Watch for Missteps with New E-mail Marketing Systems

  |  February 21, 2008   |  Comments

Sophisticated campaigns run into quality-assurance challenges on these three fronts.

The biggest buzzword in e-mail marketing today seems to be "relevance." I've always argued that relevance and timeliness are key to successful e-mail campaigns, but achieving them has long been a significant challenge.

In recent years, e-mail marketing systems have become more sophisticated, allowing marketers to easily deliver timely, relevant messages through trigger, cadence, and personalization capabilities. So much so that "it's no longer about batch and blast" has become a mantra in some circles and the boundary between transactional and marketing messaging is blurring.

Unfortunately, in many cases such messaging growth seems to have outstripped quality-control developments. The growth, then, has been accompanied by a commensurate increase in errors. Those errors also affect some of the more complex, marketing-oriented transactional messages.

Sophisticated campaigns run into new quality-assurance challenges on these three fronts.

Things Change

In most organizations, the quality-assurance process for messaging was developed for one-time mailings. So quality assurance is typically a one-time process performed immediately prior to sending. This is perfectly fine for traditional campaigns. Little is likely to change after the send, and as long as servers and services are appropriately monitored, there's no problem.

Triggered messages, on the other hand, may continue for months or even years. As such, any external resource is subject to change. A hosting change or site update could remove graphics required by a still-operational triggered message. Any link destination or externally referenced content could be altered or removed at any time and without notice.

Deliverability can also change over time. The smaller numbers of individual recipients can make delivery easier, often reducing the likelihood of blocklisting. But monitoring is harder. It's much more difficult to obtain representative samples, and clusters of complaints can more easily skew results. Adding seed addresses for delivery monitoring can have a disproportionate effect on overall outcome. These challenges require close scrutiny from deliverability-monitoring personnel.

Complexity Increases

Triggered, cadenced, and dynamic e-mail campaigns are inherently more complex than their traditional counterparts. I've written in the past about the testing challenges presented by dynamic messages. The recipient-selection business rules for triggered and cadenced campaigns present similar issues.

Recipient profiles are more complex; selection criteria are similarly more complex and may have both behavioral and temporal components. This complexity requires a more sophisticated approach to testing, with the use of carefully selected test cases and test coverage analysis rather than the traditional viewing of every message variant during a test phase.

Sanity checks, such as recipient limits, can be added to business rules to mitigate the problem. However, even when carefully constructed these can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they can prevent an accidental mailing to the wrong group in the event of a bad data load or erroneous query. On the other, a false positive can prevent an important message going out when there's an unexpectedly large, yet correct, number of recipients.

Errors Go Unnoticed

This issue compounds the first two. Due to these communications' automated nature, it's not uncommon for errors to go unnoticed. Often organizations find out that messages are broken only when recipients tell them, which, of course, is far too late.

Constant, structured monitoring is essential to resolve the situation. Triggered and cadenced campaigns can't be treated as "fire and forget." The net result is that triggered, cadenced, and dynamic campaigns put more load on the quality-assurance team, not less, and it's important to plan and budget accordingly.

Recipient counts, response rates, and delivery numbers should be monitored on an ongoing basis. Each triggered campaign should have a regular quality-assurance review on a fixed schedule to ensure that everything is still functioning today as it was when the campaign was initiated.

As we have seen over and again, sending the messages is the easy part of e-mail marketing. Getting the right message to the right person at the right time, every time, is the hard part. Without these improvements to our quality-assurance procedures, our ability to generate sophisticated marketing campaigns will continue to outstrip our ability to successfully and accurately implement those campaigns.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Derek Harding

Derek Harding is the CEO and founder of Innovyx Inc., a member of the Omnicom Group and the first e-mail service provider to be wholly owned by a full-service marketing agency. A British expatriate living in Seattle, WA, Derek is a technologist by background who has been working in online marketing on both sides of the Atlantic for the last 10 years.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get ClickZ Email newsletters delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.

Jobs

    • Tier 1 Support Specialist
      Tier 1 Support Specialist (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreThis position requires a highly motivated and multifaceted individual to contribute to and be...
    • Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative
      Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative (Agora Financial) - BaltimoreAgora Financial, one of the nation's largest independent publishers...
    • Managing Editor
      Managing Editor (Common Sense Publishing) - BaltimoreWE’RE HIRING: WE NEED AN AMAZING EDITOR TO POLISH WORLD-CLASS CONTENT   The Palm...