Article first published October 2014, updated May 2019
Have you experienced that moment of dread when you discover an error in your email marketing campaigns? Or do you hover over the send button for what seems like hours wondering what you may have forgotten?
This is what we like to call ‘Sendphobia’ and it’s something many marketers have experienced.
However, by having a rock-solid email sign-off process in place, you can eliminate errors and rid yourself of ‘Sendphobia’ forever.
In this post, we worked with email marketing expert and top 50 email marketing influencer Becs Rivett to show you how to create a proper email sign-off process that is tailored to your organization and will help ensure you never make an error in your campaigns again.
What is an email sign-off process?
An email sign off process defines the stages an email campaign goes through to ensure it is error-free and approved by all relevant people in your organization.
It is made up of two critical parts: a map of the approval process and a campaign checklist.
For instance, we have a flow chart which lays out the whole email process from briefing the email through to post-campaign reporting. We don’t look at it every time we send an email out, but it is there and it is defined. It’s useful to show new people who become a part of your working group as it will help them understand their place in the process flow.
We also use a campaign sign-off checklist which we apply to every campaign. This specifies the person responsible for signing off their part of the email and confirms that you’ve also completed some pre-send tasks.
Why do we need an email sign-off process?
In short, to avoid situations like this….
“I sent an email wrong, then sent it wrong again. To 700K. That was a bad day” @becskr
“I sent the wrong email to about 3500 subscribers in my second week on the job..” @maxray
However, it isn’t just about avoiding mistakes either.
An email sign-off process is also really useful for setting the team’s expectations – what do they have to sign off (Is the information about a product correct? Do they approve the design?) and when are they expected to deliver their sign off by?
Chances are you’ve got a specific date you want your campaign to be sent by and anyone delaying on their feedback can disrupt that. Making people aware of not just their responsibilities but everyone else’s too increases awareness of the process and keeps the momentum going.
Building your own email sign-off process
When it comes to building your own email sign-off process for your marketing team, there are quite literally hundreds of different ways you can go about it. It all comes down to how many teammates are working on the campaign and what stages you want to include in the proofing process.
With that said, we’ve decided to share not only our Preflight checklist but lay out our step-by-step email sign-off process to help give you an idea of which direction to take.
First things first, here’s our preflight checklist. We’ve covered everything from the timing of our send date through our after-sending checklist, such as reviewing our analytics. Feel free to use our email checklist as a starting point for building one of your own.
Step 1: Work out who needs to give approval
The first step in building your own email sign-off process is working out who needs to give approval.
This is going to be different for every organization and can even differ between different types of email campaigns (new product announcements versus new blog post emails for instance), so you’ll definitely need to customize this to suit your organization’s unique attributes.
A few questions to answer, though:
- Who needs to sign off on design and client compatibility?
- Who needs to sign off on correct product information?
- Who needs to sign off on legal requirements?
- Who needs to sign off on spelling, grammar & links?
- Does senior management need to sign off before sending?
Once you’ve worked out who is responsible for approval across different areas, it’s time to focus on defining exactly what checks each person needs to do.
Step 2: Work out what needs to be checked
Once you’ve worked out who’s involved in the approval process, it helps to define what each person is responsible for checking.
Not only does this help to reduce errors in your campaigns, but it’ll speed up the approval process by making sure people only comment on the areas they’re supposed to.
I’ve had situations in previous roles where campaigns took days to get approval because everybody wants to have their opinion on the color of the heading or the positioning of the image. By defining what people are in charge of checking, you put boundaries in place that prevents fruitless arguments.
Again, this is going to differ for your organization and even between campaign types, but here are a few ideas for “checks” to include in your checklist:
- Is your brand easily recognizable?
- Does your message have a clear focus?
- Does it look as expected across desktop clients (Outlook, Postbox, etc)?
- Does it look as expected on mobile devices?
- Are sizing options correct? This applies to the size of the text/font, images, and any GIFs or videos used.
- Are the colors used in the email visible on all devices? Not all colors suit emails, such as light colors, hues, and shades.
- Is there a plain-text version of this email? If so, have you optimized it?
- Is your call to action easily identifiable and easy to interact with?
- Have you replaced any default template or placeholder text?
- Did you include a working unsubscribe link?
- Did you include a link to view the email online?
- Did you add in social sharing/connecting? Is it appropriate for this email/campaign?
- Does the content of the email provide true value to the reader?
- Have you explained “what’s in it” for them?
- Is the email copy free of spelling errors?
- Is the email copy free of grammatical errors?
- Are all product descriptions accurate?
- Is the email subject line free from spelling, grammar, or information errors?
- Is the email preheader free from spelling, grammar, or information errors?
- Is the plan-text version free from spelling, grammar, or information errors?
- Have you defined the objective of your campaign: to educate, increase signups, encourage purchases?
- Is this email being sent to the correct list and segment?
- Has the “From” name been checked and is it from a recognizable name?
- Has a working “Reply To” address been set?
- Have you set up appropriate fallbacks for any personalization tags used?
- Do you have a set sending schedule?
- Will certain people must do pre-checks before the emails go out? Make sure assignments are clear as to who’s in charge of what.
- Does it include a working Unsubscribe link?
- Is product/stock availability correct?
- Do all links lead to the correct place?
- Do all buttons link to the correct place?
- Are all images linked and leading to the correct place?
- Do all images have explanatory Alt text for when images are blocked?
- Have you tested the content?
- Have you tested the level of personalization?
- Have your subscribers all opted in to receiving your messages?
- Are you following all applicable spam laws for your subscriber’s in different countries?
Once you’ve worked out who’s responsible for approvals and worked out all the checks each person needs to perform, then it’s time to build your Campaign Checklist—or you can use our preflight checklist.
Step 3: Build your campaign checklist
Now that you’ve defined who’s responsible for approvals and what checks they need to perform, you can build it into a usable spreadsheet.
To make this easier for you, we’ve created an email campaign checklist in Excel format that you can download and start using straight away.
You’ll obviously need to customize it with the names and checks you identified in Steps 1 and 2, but we’ve also thrown in a bunch of ideas for checks, which should help you build a comprehensive checklist.
Using your campaign checklist in project management software
Once you have your checklist and template ready, you’ll want to begin implementing it immediately. Many marketing teams make use of project management software, like Asana, one of the many tools Campaign Monitor clients can use to simplify project management.
Having the right people assigned to the right project is vital. This is why product management software goes hand in hand with having a template and checklist. Taking your template and splitting it up into individual projects with varying tasks is one way to divvy up the work and track the email campaign as it goes through the various milestones.
With project management software, project managers can assign specific users to each project or even individual tasks. They can then attach documents or project notes to their task, and they can be signed off and completed, as necessary, according to your timeline and checklist.
These types of software also allow users to communicate with one another, which ensures that questions, comments, concerns, and hiccups are all addressed in a timely manner.
Step 4: Start using your checklist
Now that you’ve built a great email campaign checklist, it’s time to start using it to make sure your campaigns are free from errors.
While everybody’s email sending process is different and you can use it however you like, one of the best things to do is simply run through the checklist right before sending as this will ensure everything is ticked off before you hit the point of no return.
Here are a few tips for using your fancy new campaign checklist:
- Use Google Docs – If your organization allows, use the Google Docs version. It allows multiple people to be working on the one centralized document at the same time and keeps a record of all changes made, including who wrote what and at what time. That way, if something ever goes wrong you’ll know exactly who approved it and when.
- Keep the document as an audit trail – Always keep the checklist in your company’s file system in case you or anybody else needs to refer back to it later.
Sendphobia can definitely be scary, but by building a campaign sign off process specific to your organization and running through it each time you send an email marketing campaign, you can help prevent errors and actually make sending campaigns an exciting and enjoyable experience that drives business results.
So get our campaign checklist template and start using it within your organization today.
Whether you choose to create your own checklist or use our simply to use checklist template, Campaign Monitor is here to help.