“Dear David … Oops, I Mean Carolyn” – Blunders in Marketing Automation

Ah, the blunders of automation. In the “old” days, when direct mail personalization was the shiny new penny, there were critical quality control procedures in place to ensure the right personalization data was being ink-jetted/lasered onto the right creative package/offer. We made sure the address data in each record matched the personalized salutation and output on the order device. Now that the email world has collided with database automation, QC efforts seem to be non-existent. As a customer, I’m insulted. As a marketer, I’m embarrassed for our entire industry.

Ah, the blunders of automation.

In the “old” days, when direct mail personalization was the shiny new penny, there were critical quality control procedures in place to ensure the right personalization data was being ink-jetted/lasered onto the right creative package/offer. We made sure the address data in each record matched the personalized salutation and output on the order device.

Now that the email world has collided with database automation, QC efforts seem to be non-existent. As a customer, I’m insulted. As a marketer, I’m embarrassed for our entire industry.

I first noticed the problem about 8 years ago when I got an email that started “Dear First Name”—it took everything I had to not choke on my morning latte. “Hmmm,” I thought, “somebody’s going to get fired for this one.”

Apparently, this “somebody” packed their bags and got a job managing email at yet another company, because their next email faux pas was an email personalized to me, but read, “Since you live in Arkansas …” Really? I don’t think I’ve ever even visited Arkansas, so either you’ve got the wrong Carolyn, or your data is really, really bad.

Or how about those sales people who look like they’re sending a 1:1 email, but the results have gone completely awry? The sender is so lazy, they’ve clearly just cut and pasted different text together—different fonts, different font colors, different font sizes.

My favorite one started, “Dear Carolyn, We get it too!” Huh? Did we meet and have a conversation about something and I dozed off?

Roger Connors, Author, Co-CEO/Co-President, Partners In Leadership at Ozprinciple.com, emails me regularly with a “Dear David” salutation. Absolutely no idea who these folks are, why I’m on their email list and why they think my name is David. And it seems Roger isn’t trusted to email by himself because his emails always come from Roger Connors and Tom Smith. Who is Tom and why won’t he let Roger send out an email alone? Perhaps because he’s never accurate with the name of his target? Nice QC supervision there, Tom.

Other organizations seem to get my name right, but miss the mark on personalization within the body copy of the email. Take this one from the Director of Retail Sales at Dixon Ticonderoga Company, who emails, “I hope to meet privately you and others to discuss the options you offer for building a non-traditional marketing strategy for .” Wow.

Then, there’s the Subject line. One of my favorites? Subject: “=?utf-8?Q??=Carolyn, Are You Right on Time, Right on Target?”

And let’s not forget those images that don’t download properly, so I’m looking at a big box with an “X” in the middle of it. Or how about links that don’t work (spinning … spinning … spinning … ) or link to a page that has nothing to do with the content in the email?

Or better yet, really examine your copy to make sure you’re not insulting anyone. The one I received this morning that reads: “Younger is better. Marketers need new technologies …To keep customers happy … To make numbers … To keep u p… Old technologies are clunky. Non-agile. Old technologies are old. Like our fellow Chi-town native, Kanye, we don’t like it unless it’s brand new.”

Hey, I may not be a spring chicken, that just rubbed me the wrong way.

So here’s a tip for all you marketers that use email in your mix: Set up your email campaign and then blast to test names in your campaign list (use a variety of email accounts so you can see how the email renders after passing through gmail, AOL and other email servers). QC it. Fix it. Send a test email again. QC it. Fix it. Send a test email again. Repeat until everything is perfect, because your first brand impression may be your last.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

4 thoughts on ““Dear David … Oops, I Mean Carolyn” – Blunders in Marketing Automation”

  1. Email is certainly and easy form of marketing and so companies seem to think anyone can create effective campaigns. I still have the email from the Scooter Store I received this summer. I appreciate the offer, but while my legs are a bit creaky from too much running I don’t think – at age 52- I am ready for a scooter to propel me through life. What kind of targeting is that? Bad, bad targeting.

  2. Very good article, Carolyn. In today’s new graduate world where everone is an internet expert, it’s amazing how many of them come crawling to the oldies when they screw up…and screw up they do. Even here in Sri Lanka,where I’m now immune to many of the assassinations of our common language, I am constantly (read daily) astonished at how little they know about simple process. "Ah, well, it got me through school, so it’s good enough," appears to be the watchword. Just because they have a degree in marketing this or that c**p they think they are God;s gift. Unfortunately, it’s the agencies and clients who ultimately pay the price.

  3. Although personalizing emails is good for drawing the eye, I think there’s a certain amount of disinterest – if not distrust – associated with this practice, especially among younger audiences. Teens and young adults are familiar with "spammed" personal messages on Twitter and emails that resemble messages from friends. I feel like this method has almost been abused to the point that its effectiveness is somewhat diluted. Businesses that can craft a sincere and believable message will be successful, but simply slapping your first name on subpar content is no longer viable.

    Scott Wexler
    Copy Editor
    Mojo Ad

  4. of course – this is correctly encoded UTF8, and the email client didn’t do it’s jobe correctly…

    "Then, there’s the Subject line. One of my favorites? Subject: "=?utf-8?Q??=Carolyn, Are You Right on Time, Right on Target?""

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