What not to do with your email list

If you’re involved at all with content marketing, you likely send information to your email list via a CRM service like ConstantContact. Personally, I use a company called Hatchbuck. The system makes it infinitely easier to track who I’ve talked to, and to send out email series and email to a specific group of people.

My biggest complaint about my (or any) email service is that it doesn’t entirely save me from myself.

Like today, when I sent out the second email in a series that promotes my FrameMaker online course…
the second line of my email contained a [Contact First Name] shortcode that I copied/pasted in position. Unfortunately, the copy/paste converted a “regular” space into the   entity reference for a nonbreaking space.

In HTML, the code looked like this: [Contact First Name]

Thus [Contact First Name] rendered exactly as written, instead of rendering as Matt, or Bill, or Sally. (Apologies to my FrameMaker list!!!!)

To find and correct the mistake, I had to view the content as Source, or as HTML, not as formatted text.

I wish I could say this is the first mistake like this that I’ve made. But anyone on my email list would know it was a terrible lie.

While I hate to relive all the email mistakes I’ve made over the years, here are a few that come to mind, and I’ll update this post from time to time in the hope that I can keep you from making the same mistakes.

Keep your emails short and interesting

Give your readers a reason to click through to the longer form article, rather than sending the 1,000 word monsters that result in unsubscribes. I always know I’ve broken this rule when I immediately get more than 10 unsubscribes within the first hour of sending an email.

Have someone else proof your work

Obvious as this is, we’re all tempted from time to time to rely upon our own proofing abilities. Don’t do it! As writers, we tend to read what we wanted to write, rather than what we wrote. Another set of eyes is an invaluable resource that can spot all manner of mistakes that are invisible to original author.

Always send a live test email to yourself

If I’d only followed this very simple rule, I may have eliminated over half of the goofs I’ve made. It’s not enough to rely upon the test email you can send to yourself. Save your work, and send an actual email through your system to yourself or to another “test” email. This may be the only way to see what the entire email looks like, including unsubscribe and shortcode options.

Always test ALL your links

There’s something about a broken link that’s worse than no link at all, and it’s often difficult to proof the links you’ve placed in an email. An extra space or a line break when copying your file is all it takes to render your link useless.

In your test email, go through every clickable area or form field to make sure the links work as expected, and that any actions in your email system are functioning as expected.

Be careful when scheduling emails that refer to scheduled posts. (posts that will go live in the future)

For the FrameMaker 2017 release I scheduled email to link to my review, but WordPress had indigestion and mysteriously did not publish the post as scheduled.

Since the link was correct via testing, there was no serious backlash, as 3 of my most engaged viewers were kind enough to report the bad link. Unfortunately, many others viewed the email but didn’t take the time to email me.

JAN 31, 2017 UPDATE I received this from my pal Jacquie Samuels:

There’s a bug with WP 3.5 and scheduled posts. There’s a plug-in you can use to automatically work around the bug:


While I’m using WordPress 4.7, I imagine it’s the same issue.

Don’t be in a rush to send out ANYTHING

Your first few drafts will always benefit from some seasoning. Put your writing aside for at least a few hours to allow you to come back to it with a fresh perspective. With that in mind, I’ll be stepping away for a few hours before posting this.

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