Jan 16, 2007

Post Campaign Checklist for Email Marketers:

Yesterday, we sent this email campaign to all our MailChimp customers, and today I just went through my usual post-campaign checklist.

Then it hit me—"Why don’t I share my post-campaign checklist with all our customers?"

So here goes. Maybe you’ll find it useful (and maybe you’ll have something to add)…

Post Campaign Checklist for Email Marketers:

1. Check my inbox:

  • We setup an email account for all our email campaigns (you might setup something like, "newsletter@mycompany.com"). We use
    that as our reply-to address consistently, so that our recipients’ spam
    filters are "trained" to expect emails from that address.
    I check that account immediately after every campaign I send. Here’s why…
  • Look for weird bouncebacks. Mostly, it’ll be "I’m away on vacation" soft bounces. No worries there. But sometimes, you get challenge-response bouncebacks, where I get an instant auto-reply and have to fill out a captcha form to "prove I’m human." Read more about challenge-response filters here. I typically have to fill out a half-dozen or so of these after each campaign. You might even setup a filter in your inbox to put those in a special folder: "All emails to my address with spamarrest.com in the from line" etc.
  • Also look for any "I’m no longer with this company" or "My email address has changed" kind of auto-replies. Depending on the importance of the list, I might go and update those recipients’ accounts. If it’s my general newsletter list, I just don’t have time to worry about 30-something emails that have changed. Email accounts go bad in about 6 months to a year, and that’s just something we’ve got to learn to live with. But if it’s a small, focused list of high-value clients, I most certainly take the time to update their accounts.
  • Look for general feedback. I have a handful of recipients who always reply within a few hours with kudos, criticisms, and corrections. Definitely take the time to reply to those people.

2. Check my campaign stats:

  • What was my open rate? How does that compare to my last campaign’s open rate? If it dropped (or rose) significantly, howcum?
  • On this last campaign, I scheduled it to send on a holiday. I was worried that we wouldn’t get a lot of opens, but I did it anyway to experiment. It was a holiday where people get a day off from work, but don’t necessarily leave town with family. So I figured a lot of people might just be checking email from home. Apparently, my hunch was right. I got a TON more "I’m away from the office" replies than normal, but my open rate stayed consistent (47% if you’re curious).
  • What was the most popular link clicked? That might tell me a
    little something about my audience’s interests (as usual, it was the "View this
    email in your browser" link, followed by this how-to article from Aarron Walters on Sitepoint).

3. Check my deliverability:

  • Log in to my DeliveryMonitor.com account, and see which ISPs thought my message was spam (and try to figure out why). DeliveryMonitor works by giving me a "seed list" of email accounts they’ve setup at all the major ISPs (it’s about a hundred email addresses I have to add to my list). I send to that seed list (along with my real recipient list) and they show me which ISPs blocked my email as junk.
  • According to them, my email ended up in the junk folder of 90% of the AOL accounts on their seed list, and 100% of the Netscape.net accounts. That sounds absolutely horrible, but it doesn’t freak me out. My MailChimp customer list is B2B, so AOL and Netscape accounts will be rare. In fact, there’s only one person on my actual customer list with an AOL account, and zero with netscape.net accounts. Using my MailChimp AIM reports, I can actually see who opened and who clicked on what. I see that my one AOL recipient did indeed open my email yesterday (at 1:18pm).
  • I look at the deliverability of the campaign to see if anything different happened. Like open rates, if it went up or down significantly, there’s probably something to learn. Here’s how this campaign ranked, compared to recent campaigns I’ve sent:

    Deliverymonitorgraph

  • If you’re a MailChimp customer, here’s how you can get a 10% discount at DeliveryMonitor. We don’t make any commissions, and we’re not an affiliate. They just wanted to offer it to all our customers.
  • Look at hard bounces in MailChimp reports. I look for patterns, like a large number of bounces from the same domain. Like if there are a dozen hard bounces from @comcast.net, that tells me I might need to contact Comcast’s postmaster. I read through the bounceback headers for clues (here’s how). But since this is my B2B list, there’s won’t be any personal ISPs like that. In this case, I look for large corporations bouncing my emails. I might find one huge global company domain (just for example, let’s say @ibm.com, or @cocacola.com) hard-bouncing my email. I read the SMTP header. If there’s a message about how they thought my email was spam, I then assume, "Okay, that’s a big company with an email firewall that’s blocking my emails. Other big companies using that same email firewall might be blocking me too, since email firewalls tend to talk to each other." Medium to large companies often use firewalls like Barracuda or Postini or Ciphertrust or Brightmail, so it’s important to investigate.

4. Check back in a week or two.

  • Most of your activity (opens, clicks, bounces, etc) are going to happen within a few days. But you’ll always have a few stragglers that open their emails once a month or something. I like to check back in a week or so for the final number.

I’m sure there are a million other things I could check (send ’em if you got ’em) but that’s all I usually have time for. I would imagine the post-campaign checklist would be very different for large-scale retailers who depend on email for sales. They might check their website traffic stats and conversion rates, for instance.