It’s happened to the best of us: the dreaded email fail. The kind of mistake that incites jeering on Twitter and immediate emails from your boss (or, worse, your CEO).
Maybe you flippantly added tongue-in-cheek dummy text as a temporary subject line, intending to change it before the campaign went out—and never got around to changing it. Or maybe you used the wrong tags and bolded an entire email—and never noticed it until you received the live copy in your inbox.
We’ve all been there. Mistakes can happen when you’re moving too fast, when deadlines are tight, and when you’re trying to juggle multiple campaigns.
The good news? Most email fails aren’t the end of the world. Even better: you can avoid many of the most common mistakes with a handy checklist and some helpful, simple tools.
Let’s Start With the Common Mistakes: Three Big Ones to Avoid
First, a confession: we’ve experienced email fail ourselves. Earlier this year, we accidentally sent an empty email to people who registered for a conference. And then there is our most embarrassing email mistake to date: the Twitter email feed fiasco.
Ultimately, no one was hurt. We didn’t lose any money. And we learned a lot from those mistakes. In the end, they made us better.
We’ve also built up a community of email marketers over the years who’ve been willing to share their own email fails (in fact, in 2018, we hosted a #NoFailMail contest that generated a lot of great stories and lessons).
So, what are some of the most common mistakes to avoid?
- Waiting until the last second to write your subject line—or, worse, throwing in placeholder dummy copy that you wouldn’t want the world to see. All too often, email marketers forget to double- and triple-check their subject lines before they send. If you write one too hastily (or you forget to change a subject line that reads “I’ll do this &*$# later…”), it can lead to very embarrassing results:
- Skipping your pre-send checklist to get an email out the door faster. When you’re scrambling to meet a deadline, it can be tempting to look for shortcuts. You might rush through copywriting and design, set up your email in your email service provider, and then be tempted to schedule your campaign without thorough QA, hoping everything will be fine. This is where things can go really bad. If you didn’t catch a rendering issue or a flub in your copy, things can get ugly fast when automation kicks in. And if you don’t catch errors before a campaign goes out, all of your automated workflows can expose that error to hundreds of thousands of people in a flash—before you ever have a chance to do something about it.
- Building email campaigns in a vacuum. This mistake is more common with smaller teams that have less process (and fewer people) in place to help manage a big campaign—but it’s happened at big companies that lack clear workflows, too. In this scenario, one person builds the campaign and skips the process of having multiple eyes on it to gather feedback, catch errors, etc. Why is feedback so important? It’s less about catching small errors (there are tools for that); it’s more about making sure the context of your campaign and the language you use aren’t off-brand or tone-deaf, like the email Adidas sent out after the Boston Marathon.
How to Make Sure Those Email Fails Don’t Happen to You
Now that we know where most email campaigns go wrong, how can you ensure that your team never makes those very mistakes?
Here are three simple tips (and tools) to get you started:
- Use a subject line checker to make sure the sender name, subject line, and preview text all look right. Forcing yourself to do this step will almost always allow you to catch any embarrassing errors.
- Always, always, go through a series of pre-send checks to ensure everything is in order—copy looks good and media is rendering properly—before hitting send. And even after you do hit send, check each version of your emails on multiple email clients immediately. If you notice a big mistake (content not rendering, broken links, etc.), immediately pause the campaign to stop all automation rules and fix any errors you can. One way to avoid this problem altogether is to use a tool that helps you see exactly which email clients your subscribers use, so you can run preview tests ahead of the campaign launch.
- Getting feedback on email campaigns doesn’t have to be painful or super-manual. In fact, tools exist to improve collaboration with a simple, centralized workflow for providing feedback and ensuring multiple people have eyes on the big campaign you’re about to send out.
The reality is that mistakes will happen to even the best marketers. Email is so complex, turn-around times so short, and frequencies so high that it’s impossible to avoid mistakes completely. Your goal, however, should be to do whatever you can to keep mistakes infrequent and small.
With the right tools in place, #NoFailMail is achievable. And if you do it right, you’ll ensure you’re never one of the marketers forced to apologize to millions of angry or disappointed subscribers.
Want more hands-on advice on sending #nofailmail? Check out Litmus’s e-book The Anatomy of a Broken Email, and learn about the email marketing mistakes that make us shudder—and how you can catch and avoid them before you send.