Marketing Automation is a goalie for the marketing team

I have a confession: I am a Marketing Automation Specialist and the most stressful part of my job is hitting send on an email deployment.

Do I have the right segment? Are my wait steps timed right? Did I associate the right email? Is everyone in my database going to accidently get this email AND did I spell the first word in the subject line wrong!? Sometimes it feels like I review my setup 100 times before I’m finally ready to deploy. If you’ve ever deployed an email before, I bet you know the feeling.

At Bulldog, we have a number of people who touch an email. This ranges from the copywriter to the HTML coder to the QA specialist, but often, I feel like the goalie. It takes a team of people to get the email ready for deployment, but hitting the “send” button is in my hands and it feels like success or failure is all on me. With hundreds of deployments under my belt, I have gained a lot of experience perfecting these last few pieces of a campaign. Here’s the audit I perform before deploying an email in order to make hitting send a little less stressful.

1. Do you understand the goal of the email?

Post-deployment metrics will be easier to pull if you consider the goal of the email before you hit send. Work with the person requesting this email to understand their primary goal. Here are four metrics Email on Acid says are the most important to consider.

2. Has your campaign manager approved the email?

Who asked for this email to be deployed? Have they seen the final product? You’ll want to get their buy-in before deploying.

If you’re a large team, set up service level agreements (SLAs) with your requestor to help set expectations on how much time you need to create the email and how much time they have to review it. If you’re a one man shop, set up a peer review to have a co-worker review your email. It’s hard to spot your own errors on something you created, so a fresh pair of eyes is always a good idea.

Tools like MyCrowd offer online QA of your emails. Stay tuned for a future article for easy tips on how to QA your own work.

3. Have you sent yourself a test of the email?

I would recommend at least 2 test emails from your marketing automation platform. Send one test to your corporate email address and another to your personal email address. How does your email render in two different email clients? Review your email on your mobile device. Is it responsive? If your audience is viewing your email on their mobile device (and they probably are), is it easy for them to read and take the call to action?

If you have room in your budget, try a tool like Litmus to see your email across multiple mobile devices, desktop email clients and web-based clients. Email personalization is key but you shouldn’t let how your audience views your email “personalize” their experience.

When you are reviewing the test email, confirm that the sender name and sender email address populate properly. Do the sender name and email address match the signature? Try replying to the email. Do the reply-to name and email address populate as expected? Is your reply-to email address an alias? If so, send a test email and make sure it is delivered to the right person.

4. What happens when someone takes your call to action?

Is your call to action clear and easy to find? Does it take your recipient to the desired landing page? Is the form on this page working properly to capture additional information? Is the offer worth the amount of information the recipient is asked to provide?

Need help determining which fields to ask for on the form? Check out this article by Hubspot.

5. Are the right links tracked?

Do your links contain the necessary tracking information? This could range from your marketing automation platform tracking clicks to query string parameters tracking the lead source.

What about links you don’t want tracked?

In Marketo, you can change the class of the link to mktNoTrack. Full documentation on how to change the class can be found here.

In Eloqua, use Manage Links in the options of an email editor to select which links should or should not include tracking. Have field merges included in your Eloqua links but you still want them tracked? Mark the link as an untracked link and create redirect URLs for the base of the URL. Update the URL to reference the redirect link and the field merges.

6. Is your email CAN-SPAM compliant?

Here’s a quick checklist on how to be CAN-SPAM compliant. Have you provided your audience with a clear subject line so they know what you are sending? Is your physical location included in the footer? Is there an easy way to unsubscribe? Make sure to test this link for functionality as well.

Have a global campaign? Don’t forget to consider varying compliance rules around the world. You may want to consult with your legal team to ensure you understand the compliance rules in other countries.

7. Do you have the right list?

Work with your campaign manager to define who should receive the email. Consider their stage in the funnel as much as their demographic data points. Send emails to the right people at the right time. Check out this blog post from Marketing Land if you need a starting point for segmentation.

Once you have your inclusions, it’s important to consider your exclusions. By excluding unsubscribes and hard bounces in my smart list or segment, I get a better idea of the size of the audience receiving my email. Should clients, partners, competitors or members of your organization receive this email? If you said no to any of those, exclude them. Excluding by domain makes it easy to find your competitors or employees.

Don’t forget about a seed list when creating your segment. Include any key stakeholders on this seed list.

8. How well does your personalization actually work? Is your database clean enough to personalize?

The importance of personalization can’t be ignored. Marketing Sherpa recently discussed an Experian Marketing Services chart showing just how much of an impact subject line personalization can have on email open rates.

Before you can personalize, you need to make sure you have clean data. For lists I have never sent to before, I like to export my list and any fields used for personalization. Check for special characters or notes in any of these fields. Don’t feel confident about your data? Consider removing personalization until you can do data scrubbing. Less personalization might be better than mistakes like this one.

9. Is the correct email associated to your campaign or program?

Does your campaign canvas or program have a link to preview the email? Do it! Make sure it is actually the email you want to deploy.

Use consistent naming conventions inside of your marketing automation platform so there won’t be any confusion on which email you should be associating with the deployment.

10. Have you checked your wait steps?

Tried running yourself through the campaign canvas or smart campaign before sending it to your large list of people? Not a bad idea, but change any wait steps from a few minutes back to the desired time before deploying. In testing, you might have wanted all the emails at once, but I doubt that’s the experience you are looking to provide your audience.

11. How will this email impact deliverability?

If you have dedicated IP addresses, check the Sender Score before you deploy your email. This score will impact how many of your emails get delivered to inboxes versus junk mail. The closer your score is to 100, the better your inbox placement will be. The score fluctuates daily, so check it periodically over the course of a few days to get a feel for your score.

How large is your list? Depending on size or activity level, you’ll want to consider spacing your deployment out over multiple hours or days. At Bulldog, we like to send around 20,000 emails an hour and no more than 100,000 a day from one marketing automation platform.

While the deployment is occurring, you’ll want to monitor hard bounces. Hubspot recommends keeping your total bounce rate under 2%. If you see bounce numbers higher than this, consider stopping the deployment and segmenting your list further. Segmenting based on recent activity will help to limit the number of bad email addresses receiving your email.

12. Have you factored in the time zone of your recipients?

When you’re ready to deploy, consider the location of your audience so your scheduled email deployments go out at a time when your readers are active. A time zone converter always helps me feel more confident about converting my time into my audience’s time.

Image Credit: Martin Rose/Getty/NY Daily News