Don’t you love how all email tools ask you something like: “Are you sure you want to send this to 32,456 people”. {Yes}

“Are you really sure?” {Gah, I think so}

It can take a lot to pump yourself up to hit “send”, especially when you’re first starting out. Especially because just as you gather the courage to hit send, your email tool asks you “Are you sure” and your heart starts pumping and your hands start sweating.

What is even worse — if you’re using Mailchimp you have to hit the red button. Everyone knows not to touch the red button.

When I was working at Bowflex, I made a lot of mistakes, but I made one really big email mistake that topped all others.
35,000 people were sent the wrong email. 
35,000 people who were also our prized, most important customers.
They received an email thanking them for their purchase that they didn’t make.
I avoided Customer Service for weeks. Their phones were lit.
Sending an “oops” once in a while isn’t a big deal. Your subscribers will understand. It might actually make you more human to them.
After the 35,000 debacle, I worked with my team to create a process that cut down on our total “oops” count. 
Here’s the list of things we checked EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. No exceptions. 

All of these might be obvious, but when you are working fast and furious, it’s good to pause and check these few things before firing off your email.

  1. Links

Send yourself a test and click on EVERY. SINGLE. LINK.
Yes, even your social links in the footer you carried over from another email template. 
Yes, even your logo in the header. 
EVERY link. EVERY time.
If I create an email and version it out 5 times (to go to different segments), I STILL test the links in the 5 new versions. Even though I know the links will work. Even though nothing changed. 
Technology is amazing, but it also has random glitches. The last thing you want is to send an email with millions of dollars riding on it, only to have a broken link. Speaking from experience.
Test your links. 

 

  1. Dates

You should become the queen of copy and paste. The more emails you write, the more you will plug and play. 
Which means once you write a really high converting sales email with an expiration date, you will want to keep using what works.
I’ve made the mistake of copying and pasting and then forgetting to change the date. 
Nothing works better than trying to sell your new prospect on something that expired 2 months ago.

 

  1. Spelling (and Grammar)

Call me a snob, but if you send me an email with a spelling error I’ll judge you. 
I will save your email in my “Bad Speller” folder and unsubscribe from your list. Just kidding, I won’t save your email and I won’t unsubscribe. But your current status of awesomeness will drop a point or so.
Because spell check is FREE! And takes 0.3 seconds to hit one button and the work is done for you.
If you can’t take the time to spell check, then I’m sorry — you are not serious enough about your business for me to give you my hard earned money. 
{Dear God – please don’t let there be any spelling errors in this article or future articles as I’ve now set myself up on this high horse.}
We are human. We are going to make mistakes. But spelling…let’s be better than lazy typos.

Also: they’re, their and there. Get it right.
Hot tip: Write your emails in Google Docs or (whatever word processing app you like) FIRST and then pop them in your email tool. Spell check is done. And they are SAVED! #winwin

 

  1. Gmail

Based on recent data, over half of your subscribers will likely use Gmail (53%). The other big ones are Yahoo (18%), Outlook (14%) and somehow our dear friend AOL is still number 4 on the list (8%). 
So it’s worth testing your emails in Gmail. 
Get a Gmail account if you don’t have one. Send yourself a test there. 
Make sure the formatting looks nice. Make sure it looks nice on your mobile device. Can you read the button links? Is your text large enough?
Also, see where you land…are you in the Inbox or the Promotions tab?
It’s not something to lose sleep over if you end up in the Promotions tab, but you will see more engagement if you are front and center in the Inbox.
Here are a couple of things to try changing:

  1. Heavy Graphics. Too many images can land you in the promo folder. Lean on simple text when you can. 
  2. Your words. 

Using a ton of sales copy like “last chance” or “special offer” or fluffy words that don’t mean much to the customer like “this amazing, incredible, spectacular, exclusive, about to expire deal” can land you in the promotions tab.
Check and see if you can reword a couple of things to not sound like a car salesman and instead re-write them like you’re talking to your friend. Retest and see where you land.

 

  1. Your Counts

This is the most important piece of the checklist.
I hired a fresh-faced “kid” right out of college. He was my new Marketing Specialist. 
He had a big role. He created all of our customer lists for campaigns and was responsible for making sure the correct names were selected and exported to various fulfillment vendors. 

This required an insane level of attention to detail.

I didn’t have to teach him much on the tool. He could work circles around me. But I needed to teach him to think of the big picture and to do a gut check – “do my numbers make sense?”
No matter your role, you should always have a pulse on how many subscribers you have. 
You should be able to quickly answer how many buyers you have and how many prospects you have. By segments. 
If you are walking the hallways and the CEO stops you, you should be able to answer this question easily. In your sleep.
Which is why when I was handed a campaign report with 1 million people, for a segment that should only have 20,000, I immediately handed right back to him.
Before you send any email, especially when you get deeper into segmentation and have multiple groups and layers of subscribers, you need to check that the counts make sense.
The worst thing is sending someone an email for something they just purchased. Or has zero relevance.
Who your email goes to is more important than anything else – the creative, the offer, the product. 
Wrong person, no sale. Wrong person, you have to answer to Customer Care and eat your lunch under your desk for a month.

BONUS: Create a Seed List
There’s this funny term used in the catalog industry called your “lists of lists.” It is literally a list of the lists you plan to mail your catalog to.
The first time I got asked to send our lists of lists I thought for sure it was a typo.
And when I finally tracked down the lists of lists, I remember there was another weird name, Seed List.
Your Seed List includes a group of, usually internal, names you will send your campaigns to. 
In the Direct Mail world, this is how you check that your mail is delivered in the specified in-home window. Next time you get a catalog, check to see if it says something like “Postmaster, please deliver between 9/10 and 9/15”. 
It’s also how you can double check that your creative arrives in great condition, or has the correct cover on it for the 8 versions you mailed.
Just like with Direct Mail, create a Seed List for your emails. 
You can use your Seed List to test your emails first before you send them out. 
If you plan to use automation, add your Seed List to your automation and make sure it goes out as planned, with the timing you expect, with the creative it should be sending.
You should include your Seed List in every live campaign. You will be able to see your live emails, get confirmation that they went out as planned, on time and with the right creative.
Having a Seed List is how we caught that our Cyber Monday email didn’t go out at Bowflex…a technical hitch held it up, along with millions of dollars. 

What else?
You will likely have other things for your business that you want to check before you hit send.
For example, are there specific trademarks you need to use correct? Are you formatting your company name correctly (ie Mailchimp vs. MailChimp). 

Create your list and then set up a simple, easy process that works for you. For example, create a google sheet and mark things off as you test them. Print off a checklist. 
My dear friend Brooke, who was my Email Marketing Specialist at Bowflex, had a checklist she kept in her notebook. She marked everything off by hand, for every email. It was a simple process. 
Do whatever process works best for you but take the time to be thorough and polished so when you do hit send, you’ve caught all the errors in your control.