While you’re in the midst of holiday email campaign craziness, there are so many things competing for your time and attention. It’s kind of like those “one weird trick” banner ads that seem to be everywhere you look online: Even though you know they’ll take you down a virtual rabbit hole, admit it — they’re distracting, even a little bit tempting. What IS that trick?
Distractions and fragmentation increase the likelihood that you’ll make mistakes. Now for many of you, what I’m about to say may result in serious eye-rolling and much gnashing of teeth. But because I know that this one weird trick can not only help your business generate more revenue, but it can also help you save face and preserve your hard-earned reputation as an email marketing professional, I’ll say it anyway: Slow down and create a plan.
“I don’t have time for planning,” you might be saying. Or, “Even if I did put together a plan, it would just change a million times anyway — and always at the drop of a hat.”
I understand. I’ve been in your shoes before. But when I was in your shoes, I made my fair share of preventable errors. And no matter how many times it happened, what season, or for which of myriad reasons, I never, EVER got over that hot-in-the-face, sick-to-my-stomach feeling when I learned that there was something wrong with the email I’d just hit "send" on.
Because of their importance to annual profitability, your holiday emails need to be as close to perfect as possible. When it comes to our holiday email plan, however, small steps can add incremental benefits — so as it applies to your planning process, don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good. If you do nothing else this holiday season, be sure to create a quick-and-dirty project brief and follow a QA checklist.
The Quick-and-Dirty Project Brief
I have seen some pretty involved and chaotically difficult project briefs in my time. This always makes me scratch my head because, as the name suggests, the
output should be BRIEF, right? Based on my experience, both in providing and receiving input on project briefs, here are the fundamental considerations:
• What is the goal/objective of the deployment/campaign?
• What’s the offer?
• How are you defining success?
• Who do you want to send the email to?
• When do you want it to go?
• Are there any testing elements?
• Subject line(s)?
And if I was forced to pick only one weird component of this project brief — the one that would most likely prevent mistakes — it would be testing. Why? Any time a test is being implemented, everyone tends to slow down a bit to make sure that all the testing elements are properly defined and the split is set up properly in their email platform. By nature, the sheer act of slowing down can actually prevent mistakes, but it can also minimize the impact if something does go wrong. If the error occurs in only one portion of the testing group, probably only a small portion of the audience will receive that email. Depending on how you conduct the test, you may have the ability to actually correct the error for the remainder of the subscriber base.
The QA Checklist
In addition to the project brief, before you hit the send button this holiday season,
develop a standard QA checklist that you don’t just go through, but that you actually COMPLETE. At minimum, QA the following:
• Subject lines
• All links
• Validate any email addresses AND phone numbers provided
Remember that QA should happen on a live message (not a test) and, if possible, should occur outside of your company’s firewall. Too many times I have seen clients test in dev environments that provide a false sense of proper rendering because they are testing behind the firewall where they have permission to view and access the image. Be sure to click on ALL the links in the message too, navigation included. And yes, do this one weird trick even if you’re working from a template.
So there’s no big secret to having an “oops-free” holiday email program after all. Just by answering a few simple questions now and following processes that allow everyone touching the project to be on the same page, a cohesive understanding of the task at hand can be a true holiday miracle, boosting productivity and minimizing mistakes. Trust me, it’s time well spent.