We launched a Kickstarter campaign on Sept. 23, just a few days ago. One big mistake right off the bat turned into a series of problems, but I'll get to that in a minute.
In preparation for that launch, we had spent at least 60 hours of prep time. We followed the plan laid out by Mike del Ponte in his Hacking Kickstarter post on Tim Ferris' blog. We also consulted a great many other resources. We invited our friends, colleagues, and a few strangers to check out the campaign and provide feedback.
All in all, we felt good about it. Like when you get an award at school. Or when the person you ask on a date says Yes. I had everything set and ready to go, and at 5:30 a.m., I woke up to get ready for the launch at 6 a.m. PST.
I had my coffee. I had determination. I had a week's worth of sleep-deprived nights, panicking and fluttering over the campaign. Is it right? Are we ready?
Like was suggested in del Ponte's guide, I pre-scheduled all emails - the majority through MailChimp and the rest - those closer friends - through Boomerang for Gmail. All I had to do was fight to keep my eyes open, sit back, and enjoy my coffee.
For the next hour, I sat there, submitting Twitter announcements, Facebook updates and all sorts of social media wizardry when I received the standard mass-email questions. "How do I share on Twitter?" (Answer: click the Twitter button in the footer.) And the list goes on.
Then something caught my eye. Instead of the email being addressed to the person, it read: "Hi *|TITLE:FNAME|!".
For reference, it looked like this:
Yeah. When I saw the first one, a wave of panic overtook me. Lump in my throat. Stomach tight. Surely, this one was a mistake. Surely, the rest are not like this.
But they were. As I combed through the 1600 emails, it was very clear. I had screwed up royally.
Imagine yourself on the receiving end of this awkwardness. Would you be inclined to share? Would you be inclined to read?!?! I certainly wouldn't be. Thankfully, even with that glaring oversight, we still managed a 22% open rate and a 3.9% clickthrough rate.
However, we started seeing emails, mentioning the awkwardness. And my stomach tightened yet again.
Problem #1: We now had a relationship issue on our hands. How do we reconnect with these people and build upon that trust? How do we make this right? Well, I could go through 1600 individual email addresses and send customized, unique emails to those individuals. But that wasn't a legitimate option, given the time-frame.
I ended up making an apology video.
We also responded personally to everybody that wrote us about the mishap, and managed to mitigate some of the irritation. We also decided it best to come forth to our social networks in a very up-front fashion with the video.
While many of those relationships were tarnished, being humble and clear about owning the mistake went a long way with a lot of our network. To the rest of you: Again, I'M SORRY!!!!
Problem #2: I mentioned before that if I were to receive that email, I would mark it as spam. And that's what a few people did. Not a lot, but enough to set off the alarms at MailChimp. Later that morning, I received the unfortunate email from MailChimp, letting me know that my account was temporarily suspended due to suspicious activity.
I need to make two things clear here:
The list of contacts I emailed are all contacts we've built over time. We don't buy lists or engage in any of that slippery-handed nonsense. These were (are) people we knew. But the incidence of the awkward introduction line made it weird/suspicious enough, for enough people, to flag the message. For this, I can't blame those people. Again, if it were me, I would have done the same.
I am not an amateur. I've sent hundreds of emails to lists of connections. I have a background in journalism, and am very keen on details. YET, with all that experience, and the amount of stress, and the lack of sleep, I let one simple asterisk (remember, it was *|TITLE:FNAME|! instead of *|TITLE:FNAME|*!) be the thing that ruined relationships, and ruined my otherwise good standing with MailChimp.
So now, we've been placed on the defensive, instead of the offensive we planned for.Our campaign is coming along, but I can't think about what might have been had I not overlooked such a seemingly insignificant character.
No matter your level of experience or expertise in a particular arena, have somebody look over your work. Even when you've done it 100 times before. Even if it doesn't seem that important. Even when it's something as simple as an email.
With that said, For those of you who didn't have to witness this in my email, maybe you can spend 60 seconds checking out my campaign. I promise you - you won't receive any auto-replies or faulty emails from me.
That is my promise.
Editors note: by way of progress as at the publication of this article the current campaign now has 35 backers who have pledged $2,357 of a $20,000 goal. There were 23 days remaining in the campaign. We will watch the campaign and update the article once it has concluded (good lick Joshua!)
About the author: Joshua Corbelli is a senior digital marketing strategist based in Redding, California.
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