How to Avoid Campaign Blunders

The evolution of marketing technology has evolved by leaps and bounds, providing marketers unique tools to reach their audience in a single, automated swoop. Marketing technology nowadays empowers marketers to communicate with their global network of potential and existing customers. The dynamic puissance of a simple automated campaign is boundless, organizationally impactful, yet also extremely dangerous when in the wrong, albeit untrained, hands.

Unlike most technology, marketing automation offers no CTRL-Zoption, no “undo” button; consequently, it’s essential to execute correctly the first go-round to avoid embarrassing campaign mishaps. Having partnered with dozens of marketing teams, I’ve encountered many instances of  campaigns gone wrong — and helped implement creative processes to fix them. Here are some highlights from my journey, along with key pieces of advice I’ve gathered along the way:

No Quality Assurance Process for Segmentation

One of the most common marketing automation blunders is sending out an event invite to non-invitees. I’ve spoken to marketing teams that had sent accidental private event invitations to their entire database. This might seem like an ambitious marketing tactic at first, but steak dinners for thousands of unknown leads can quickly rack up one hefty bill! If the invite should target 8 guests, but 7,000 addresses appear in your list, you know you’ve either done something wrong!

Always spot check the number of qualifying leads before activating a campaign. An easy way to determine if a correct campaign segment is to cross-reference its size against another list, such as the previous successful send list. We always advise our clients to take campaign-planning seriously; we encourage them to map out expectations and goals offline first, so that numbers are not skewed by possible bad data. Lists can also be extracted from an integrated CRM such as Salesforce. This is not to say that all segments should be pulled straight from a CRM, but there’s no harm in running a manual comparison every now and then (can you say “Practice?”).

I’m Sorry Miss Jackson!

All marketing automation tools offer some functionality to make a mass email appear tailored to each recipient via tokens or merge fields. Research shows that adding personalization to emails can improve response rates — hence, many companies have adopted this practice. However, it’s essential to note that most companies still ignore bad data. That is the reality for most marketers today. We have the tools to create sophisticated campaigns, but everything we do still depends on data. As such, an incorrect use of personalization can quickly destroy a relationship with a customer.

If you personalize emails and leverage fields to merge in emails, make sure you thoroughly review existing data to make sure the information is customer-facing. Only use fields that you trust are accurate and have supporting processes for upkeep. Just about all marketing platforms provide users with the ability to clean and standardize their data. This is incredibly important because if you call a lead by another name, you’re most likely going to leave a nasty impression!

Welcome to our sandbox.

When working in a test environment of a marketing automation tool (typically called a sandbox), ensure that no emails are sent automatically. Needless to say, emails containing test content such as “This is our sandbox!!” should never see the light of day.

I recall an amazing story from an old client who wasn’t paying attention during campaign training. One thing led to another and the poor guy accidentally triggered a campaign, full of test content, to send to a list of 500,000 prospects from the sandbox. The content contained subtle messages like “We’ll save you money, yo!” and “Check out our email campaign!” Needless to say, the messaging was found to be ineffective, but he certainly got the attention of the database. It turned out to be

Here are a couple suggestions for keeping a safe marketing automation sandbox:
— Corrupt all email addresses. Typically, data tools (like the Salesforce Data Loader) can be leveraged to make mass updates. I highly recommend exporting a list of all your valid email addresses and simply appending .test to all of them. Then re-import them back into your marketing automation platform as an update. This way, if an email does get sent out unintentionally, a test account somewhere will receive it instead of an actual recipient. The worst-case scenario is that an email will bounce, instead of reaching a real person
Add a rule to your “exclude list” to exclude all contacts where email addresses contain “*@*”. This means that any email address containing “@” (which is all of them) will be blocked, thereby safeguarding you from embarrassing email deployments.
Always have a second (or third!) pair of eyes check your work.

Active Senders

Aside from standard personalization of email content, manylike to dynamically send emails from a contact owner, or someone who owns that particular relationship. This is a great process to implement, as people are more likely to respond to emails from someone they know. Often a simple token can be used in the Sender fields to dictate which email address should display as the sender. Once fully implemented, emails will appear to be sent from a particular individual, thus boosting personalization.

Like almost anything automated, there are risks to be assumed. Risks can be mitigated through iterative approaches to enhancements, or a marketing organization will need to ,consider all the many use cases where you wouldn’t want an email to be sent from that same individual.  Here are some low lights I’ve seen over time:

Active employees only!  When employees leave your company, make sure you have a program in place to remove them from campaigns, so that your automation tool does not send emails on their behalf to prospects. This is not only confusing for the prospect, but also makes your marketing efforts look, how shall I say, stupid…

Never email from the grave. This one might seem obvious, but I’ve seen campaigns sent from people that not only left the company, but have actually checked out… for good. Again, create a sync between your employee database and your marketing automation tool to prevent this blunder. This situation is fantastically awkward. Make sure your dynamic senders are not only active, but alive!

Marketo Admin sent you an email! It’s very common for certain records to be owned by an administrative user or an internal group email address. Be sure that dynamic senders are real people (with real names!) who are capable of responding promptly if a prospect replies. So put a global rule in place that states something along the lines of:

If record owner equals Admin, Operations, Donald Duck, or Michael Scott, send email from {some name that makes sense}

We always advise our clients to implement a Dedicated Sender program. This type of functionality can be integrated into another type of Contact Washing Machine, or it can be built out as stand-alone functionality. Make a list (like the one described above) of all the worst-case scenarios where dynamic senders are involved. Then, create new fields on the contact record calledSender Name and Sender Email Address. Build workflows that set values to those fields, and then add your worst-case scenario use cases as functionality that changes the values in those fields. With a solution like this, your marketing team will spend far less time worrying about whom emails are sent from, and more time designing great customer experiences.

Marketing automation tools have the ability to be a transformative addition to any marketing organzation, but make sure to harness its power for the good of mankind! Nobody needs the embarrassment of sending an incorrectly personalized piece of content to a prospect, especially your brand.

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