Yesterday should have been a great day for me and my business, but alas it wasn’t to be.


The weeks of preparation in the lead up

At the beginning of June I sat down and spent 8 hours planning, writing and creating Parachute Digital’s email onboarding strategy. What that means is when I have a new prospect that I want to encourage to subscribe to my email list, or a new person organically signs up for our email communications, it is the journey that we take them on over the coming weeks. A person is most engaged with your brand at the first point of action. The first 2 weeks after somebody signs up for an email list are crucial. These first 2 weeks is where you have to establish your credibility, educate the user on what they should expect to receive from your business and to start to build a relationship of trust.


Digital Strategy Workshops in Sydney - Special June Offer

The special offer I made to lapsed clients and subscribers, for a discounted Rapid Results Digital Strategy Workshop

So I did that, and it’s now in development. At the same time, I thought I would take advantage of the end of financial year and the fact that many businesses are looking to spend some residual budget, and make a special offer to my clients and supporters. And because of my experience, of who I am and the way I like to work (and a little bit of arrogance I suppose), I wanted the Rolls Royce version. This is a comment that one of my clients has given me in the past when asking me for an estimate or proposal, “Shanelle, I know you like to give the Rolls Royce experience, but really, we just want the VW version.”


Anyway, I have been working with a producer/ developer friend of mine to get this email campaign set up for Parachute Digital. We have worked together for years and know each other’s skill sets well, but this campaign seemed to be taking forever because we were both working in an email tool that was new to us, MailChimp. I’ve been sending my email newsletters out, using MailChimp, for the past 6 months, but this was the first time we were setting up complex databases that captured multiple user preferences and behaviour (which required a third party tool – JotForm). It was the first time we were setting up a series of trigger based emails that would deliver dynamic content based on the subscribers selection process. It was the first time we were using a payment gateway (as all of my clients currently pay by invoice). It was the first time we were using MailChimp’s autoresponder functionality and it was our very first Parachute Digital promotion.


I have absolutely created this very kind of set up for businesses and clients in the past, but this was the first time for myself and the first time using MailChimp (in the past we’d used Campaign Monitor, Responsys’ system or InxMail). And as with all things new, we were discovering that the system didn’t operate exactly how I wanted it to, so we were finding work arounds and trying new things and we were testing, and testing and testing the emails and the landing pages and thank you pages and PayPal payment pages and the triggered emails. We probably did over 200 tests in the past 2 weeks. I was driving my Producer crazy with my insistence that this could work. And I was right, it could work. Emphasis on could!


We’re ready to send the email

Finally, the day I had been waiting for arrived. Yesterday morning, at about 9.10am I got the final test I needed to be absolutely certain that it was all working as it should be and I gave the approval to send. And this is where it all fell to pieces.

imessage conversation

This iMessage conversation shows the moment when my Producer said “you could upload the list” and I was impatient and didn’t wait for the experts to do the job properly.

I was impatience and wanted to send immediately, so when my Producer couldn’t send until the afternoon and suggested that I upload the recipient lists into MailChimp, I thought “Sure, I can do that.”I was just trying to save a little bit of time, maybe 30 minutes, so when she got back we could send immediately. And I could upload the lists, and I did, but I made one crucial mistake.


I uploaded the email subscribers into the list named “Digital Workshops” and “Mobile Workshops”, but they had been set up for the Autoresponders. So when I got an Out of Office bounce back email from one of my clients, I realised that I had just sent every one of my clients and lapsed clients, the most important people to me, a confirmation email, thanking them for signing up to our Mobile, Social, Email or Content workshops, as per the June special offer.


From there I went into damage control and I sent a text message to all of my current clients. I let them know, before they saw the email, what had happened and apologising for the mistake. I tried to make light of it, suggesting that perhaps it was a planned piece of positive psychology to encourage them all to take up the offer when it did come out later that day. I did the same thing for my lapsed clients via email.


And then my Producer finished teaching Yoga and fixed up all the lists so that my clients and subscribers would now get the correct, Special offer email rather than an autoresponder confirmation email. I was nervous and wanted to test again, but instead we got on the phone and did the final check of all the lists and emails in real time, opening and confirming that everything was correct. And we didn’t send that final test. We thought, we’ve tested this 200 times, it was bang on this morning, we know we’ve sorted it, let’s send. So we did. And then I got a text message from a client saying “I just got an email from you with Dear <insert firstname> in it.”


The incredible outpourings of love and support

I could have cried. I didn’t, I said some unpleasantries to myself and I clenched my fists, but I didn’t cry. I wanted to crawl under a rock. I felt that my credibility was shot. It was already a long shot that some of my clients might take up the email offer of a Mobile Marketing Package with a price point of $11,599, but now that I couldn’t even get the simplest of things right, their name personalised in the email, who was going to take up the offer now? All that time spent in preparation, all the early mornings and late nights of testing to get it right. All the persistence that the user could have the ideal journey that I wanted them to was for nothing.


And then all my beautiful friends and clients came out and gave me words of encouragement. A colleague said on facebook “It’s never as bad as it seems” and my client sent a text message saying that “People are forgiving and as your client we know how good your work is and how much attention to detail you have. We understand that technical glitches happen” and my sister said “At least it happened with your business and not to one of your clients”.

Sarah Murdoch misreads live on TV

Working in a dynamic, live environment – things sometimes go wrong

And I was reminded of gaffs that happen on live television (Sarah Murdoch announcing the wrong winner of Australia’s Next Top Model) and that this is the nature of dynamic content and the real time nature of web. And all of these things are right, but it doesn’t change my disappointment at wanting to give my clients a great first experience. I wanted to lead by example and ask them to trust me to take them on a journey that will deliver amazing results.


What I learnt from this experience is:

  • Surround yourself with the right team and let them do their job
  • Be patient – after weeks of testing and agonising over getting it perfect, another few hours won’t matter
  • You can NEVER test too much, sometimes you need that 201 test just for your sanity
  • Don’t get so caught up in the complex detail to forget the little things – like a personalised name.


Please, tell me what you have learnt from my mistake?