I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while now since I noticed how easy it is to make an error in your email campaigns.

It’s one thing when I send you a personal email with an occasional error in it but it’s a whole different matter when you’re sending a message to 100,000 of your best customers!

snag_program-0408I’m on a lot of email lists as I keep an eye on trends and patterns and look for new ideas for my clients.

Recently, a pretty high profile marketing copywriter sent me an email that caught my attention.  I wanted to learn more, so I clicked on the links and… you guessed it.  Broken link.

A few minutes later I hit the ‘Reply’ button to let them know the link was broken.  If you make this mistake, you’ll know because someone will reply back and let you know, usually in the first 10 minutes.

As I was typing a quick message, a second email came in and the link was still broken, but in a different way! 

So I knew they had tried to fix it… and failed.  Now, I smiled as I amended my message to say BOTH messages had broken links.

About 15 minutes later a THIRD message came in… and this time it worked!

Three tries to get it right!

After 5 years of watching email messages like a hawk, I’ve never see that before so I decided you might be interested in how to prevent errors from sneaking into your email campaigns.

Here’s how we do test email messages at ZinMarketing

1.  Usually we create our copy in a text editor.  Run a spell check right there before you save the file.  Pretty simple stuff, usually you’ll catch something if it’s there.

2.  Create a list in your email software and include as many of the following email addresses as you can:  Yahoo, Aol, Hotmail, Gmail, Mac, Outlook, and any others you think your clients might be using.  (These days you MUST see your message on a mobile device, like an iPhone since so many of your readers are seeing your email there first.)

3.  Send your message through the production side of your software to this full test list.  Many systems have a ‘Test’ feature but since they are often sent through different sending servers than their production system it’s not a real, real test.

4.  Now clear the distractions and read the email carefully.  We go through a checklist with items and look carefully at the following:

– The From address and From email is correct.

– The subject line is correct and is short enough to display in all systems.

– Read the message word for work and check for spelling, grammar, and word choice.  (go through it twice, once for accuracy and once for clarity) (did you see the typo in this paragraph?  That’s why we don’t rely on spell check only)

– Review your formatting on all the different systems.  Did Yahoo drop your line breaks?  Did your word wrap choices make the mobile device look odd?  Are there strange characters suddenly?

– Click on EVERY link and make sure it lands on the landing page you intend.  If there are tracking codes make sure they show up properly.

– If you are using personalization (like first name) make sure the data is inserted properly.

– Now read the message. Check facts like time and date and make sure they match what’s on the landing page.

– Finally take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Is this message clear, compelling and does the call to action really work?”

Sometimes it makes sense to have someone else read your message because they might see something easily the author of the message missed.

If my high profile copywriter had used this checklist they would NEVER have sent an incorrect test message TWO TIMES IN A ROW!

I promise if you use a checklist, the first time you skip it because you are in a rush or you are starting to feel confident in your process, that’s the next time you’ll send a message with a broken link or killer typo.

No matter what edits you make to your message, even if it’s a simple change, you’d be well advised to resend a full test.  Takes a few minutes but you’ll save the headache of an embarrassing mistake.