From time to time I’ll pull a message from my inbox and do a walk-through of its pros and cons. These gentle critiques are intended to educate; I hope that the companies mentioned as well as readers will keep that top of mind. 

Email marketing automation is a wonderful thing. It allows marketers to be more relevant while increasing the efficiency of the marketing team. But here’s a cautionary tale delivered as a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to everyone using triggered email programs — and especially to IBM Security, who has been sending me the same email message every day for more than 2 weeks now. 

Earlier this month I was researching the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), new guidelines for email permission and the treatment of personally identifiable information (PII) which take effect in European Union countries early next year. One of the white papers I found on the issue was from IBM Security; I provided my email address and then was able to view the document.

I also received an email message from IBM Security with a link to the white paper as well as an offer to read a related ‘solution brief.’

It’s not a bad email message. But here’s the thing — I first received it on June 5th. It’s now June 19th, two weeks later, and each day (even weekend days) I receive this same message from IBM Security. You can see a partial screenshot of my inbox at left.

That’s 15 messages in 15 days…and counting…

Initially I thought this must be an email series — not a bad thing to use to educate people who download your information about your company and your solutions and engage them.

But then I looked at the messages. They were all exactly the same, no difference.

Then I thought that perhaps this was a strategic resend — and that if I opened and clicked on one of the emails they would stop coming. So I did this — but the messages just kept coming.

I went looking for a preference center link in the footer of email; I hoped that it might allow me to see what I had been signed up for and unsubscribe from this particular email. But all I am seeing is an unsubscribe link. I likely will, at this point, unsubscribe, although I am willing to receive email from IBM Security. Just not the same email with the same information every day.

There is a phone number toward the bottom for questions; I assume this goes to a sales representative who likely doesn’t have responsibility for this auto-responder email. But who know? Maybe they do. Perhaps I’ll call them.

Or maybe I’ll just post a link to this blog post on the Only Influencers list, ask if there’s anyone there from IBM Security and, if so, ask them to reach out to me.

I imagine that I’m not the only person getting this email message again and again. And a ‘regular’ non-marketing person would likely have just unsubscribed by now, limiting IBM Security’s ability to use the email channel to communicate with them in the future. This would be a loss for the company.

The real issue is likely that there is a glitch with this triggered message. It might be an issue with how it was set-up, where it is sending to everyone daily instead of just once. Or perhaps the set-up was correct but there’s an issue with the ‘flag’ that tells the trigger who has already received this email message.

Either way, it’s a good reminder that you should check on all your auto-responders on a regular basis. At least once a year; once a quarter is even better. If it’s a triggered message that drives significant revenue for your organization you should check it at least monthly.

The best way to check is to actually sign-up, just like your customer or prospect would, to receive the emails — use a secondary or throw-away email address and monitor the inbox to confirm:

  • Frequency: if it’s a series of triggered messages, confirm that all are accounted for.
  • Cadence: Make sure that the timing of the messages is correct; be sure to look at emails that are triggered immediately following an action as well as the timing between emails in a series.
  • Copy: read all copy and note anything that requires an update, like mention of a now-past conference your company is running or legislation which has changed since the email was created; you obviously also want to be looking for typos (but hopefully you won’t find any).
  • Images: be sure that all images are loading properly and that they are the correct images for the email. Note any updates that may be needed (new logos, etc.).
  • Links: click on all links and confirm that they are taking recipients to the right landing pages.
  • Tracking and Reporting: look at your marketing automation dashboard and confirm that you can see the actions you just took on that email to ensure that attribution is still in place.

Last year while I was helping a client migrate from one marketing automation system to another we got a surprise. We did one last sweep of the old system and found some auto-responders which no one on the client team was aware of. They must have been set-up more than 2 years ago, before anyone who is now in the department arrived there.

The creative wasn’t just dated, some of the images no longer loaded and a few of the links returned ‘page not found’ errors. We all cringed looking at what people had been receiving. But you know what, one of these long-forgotten auto-responders was still driving revenue for the organization. Not a ton, but revenue that would have been missed if it had been left behind.

So here’s that Public Service Announcement (PSA): check your auto-responders on a regular basis. Although we often think of automation as ‘set it and forget it’ you may be missing out on revenue (worse case scenario) or annoying people (still not a good place to be) if they aren’t working properly.


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