Don’t Be Afraid to Take Things Apart

The other night, right before a camping trip, one of my friends brought me an LED lantern that wasn’t working. “Can you fix this? I’ve replaced the batteries, but it still won’t work.”

Now, I have absolutely no electrical engineering experience. I look at schematics and wind up more confused than when I started. Watts, Volts, Parallel, Series… it’s all pretty much Greek to me.  But I love taking things apart, especially when things aren’t working.

So I did, and at each step, I’d check to see if something changed.  At one point, when the lamp was more apart than together, I tried it again, and voila – it worked. Sadly, though I was keeping track of each step, I couldn’t for the life of me begin to tell you what it was that fixed it.  But as I assembled it back together, I checked at each point to make sure it was still working (it was). About 2/3 of the way through, as I was adding a screw in the base, I ran a test and it didn’t work. When I eased the screw out, it worked. There was something about that screw that pinched or offset a connection which prevented the lantern from lighting.SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

At times, I think that’s a good allegory for how email deliverability works. You have to be willing to blow up what you’re currently doing. You have to start back at the baseline. You go back to the point where things work: where your emails are no longer being blocked or filtered, then progress until you encounter a problem.

It’s easy to say, “Just send emails that people want, to people who want them, and you won’t have a problem.”  In fact, that’s something I say all the time.  But as programs grow in size and complexity, things can become obscured. More business units and new partners are added and the whole thing starts to get fuzzy.

If you’re not keeping track of who came from where, or how emails from different sources are responding (opens, clicks, unsubs, complaints…) then you need to start deconstructing. Get back to where you were when you didn’t have a problem. Get back to where things work. Then add pieces back in until you find the problem.

It’s not always easy, but we’ve helped a number of organizations identify the problems with their programs over the years. Sometimes they don’t want to fix them and go elsewhere, believing someone has the magic beans that will overpower bad practices. But more often than not, it is a matter of, “I had no idea that was a problem,” and we’re able to bring them up to speed with best practices to improve their program.

If you’ve noticed that your emails are getting blocked, or worry that they might not be getting through to your audience, we can help identify problems and formulate a plan to get you back on track!


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