New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Be Stupid

Okay, that might be a bit harsh. Perhaps the resolution should be: “I resolve to stop and take a breath before hitting the ‘Send’ button.” Maybe it is because we all spent a bit too much time in that strange place called Christmasland during December but there were some very high (and a lot of very low) profile errors during December that could have been easily avoided.

Starting with the high profile, the New York Times accidentally offered more than 8.6 million people a half-price subscription in an email meant for a few hundred, because they sent it to the wrong list (http://bit.ly/uHerov). It is one thing to send an email to the wrong list when it is about the same size as the one intended, but to be off by a factor of 10,000…!

Another much lower profile (in the sense that The Guardian did not write an article about it) but potentially just as damaging case occurred to a client who sent an email with some broken links and images. After the obligatory call to both Support and his account manager, we discovered that the client had sent a test message. Now you are probably asking yourself what we asked the client: “If you noticed that the links and images were broken in the test message, why did you send the email to your customers?” The answer was delivered without embarrassment or acknowledgement of the obvious: “We were under time pressure to get it out.”

So, for 2012 I ask all email marketers to do the following before each email Send:

  1. Ask a colleague who did not help you write the email to proofread it. If a colleague is not available, use spouses, partners, the postman, or even English-speaking baristas.
  2. Send a test message to a number of accounts on a number of platforms.
  3. Go into each test message and make sure it looks as you intended.
  4. On one of the test messages click on all of the links and make sure they go to the page you intended.
  5. Think about the list you are going to use for the campaign and without looking at it write down the number of people you expect to receive the email on a piece of paper. This part is important because by writing it down, you will be less tempted to look at the number and convince yourself that it is right and you are wrong.
  6. Now look at the stats for the list; are the numbers similar?
  7. If you really want to be sure, pull a couple of random recipients out of the list to see if based on your segmentation you would expect them to receive the email.
  8. Go make a cup of tea to give your brain a few minutes to catch your pending mistake.
  9. Send your email.

I should also add that you should make sure you monitor the stats for your campaign while it runs its natural course but that is probably a separate resolution.

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Skip Fidura

About Skip Fidura

Skip Fidura who is the Group Digital Director and Client Serviecs Director to the dotDigital Group has been in marketing for over fifteen years, having worked in contact centres, direct marketing, customer analysis, and digital marketing. 

Most recently Skip was Email Partner at OgilvyOne London and prior to that he was the Director of European Operations for Acxiom Digital.  He has worked with clients such as Hallmark, BT, Kodak, hp, and Travelocity.co.uk.

  • Webwriter

    Great advice.  I failed to apply a couple of your rules and sent an email to 25 fairly high managers (Fortune 500 company) when I though I was sending to an individual.  I had a mailing list with a name too close to the individual.  It was a fairly negative email, but fortunately several got a chuckle out of it.  I was stupid!