My E-Newsletter Malfunction

OK, it wasn’t quite as embarrassing as Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe debacle. But do I wish I’d taken a moment to think before clicking “send!”

Here’s what happened. As some of you know, I recently launched my own e-newsletter, and it’s been a great success. I’ve gotten five or six big new clients as a result, and a lot of people seem to appreciate getting it. (To view an archived Web version of the e-newsletter, go here. The only thing missing is the table of contents.)

So when issue three was ready to go, I viewed it on the preview screen and it looked terrific. I briefly thought about sending a test email but said to myself, “Nah, it’s fine.”

Famous last words. About 10 minutes after I broadcast the email, my readers immediately alerted me to my glaring mistake. All the salutations read “Dear Personalized!”

What started as a nice personal touch now looked like a form letter gone bad. What happened? There was some sort of glitch with my email provider, which I quickly got fixed. But I probably would have spotted it before sending the e-newsletter to the masses if I’d sent a test out to a small list of friends.

Another case of live and learn. But here’s something else I learned: people are forgiving. A few sniped about it. But a lot of other people just let me know about the problem as an FYI. When I told them I was blushing over the error, they just chuckled and told me their own war stories of other mishaps.

Bottom line: In comparison to a real tragedy, a mistake like this doesn’t even matter. I went on with my day. But diligence and testing are important, particularly to maintain a professional image. So let my snafu be a lesson you needn’t repeat.

Another Thing I Overlooked

When you write an online column, you’re out there. People tend to see your mistakes before you do. Here’s a good catch from a reader of one I completely overlooked.

In a previous column I mentioned a good subject line should only be 45 characters long to be read in a typical inbox. It was pointed out to me that when this column is sent to ClickZ subscribers, there’s a header in front of the article name: “ClickZ B2B E-Mail Marketing.” So if the column heading is too long, it’s cut off midway.

I’ve been writing this column for almost four years and every single one arrives in my inbox, yet I never caught this! Again, that’s why we all need input from others when sending email promotions. Everyone’s in such a hurry to get email out. After all, the medium is built for speed. A lot of errors are missed.

So from now on, you’ll see shorter column headlines. Be sure to let me know if you spot anything else I should be aware of (just be kind!).

The Upside of Being “Out There”

Sometimes you have to have thick skin to be an online columnist; people are quick to let you know when you’re off the mark.

Yet, writing for ClickZ is a great way to stay current. I’m always interviewing people about successful email initiatives and new technologies. And it’s helped me to forge collegial, and often profitable, relationships with people I wouldn’t normally meet. Finally, it’s helped me encapsulate my own thoughts about copywriting and marketing into real guidelines I can reference and share with others through training sessions.

And, I’ve found sending my own e-newsletter to prospects often seals the deal. After I’ve spoken with a potential client on the phone, I’ll usually send him the most recent issue of the e-newsletter. Sometimes as soon as an hour later, I’ll get a call saying I’ve been selected for the project.

Isn’t it a lot of work to generate all this content, all the time? You bet. But it also generates tremendous ROI (define). Having been in business for over 19 years, it’s definitely the best investment I’ve made in my own marketing.

So if you’ve been thinking, “I really ought to have my own e-newsletter,” you’re absolutely right. Get started on it!

Share your e-newsletter successes and snafus with Karen, and let’s all learn from your experiences.

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

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