The Dummies’ Guide to Email Automation: When the Good goes Bad

5 minute read

Upland Admin

The other day, I got an automated email that was a little puzzling. It was from a B2B sender, and it said, essentially, “You’re not reading our emails. Click here to stay on the list. If you don’t, we’ll opt you out.”

The email itself was fine. It was a win-back email, a notice that the sender wanted to know if I still wanted to stay on its list. It’s a common tactic, especially for B2B vendors in a New Year, because they want to keep their mailing lists clean and up-to-date.

I was puzzled because the email looked familiar. So, I searched my “deleted” folder, and voila! I discovered that this provider sends me the same email every three months. I click on it every time. But, every time, the automation fails to recognize it.

Clearly, nobody is checking up on this automation. The lesson? There’s no “set it and forget it” in marketing automation.

Email automation for dummies: Schedule a 3-month check-up

You get your car’s oil changed every three months (or so), right? Do the same thing with your email automations, and for the same reason: to keep everything running the way it should.

Automations break down, just like automobiles. If you have a lot of automations, three months might not be realistic. My point, however, is to schedule regular check-ups and avoid missteps that may affect thousands, or millions, of subscribers.

3 things that break your email automations

Change is a regular part of your email-marketing program. (Really! If you’re still marketing like it’s 1999, we need to talk.) But, you must update your automations to incorporate or reflect changes. Here are three common problem areas:

1. Outdated branding.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with clients that sent automated emails with outdated branding. It usually happens when you fail to update your automation templates, especially the ones you don’t use as often.

I often see automated emails with outdated logos, straplines that reflect a previous campaign or season and old navigation. It looks amateurish and careless.

Watch for this whenever you tweak your branding or update your email templates, to ensure continuity and consistency. With Valentine’s Day campaigns waiting in the wings, take time now to make sure every email you send, whether a broadcast or triggered message, reflects your current brand and template design.

2. Outdated data

You or your database manager are tweaking your data scheme and your database set-up all the time. You’re adding new integrations, too. Other things that you might not even know about are happening, or you have sections of data housed in several databases. All these can affect your data. That’s why integrations fail.

Always check that your data is working the way you expect. Some people do a manual check to the data owner to make sure it still lines up. Work with your database people to see how you can run a check-up as efficiently and effectively as possible.

3. Failed logic

My rogue win-back email demonstrated that the system is not recognizing that I have not clicked the “keep me subscribed” button.  At least one part of the database knows I’ve unsubscribed, because I’m not receiving any other content – newsletters, promos, alerts, etc.

Checking your logic every three months or so ensures your programs are running right. It’s a trade-off as you move to greater relevance through personalization and data integrations. The more sophisticated your email program becomes, the greater the potential for failures that your subscribers will notice.

Consequences of automation failures

Your brand and email program can take big hits when your automations fail. The brand with the failed win-back email sends great content, but it also has this one email that keeps harassing me. Yes, I delete it every time, but it’s a negative event that colors my opinion of the brand and its email savvy.

I’ve tried to reach out to the company to let it know what’s going on and to try to figure out what’s causing the problem, but I’ve been unsuccessful so far.

Your subscribers won’t be as tolerant. They’ll hit the “report spam” button which hurts your sender reputation and could lead to getting your emails blocked throughout your entire organization. That can lead to an even bigger issue: You might have no way of knowing why your emails are blocked!

Your assignment for today: Check up on your most crucial automations – unsubscribes, drip campaigns, abandonment emails; any that are crucial to your business – and make sure they function as they should.

Finally, would someone please get me out of this damn win-back email? In the immortal words of The Jetsons’ George Jetson: “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”

Reliable products. Real results.

Every day, thousands of companies rely on Upland to get their jobs done simply and effectively. See how brands are putting Upland to work.

View Success Stories