In a perfect world, every online marketing company and every client who sends out email blasts would deliver a flawless product, 100 percent of the time. But the unfortunate truth is that we live in a universe where coffee gets spilled, reality TV stars run for president, and email newsletters sometimes get sent with errors that could’ve and should’ve been avoided.
While we can’t do much about the state of the world as a whole, we can at least help improve the chances of sending error-free email marketing with these handy dandy tips.
1. Develop a Standardized QA Process & Checklist
Distractedly checking your email blasts all willy-nilly practically guarantees that you’ll end up making a mess at some point in the very near future. If you don’t have one already, this is a great time to develop a standardized process for quality assurance, along with a checklist.
The order you check everything in really isn’t relevant as long as you’re systematic about the “check everything” part. A few must-haves to include on your list:
- Is the content accurate? Are you calling out the current specials, promotions or deals? If using a template, make sure none of last month’s dated information is still hiding in there someplace.
- Are images properly inserted, sized and aligned? Are captions visible and correct? You for sure don’t want to send out a newsletter with incorrectly labeled pics—or worse, a big ol’ IMAGE TBD placeholder.
- Did you look for spelling errors in both the body content and all headers and titles? What about grammatical errors and those tricky homonyms? Any extra spaces before sentences or after periods? Never ever EVER rely solely on spellcheck and grammar check to catch every mistake.
- Do all the links work? Do they lead to the right places? Remember, typos can happen in hyperlinks too. Take a couple extra minutes to click your way through from top to bottom and check every single one of those little suckers.
- Have you checked a preview on multiple platforms and devices to make sure everything’s rendered correctly? Sometimes a simple platform change can make a previously normal-looking newsletter go all wonky.
This is just a random sampling of a few big-ticket items that should make an appearance on any decent QA checklist, but of course you’ll want to include anything specific to your own newsletter build. The ultimate goal is to come up with a system of checks and balances so tight that even the wettest-behind-the-ears new hire/trained monkey could step in and take over if they had to.
2. Use Your Checklist
If only we had a nickel for every well-intentioned soul who spends a stupid amount of time developing some internal process everyone’s supposed to follow—and then fails to actually implement that process. Once you have your fancy checklist on tap, USE the darn thing. And use it for every single stinkin’ newsletter. EVERY TIME. Do not underestimate the power of the checklist! And on the flip side, don’t underestimate the awesome way that overconfidence can trick you into thinking you no longer need a checklist. That kind of cockiness will absolutely, inevitably result in glaring errors all over the place.
3. Figure Out Who’s Responsible
The buck has to stop with someone, and identifying who that someone is within your own team is another critical part of the QA process. Depending on your clients and your company structure, there may be more than one person/department who has to sign off on your newsletter before you ship it off, including legal departments, copyeditors or senior management. Determine the proper chain of command, and make sure pertinent items are portioned out so each key player has their own set of to-dos relevant to their skillset.
4. Double and Triple Check Your Work
This should go without saying, but for the love of all that is holy, CHECK YOUR WORK before you hit “send.” The combination of A) someone going through with help of a checklist in the first place and B) getting approval from across multiple channels is a great way to catch a range of irregularities, but it’s always best to have a fresh pair of eyes give another once-over on anything you put together.
On the other hand, if you’re an army of one when it comes to newsletter and e-blast creation, at the very least you should follow Hemmingway’s advice to write drunk and edit sober. Er, not that we recommend working on your email blast while drunk. But we do think you should create one day (sans cocktails) and then QA at least a few hours later—or better, the next day—when your brain has had a little break from the material.
5. Know Your Audience
Beyond the physical aspects of your newsletter—layout, images, spelling, grammar—what about the audience? At least half of your email blast’s impact comes from hitting the right target market. In your list of things to check, don’t forget to make sure your content is appropriately personalized, and you’re sending your masterpiece to the correct segment of your mailing list.
Remember, if you do screw up your newsletter, it’s not the end of the world. Probably. There are always a few things you can do to recover from an email blast mistake and put even the most embarrassing error behind you. But the better solution is to head off the most likely mistakes at the pass by creating a standardized process for newsletter creation, USING that process, and always checking and re-checking your work with a fine-toothed comb before launching.