Yesterday’s email oops from the New York Times brought back seriously bad memories of a time when an email newsletter meant for 25,000 got sent to 2.5 million on our “all subscribers” email list.
For us, it was a simple training issue. The main email “sender” went on vacation and trained another user in her department to send the weekly email. The documentation wasn’t detailed enough and the replacement clicked the “all subscribers” list instead of the subscriber list associated with the newsletter. BAM! We’ve since had the “all subscribers” list removed from the send options, but the damage was already done.
Here’s a rundown of what happens when an email meant for a few thousand people gets sent to millions instead.
Deliverability issues when users mark as SPAM:
When a user marks a sender as SPAM, the email service provider (in our case, ExactTarget) makes that address “inactive.” Once those users hit that “master unsubscribe” list, that means no more email newletters, breaking news alerts, etc… massive list depletion. Even if further emails do reach that user, you may end up directly in the user’s spam folder instead of where you want to be: the inbox.
In our case there was a significant impact on most of our email newsletter lists, up to a 30% drop in active subscribers for some of our smaller/niche newsletters. When you sell display advertising in your newsletters based on list size, a significant and rapid decline can crush future sales.
Large-scale emailing isn’t exactly cheap when you send through an ESP. Generally, companies purchase yearly email allotments and pricing is based on the volume of email you send. A mistake of a million emails could cost thousands of dollars if you burn through your yearly allotment ahead of schedule because of it. If you send a correction email, that doubles your cost. Luckily for us, we did not end up paying for overages but we were close.
I’m not talking about send reputation based on spam complaints and deliverability, either. I’m talking about the trust you’ve worked so hard to build with your customers. Breaking the trust of a user is a serious violation; it’s a fragile relationship where one wrong move can cost you the customer forever. With rampant data breaches, spamming, phishing and everything else going on, users are always on high alert to bail at the slightest whiff of something foul.
So, if you have others in your organization who send email, check in with them regularly to make sure they understand proper workflows but also the consequences of carelessness or misunderstanding. Make sure any new hires are trained thoroughly on email sending and be available to answer any questions they have. From experience, taking the time for proper training is a much better option than the giant mess like this. It shows you even an industry leader like the New York Times can make big mistakes and one errant click can cost you thousands.