Anyone who works in email marketing will have occasional nightmares about a campaign that goes horribly, horribly wrong. And in a post at Don't Drink the Kool-Aid, Jon Bailey tells the story of one retailer who found himself at the center of a technological disaster. "The problem," says Bailey, "was a glitch in the server, which inadvertently caused all 4,800 names on his list to receive copies of each-and-every unsubscribe email sent by members of his list wishing to opt out."

Further compounding the problem: email messages asking others not to "reply all" on their responses—these, of course, also went to everyone on the list. "A vicious circle ensued that just got worse as the afternoon wore on," says Bailey.

The mailer received over 100 messages connected to this mailing; while many subscribers took the barrage in stride, some became "unhinged," sending angry, profanity-laced replies. "After the first—oh, say—10 emails," he notes, "one would think most people would realize there had been an error." Apparently not.

Bailey suggests this boondoggle was a good time to revisit the cardinal rules of email marketing:

  • Check—and recheck—your list.
  • Provide a clear link for unsubscribes.
  • Always hide your distribution list.
  • If something goes wrong, make it right—immediately.

Following this fiasco, the retailer decided his only recourse was to retire his entire email list—and start over. (Shudder.)

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