What happened after I accidentally emailed 60,000 unsubscribers

(almost) Eliminate email marketing mistakes with this tool

A few email marketing mistakes I have made:

  • I sent an email with a broken link
  • I sent an email with a broken link in the main Call to Action button
  • I sent an email with a broken image
  • I sent an email with a typo
  • I sent an email with the wrong date for a webinar
  • And the highlight: I emailed 60 thousand people (give or take) who had previously unsubscribed.

The issue with email marketing, as opposed to other channels, is that you can’t fix mistakes after the email is sent. In a Google Search campaign, for example, if you notice a typo a day after you launched the campaign, you can easily fix it. Not so with an email campaign. That’s why you want to be extra careful and fix as many mistakes as possible before the campaign is sent.

But how?

The email I had accidentally sent to 60 thousand unsubscribers made my manager back then (in a large online retailer whose name rhymes with Bamazon) buy our team the book The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande. The book – highly recommended – discusses using checklists to minimize mistakes. Inspired by the book, I created an email campaign checklist, and ever since (for about ten years now) I’ve been implementing a version of it at any company I work with.

The list seems deceptively simple. In reality, it’s a super powerful tool and I can’t imagine how many mistakes it has prevented. Not 100% of them — there will always be new problems you haven’t thought about, in which case you may consider adding them to the checklist. But all the trivial mistakes I described at the beginning of the post will not happen if you consistently use the checklist.

Here’s the checklist. Note you’ll likely need to tailor this template to fit your company, your email campaigns, your email marketing tool, etc.

Notice the questions that seem simple, but “force” you to dive deep and really examine your email. For example, the question “do all links redirect appropriately?” requires clicking every single link in the email and making sure they all link to where they’re supposed to.
Another important element of the checklist is that it should be filled in by a different person than the one who created the campaign, for a fresh pair of eyes. Sometimes the marketing team is just one person – in which case our recommendation would be to ask someone from another team to run the checklist. It’s not a complicated task and you can teach anyone at the company how to do it, perhaps in exchange for the occasional cookie.

The bottom line

Mistakes happen and will keep happening even after you start using the checklist. But hopefully you avoid most of them, and don’t repeat the same mistake twice.

Lastly, checklists aren’t limited to email marketing. In fact, we use them for many different marketing channels and campaigns (example: checklist for publishing posts on this blog), and outside of marketing, as well.

Netta is the founder and CEO of Blue Seedling. She loves third wave coffee, thin crust pizza, and B2B marketing.

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