send mail to postmaster.

If you do so, please include this problem report. You can delete your own text from the attached returned message.

The mail system

<>: delivery temporarily suspended: host[] refused to talk to me: 421 4.7.1 :

So if you have clients or even leads that use aol email addresses, you should try convincing them to go another way for their email. If not, and you need to get a hold of them via email and you don’t want to use a personal gmail or other email address then you should send a “whitelist” request through their postmaster website.

Don’t let your clients suffer the same fate that mine did.

Have you had problems sending to AOL emails in the past? Let me know in the comments below!


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