“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.