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Quality Assurance: It's a Dirty Job, but Somebody's Got to Do It

  |  October 1, 2012   |  Comments

A solid proofing and quality assurance process is critical to making sure that your email marketing supports your business goals and presents your company's best face to the world.

Show of hands: who loves doing quality assurance on your email messages? Reading the copy to be sure it's correct and free of grammatical errors. Confirming that the right images are in the right place. Clicking on all the links to make sure they don't return errors and do take readers to the intended landing pages.

Quality assurance gets really interesting when there are multiple versions of the same message, requiring you to remember which elements are being targeted for which segments.

Quality assurance is not a glamorous job. But it's an important one.

Late last month a client of mine relaunched an email newsletter. I'd spent much of the summer working with their team on the project. After much research and analysis I developed a new content strategy, wireframe layout, and test strategy. Then I worked with their creative folks to implement it.

We have three different versions of the newsletter; the list is segmented and the content targeted to improve relevance. While some content appears in all versions, 50 percent or more is specific to each segment. There are a lot of moving parts and it's not the easiest thing to do quality assurance on.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that there were some issues with the first send. Some of the targeted content didn't appear in the right versions. Some images didn't match the copy they appeared with.

All these things had been correct during the last round of quality assurance that I saw, before the HTML was uploaded for send. But somehow things changed. They shouldn't have, but they did. And the person who did the final round of QA before the send clicked on all the links but didn't look at the copy or the images to make sure they were right.

It's an honest mistake. We've all made it. But attention to detail is often what sets a good email marketing campaign apart from a great one.

Even more frustrating for me are email marketers who don't seem to be making even a minimal effort to quality assure their messages.

I was contacted earlier this year by an organization looking for an outside consultant to help them with their email marketing strategy. I signed up for their lists to get a feel for what they were sending. I was dismayed by what I saw.

There were 17 typos and/or grammatical errors in one of the first emails I received. It wasn't a particularly long email - 30 paragraphs, less than 700 words. As I watched their messages, I saw that this wasn't unusual - just about all of them had these issues.

More than half the errors were in "boilerplate" language about their business that appeared in the right column of every email they sent. There were seven paragraphs in that right column, and all but one had an error in it. There was also an error in the right column headline.

Some of the mistakes were common - using "its" instead of "it's." Others were sloppy - "So what is the ingredients for a great…" where "is" should be "are." And a few were just silly - we all know to capitalize the first letter of the first word in a sentence, don't we?

This was a small company and I didn't end up working with them. I did provide a detailed list of the typos and grammatical errors I found in that one message and suggest that they hire someone to proof and quality assure everything they send.

That was six months ago; I pulled up an email they sent me yesterday and found…that the boilerplate copy in the right column was still riddled with errors. The primary body content (which changes from email to email) did seem to be better.

Typos, grammatical errors, improperly targeted content, and broken links erode your credibility and can jeopardize the success of your campaign. A solid proofing and quality assurance process is critical to making sure that your email marketing supports your business goals and presents your company's best face to the world. It's not a glamorous job, but it's an important one.

Until next time,

Jeanne

Quality Assurance image via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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