March 5th 2011
Does the thought of hitting the send button on an email campaign send you into a paranoid stricken panic as you sit contemplating the moment of no return? Does your mind, like mine, start to play tricks on you, forcing last minute ‘belt and braces’ checks on copy, data lists and merge fields? Do you get the jitters about something you may have missed before putting your brand name out there on the front line?
So you’ve spent ages developing your perfect email communication. You've identified that all important killer propostion, scored spot on creative and design, worked out your split testing strategy and worked hard on writing keyword dense copy. You’ve also been through endless rounds of sign-off and amends, pulled together a highly targeted distribution list and checked and rechecked for final typos and grammatical errors....you’re now good to go!
So why do you feel so nervous when you’re sitting all alone in your office plucking up the courage to click the send button? If you don’t then you’re either lying, or very brave, in a marketing warrior (we have one of our own – he’s called Stuart Crow) kinda way!
The truth is, things can go wrong in any aspect of our jobs as marketers as most of the ‘stuff’ we produce is very public by the very nature of our jobs. We are afterall, communicators communicating on the corporate front line, and this, by the very nature of the beast, involves putting yourself and your art ‘out there’. Print is another area which can create challenges even after final artwork has been approved, but then again, we still have that print proof safetybelt before the ink hits the paper. Email however is so final, as once ‘that’ button is pressed we are instantly committed and any errors we make are potentially exposed to thousands of our precious clients and prospects within seconds. ARRRRRRGH!!!!!
But help is at hand. Here is a simple lastminute.com style checklist for all sufferers of reluctant finger syndrome, to hopefully give you a little more courage the next time you come to press that all important key on your PC or Mac....
Make sure that your email layout has been tested on multiple email platforms. Lotus Notes for example can create its own unique challenges. If in doubt try one of the many tools available to help with this, they can be quickly downloaded from the web for a small fistful of pounds. Outdated Outlook version compatibility is a key one to watch out for if you are trying to accommodate the minority still stuck in Outlook 2003 or worse!
If there are personalisation elements in your email, ensure that you always have a default (e.g. Dear Customer) in case there are blank fields in your mailing list. In following best practice though try not to send any personalised emails to people who you don’t really know.
Check that your reply email address exists and works – yes I have seen this happen! Amongst the flurry of holiday responders (and bounces if your system doesn’t automatically handle them) are emails of value, such as no-longer-works-here, customer queries and requests to be removed. You don’t want to miss these to help you to cleanse your data and to make sure you are on top of your data protection legal obligations.
Check and double check that all links and contact points are correct, everything has been clicked on, and phone numbers and emails are all accurate and in operation. A simple slip of the finger on a telephone number, or an inactive auto email address or telephone responder line that your IT team has yet to set up (despite their promise that they’re ‘all over it’), could score null points when it comes to inbound enquiries.
Make sure through testing that your unsubscribe function works as it should. It should be easy to use - one-click to remove is best.
Similarly check that your sign-up form works. For large campaigns it may be a good time investment to ask a few people to complete and submit this. If you want people to sign up to your newsletter, and if you are asking people to forward to a friend, make sure that the technology works as it should to register all activity.
So you’ve checked for typos in your email but have you checked your subject line? The number of broadcast emails I receive with typos in subject lines continues to amaze me. It seems the subject line can be an email copy blind spot, with the proofing focus more on body copy. But first impressions, as we all know, do count!
Check your email analytics are set up to enable you to measure what you need to measure for each campaign. Where you are linking to a landing page, then you need to also check your beyond click through analytics are set up correctly, something often forgotten in the last minute often deadline driven flurry of activity.
Have you checked your plain text version? Always worth a look to make sure that it is viewing correctly and that all links are correct. Also double check that any last minute amends you have made to the HTML version have carried through - some email distribution systems need a manual refresh to plain text versions to update them.
And finally, it goes without saying to check and double check that you have attached the right mailing list! If you are a regular email campaign sender it’s likely that you have a fair few lists stored within your databank, so it’s deffo worth a final check that you aren’t offering your existing customers an offer targeted at prospects – chaos could ensue!
So, now you’re finally all set to launch your campaign out into the business stratosphere. But if you’re still feeling the pressure, get someone else to press the button whilst you pop over to the pub for some Dutch courage!
As usual, all other remedies for reluctant finger syndrome are welcomed….traditional or alternative ;0)