The Pitfalls of Rushing Your Emails

Someone once told me that, “no one ever died from not getting an email,” but I can remember one time when I felt like I might die when my email did not go as planned. It was many years ago that I was sending out my first major email campaign a couple of weeks into a new job. The target audience was approximately 80,000 people, which was larger than any other email send that I had done. After spending carefully crafting every word, every detail, and performing round after round of tests, the email was finally approved.

The email had to be sent out by 10am that day and it was already 9:35am. I created the smart campaign in Marketo and carefully configured the smart list to include only current customers and prospects with a status of “Open,” which, for this organization, meant they had no idea about the lead’s status. After the final approval, I sat there looking that the “Run Now” button thinking through the email and the membership. Everything looked correct. There was an adrenaline rush when I clicked on the button at about 9:55am; five minutes to spare.

About ten minutes later, the CEO came over to my desk and hovered over me. His face was red and I could tell he was trying to hold back all those thought bubbles exploding around him.  He asked if I suppressed everyone that had a lead status of “dead”. I responded with, “no, they would’ve been suppressed by Marketo if it was unqualified,” but then alarms when off in my head. No, I hadn’t filtered out people with status = “dead”. “So, you sent email to dead people?” I admitted that I hadn’t checked for that, and then he walked off and had to call with one of those “dead” people—one of the investors!

I’ve sent hundreds of thousands of emails since then, and I am still very much alive, but I have more gray hair. After all these years, I still get that jittery feeling while sending out our company holiday e-card this year. Luckily my mistakes from the past made this send a lot easier, and I hope my hard-won tips will help you too.

In terms of leads impacted, emails are probably the single biggest thing marketers do, so it’s a good idea to just keep a simple checklist for those jobs. I find that the times we become complacent and let our guard down is when things go wrong. Here are some of my check-off items. If you have some good gems to add, please do so by adding them to the comments for this blog on our website.

Email Checklist

  • Create a seed list – A group of people who will proof your email, so you can get everyone’s “approved” before sending. It’s easy and it’s fun, and you can reward people for finding mistakes, so it’s not such a hassle.
  • Always set the send to some future time – 10:00am on a Tuesday or a Thursday. Remember, emails won’t actually go out at the exact moment you they are scheduled, because they get throttled over a period, so give yourself at least 15min. You’ll be surprised how many times someone will want to change something after you send.
  • Send internally first – I am not referring to the tests. Send to all the people in your organization that have a vested interest in the communication to the target audience. That way they get a chance to react to the communication before it goes out. They will often spot things that you may have overlooked, especially if you use lots of tokens in your emails.
  • Break up large lists – While it’s possible to send emails to hundreds of thousands of people in a single campaign, break up your lists. Marketo assigns a higher priority to email send over other actions, so a large send can backlog your entire system. Also, it is a built-in mechanism that will limit the impact in case you send something out that is not ready, like my past experience.
  • Check Tokens – They are great for personalization (personalisation for by UK friends), but remember to put in a default that makes sense. “Dear Sir/Madam” doesn’t cut it ,and it sounds like you’ll want me to wire some money to get a few million dollars because your uncle was trying to sneak it out of the country.
  • Litmus test – With all the browsers and devices out there, it’s just common sense and common practice to run your email through something like Litmus (see the Litmus test of our 2017 holiday card).

Litmus Test

  • Triple check your opt-out/in lists – With all of the regulations out there and more coming next year, it’s increasingly important to check to make sure you really exclude the people out of the sends that have not opted-in. This can be its own lengthy blog topic, but here are some things we’ve done without data
    • Everyone created in our database is automatically set to “Marketing Suspended”. We have rules that will validate if it’s from our blog or other sources where the person opted-in to get marketing emails from us and uncheck that setting.
    • On our SFDC account object, there’s a checkbox for opting out. If that is checked, all contacts on the account are also opted-out. Our thinking is that if one person at the account doesn’t want to engage, then everyone at the account should be skipped too.
    • We’ve setup a contact status for unqualified contacts. This ensures people on the contact object are also excluded when it’s a send across lead and contact objects.
  • Global Exclusion – If you haven’t done so, create a global exclusion smart list. This would be the one list you want to include all your filter conditions. Marketo by default won’t send emails to anyone opted out, bounced, or that have no email address. However, be sure to include conditions for statuses, countries, etc. that need to be on this list and have one list you can be sure is always up to date.
  • Email Opt-Out – CAN SPAM, CASL, GDPR are important regulations to keep in mind, especially for a global databases. This is another lengthy discussion, worthy of its own blog post, but at the very least have the company’s address in the footer and some instruction on how someone can opt-out. Don’t try hiding it like some legal small print. You should earn the trust, not trick someone into action.
  • Landing Page Opt-Out – I have seen so many instances where the unsubscribe link takes the user to a non-branded default Marketo landing page (it’s the gray one with just the email field). Please make sure that page is updated to also include some preferences so they don’t just go away forever.

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At Digital Pi, we use technology to connect revenue to marketing efforts. We fuse marketing strategies, processes, data and applications to make marketing technology solutions work for clients' businesses.

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