The Curse of the Unruly Import

Every year, when the date in the corner of my screen turns to October, I still get the chills thinking of it. No amount of pumpkin spice latte can warm my bones; no cozy fire can break the cold grip it still has on my very soul.

But here I am, telling my story, hoping someone can avoid the Curse.

It was a Monday, and was to be a momentous day for at least one person at our firm – our new CEO, whose email announcement would go out to our entire database in a news release later that morning. Not trusting this task to anyone else, it fell on my shoulders, as leader of our nascent marketing operations group.

The first email I saw that morning was from our Northeast Regional Sales manager, Dan. Timestamp: 2:24 a.m. He’d been at a tradeshow Friday and apparently in addition to free pens, he also got insomnia.

From: dmian@company.com
To: me@company.com
Subject: URGENT IMPORT NEEDED

Hey – got all these leads from the Widgets and Witches show on Friday in Salem. Can you upload them AS damn P in the morning so we can send out a follow up? These are hot leads man and I need to make quota.

Despite it being Monday, despite the fact I’d not had a drop of coffee yet, I opened the file. What I beheld cannot be described to any mortal without instilling fear and loathing into even the purest of hearts.

It was a data horror show.

Dan had obviously been under the influence of some kind of drug when he gathered these leads. There was a “Fullname” column. The first 10 emails were either “info@” or “sales@.” Job titles were a mix of all caps or no caps. There seemed to be a nonsensical amalgamation of random data across columns – leads from Atlanta had Connecticut as the state. New York’s famous zip code appeared in the same row as a lead from Wichita. It then hit me like Frankenstein’s bolt of lightning: HE HAD SORTED THE COLUMNS INCORRECTLY!!

I immediately popped my head over my cubicle and yelled in Dan’s general direction, “Good GOD man, what did you do??!?!!”

That part, thankfully, was in my head.

I was told this later by marketing colleagues who’d gathered nearby, drawn by the incessant tap-tap-tapping of my pen against the desktop.

Coincidentally – or not – it was then that Jim made his presence known by Slacking me good morning. Given the state of our industry, Jim, the latest member to join my team, was green. Proverbial wet behind the ears. Listed Mailchimp as a skill on his resume. I had no choice but to groom him and teach him the Ways of the (Marketing Operations) Force.

Hey dude – saw that email from Dan. No worries – I took care of it. Happy Monday!

I glanced again at the email. DAN HAD CC’D JIM. My fingers took to the keyboard with the fury of a thousand scorned ghosts:

What do you mean you took care of it???

His reply seemed to take hours to travel the tubes.

Dan came to me this morning. He said he’d screwed up the sorting, and also told me that he was worried we already had some of the people in Salesforce. So, I just downloaded our global database, did some Excel magic to match everyone, and BAM – we’re all set! .

Bing again:

Even ticked the “global” box

Global box? What global box?

Bing: Another Slack. From the VP of Marketing. The urgency of her words seeming to pierce my monitor. Was the news release ready to go, she inquired? I replied confidently:

You bet – I scheduled it before I left on Friday. Sending at 11:30am.

“Scheduled it”…I remember this vaguely from Friday. Deep in the mid-afternoon torpor of a post-bar-b-que lunch, I decided help my future Monday self and take care of the email for him.

Excellent – thanks. Had a bad weekend! Just want this to go right.

A curious tone and surprising emotional confession from a superior? Maybe this will line me up for a promotion…

My daydream ending, I decided I’d check the news release email before explaining the finer points of data integrity to Jim.

Under Lists, I couldn’t believe what my optic nerve was relying to my brain:

Company News (0)

Zero? Zero? How can it be zero? My heart racing, thumping, pounding from my chest I darted out of my cubicle and over to Jim’s.

“Tell me about the global box?? What global box did you tick?” I screamed, grabbing him by the V-neck of his office casual golf shirt.

“The box to update stuff globally when you’re importing prospects!” he said. “The one in Pardot!!”

“The one under ‘select action’??!?!” I yelled.

“Uh, I think so,” he said, looking to the ground, searching his brain.

“That was the global opt-out option! YOU’VE OPTED OUT OUR ENTIRE DATABASE!!! OUR ENTIRE DATABASE!!!” I sunk dramatically to the floor, out of breath, a pressure on my chest I was unfamiliar with. IT WAS THE CURSE.

When I awoke, it was well-past 11:30am. The news release that should’ve gone out, did not. In the end, a call to support was made. The data, restored. The email went out the next day. Jim was made to take a remedial course in Excel and was never allowed to import leads again.

BUT IT WAS SCARY. For a hot minute.

And each year on that day, no one is allowed to import anything into Pardot on that day, lest the Curse of The Unruly Import strike again!

The Ghost

“It’s fine, I just wish they’d follow the process, ” I sighed. “I was able to get the email out before lunch, so it’s off my plate now.“

The wind blew, causing a swirl of crunchy leaves to dance across the path. I took a deep breath of the crisp autumn air, and exhaled slowly. Dark clouds were approaching, but the sun was still visible overhead and I could feel its warmth pour over me as if it was trying to comfort me.

“Have you told them they aren’t following the process? Maybe they just don’t know,” Nancy inquired, trying to give our co-workers the benefit of the doubt.

“Of course! I sent them over the documentation, and explained everything before. I know they felt really bad about this last minute request. I was able to move some things around, so it’s not a big deal. I was a little stressed over it, but it always helps to get outside and walk during lunch,” I said as I pulled out my phone to check the time and see how many steps I took during my lunch break.

Before I was able to check my steps, I noticed the bright red notification badge on the Slack icon increase from 5 to 6 messages. Now 7. My anxiety incrementally increased in tandem with the the number of notifications. I opened Slack.

Randy: Hey.
Randy: I think there might be a problem.
Randy: With that email we sent earlier.
Randy: Can you take a look?
Randy: Where are you?
Randy: I’m at your desk.
Randy: I guess you’re at lunch…

I took another deep breath and held onto it for a few moments before slowly releasing it.

“Another reason why rushed emails are a bad idea, ” I mumbled while opening the Gmail app to check my tests for what could have possibly gone wrong.

Me: Yeah, I’m outside walking. What’s wrong? I’m looking at the tests I sent to myself and I’m not noticing anything obvious?
Randy: It’s the button. We got a few replies saying it’s linking to example.com, but it’s working fine for me. Idk.

I click the button in my Gmail test, and it redirects exactly as I expected.

Me: Yeah, I’m not noticing an issue. I’m on my way in. I’ll check it as soon as I get back to my desk.

“What’s wrong?” Nancy asked.

“I don’t know. Something with the button, but it seems fine to me. Probably nothing, but I’m going to go check it out.”

I rushed back to my desk. My department was still deserted, the lights switched off. The only signs of life being the distant laughs and chatter pluming up the stairs from the cafe downstairs while everyone finished up their lunch breaks.

The glow of my screen illuminated my face like a specter while I cracked open my editor to investigate. My mouth dropped open in horror as I gasped, “it’s a… a…“

Suddenly the lights switched on, “it’s a what!?” I jumped as my manager cut through the silence like a knife.

“It’s a ghost… ” I said quietly as I winced while eyes adjusted to the sudden change in lighting.

“What are you even talking about?” My manager laughed as the rest of my team filtered back to their desks.

“The button. In the email we sent earlier. There’s some markup that helps our buttons to look the same in Outlook as it does in other email clients. But it’s hidden everywhere else. Like a… ghost… We forgot to update the link. So people using Outlook are being linked to example.com.” I explained frantically.

And from that day forward I was never the same. I learned that emails in Outlook don’t need to look exactly the same as every other email client, as long as they are functional and get the message across.

Don’t be a BCC Ghoul this Halloween…

This story comes to you from the deepest, darkest depths of a Marketing Operations professional’s soul. It’s a tale that one wishes to forget. The most horrifying surprise of all surprises.

As a Marketing Operations professional, you work tirelessly all year to ensure every email that goes out on your company’s behalf is perfect. On brand, technically formatted correctly for delivery, developed for optimal conversions and metrics, following a standard naming convention, structured for ease of reporting, the list goes on – and that list is also opted in, valid and compliant.

Processes are in place and most people, even the werewolves of the group, tend to follow the established processes.

Then, one dark and spooky Halloween morning, you receive an email to your inbox. Huh, it looks like one of the branded templates you usually send out of your marketing automation platform, but why is the header reduced to 100px wide? Where is the formatted company footer? This isn’t the approved font color and weight for our headers. Wait a second, this isn’t addressed to me, it’s to Chad. [GASP!] CHAD!

As you recall, you replied to Chad’s request that we can’t email a significant portion of his German contact list because they have not confirmed their opt in to receive Marketing communication. Sending to them would be a GDPR violation. He also did not like that he couldn’t change the headers to a different color because it wasn’t approved according to your company’s brand standards. But he replied with a cheeky “You’re awesome. Thanks so much for your help!” and moved on.

Freaking Chad. Don’t be Chad.

It is never ok to paste a branded, formatted template into Outlook, tweak it and BCC your entire audience. Marketing Operations is here to help you be a Marketing superhero! They have worked with creative to perfect the template – EVEN FOR OUTLOOK RECIPIENTS. They have read the ever so exciting GDPR documentation to ensure your company’s Marketing efforts are in compliance. They have worked hard to ensure your sender reputation is maintained and held to the highest standard.

Don’t be the ghoul that ruins your team’s Halloween this year. Don’t be Chad.

The Emails are Everywhere

The year was 2010. It was a gray morning and the winds howled and swirled around the otherwise ordinary office building as she logged into the email system, completely unaware of what was about to happen…

She had to send a company update to 10,000-odd customers, partners, investors, and employees. As she proofread and tested the formatting, the CEO came up to her.

“Can you make sure Tom, Harry, and I get a copy of this email?”

“Sure thing!”

She looked around the email system. Should she add them to the database? No, then they’ll get every other marketing email. Maybe she should just forward the email to them after it’s sent? No, then the formatting will be wrong. Oh, look! The email system has a BCC function. Perfect.

She typed in the email addresses one by one. T-O-M-@… H-A-R-R-Y-@… She clicked on the bold “Schedule” button and chose 2 o’clock that afternoon, then moved to her to-do list.

After lunch the mood in the office had improved. Everyone joked and laughed. The sun was shining, jack-o-lanterns were smiling, and leaves were gently wafting from tall trees. The noises of a normal day filled the hallways.

No one knew that something lurked in the shadows. And it was right on schedule.

Slowly, office by office, the building fell silent.

Then someone called out, “Sue, is your email down?”

“Yeah, is yours?”

“It just stopped.”

“Nothing’s coming in or going out at all.”

“It’s dead.”

She looked at the clock. It was 2:01 p.m. A chill slowly creeped down her spine.

She tip-toed to Harry’s office and dared to look around the door. He was frowning at his computer, confusion giving way to shock. He caught her eye and started to rise, slowly, out of his seat.

“Can you… come take a look at this?” He pointed at the computer with a shaky hand.

She gulped. Her feet moved her forward against her control. When she reached the computer screen, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

One by one, emails were popping into his inbox. The unread icon was ticking up, up, up: 1113. 3597. 5643. They seemed to get faster before her eyes. She steadied herself on the desk. She leaned in for a closer look.

The subject line almost screamed at her: “Company Updates.”

She ran all the way back to her desk, scrambling for the phone before she even sat down. “But, what? What is this?” Harry called after her, his voice fading into fear as the emails kept coming.

‘Please pick up, please pick up,’ she thought.

“Hello IT, have you tried turning it off and on again?”

“JIM TURN OFF THE EMAIL,” she scream-whispered into her handset.

“What?”

“Turn off the email! For everyone! Can you do that?”

“Yes, but–”

“IT’S THE EMAILS, JIM! IT’S THE EMAILS!”

“What are you even? Fine, hold on.” Jim gasped as he accessed the email server. “Is someone? Wait, did you? Did you DDOS us?”

“I didn’t know. The BCC. I didn’t know.” She looked at the clock. 2:06 p.m. The email should be finished sending soon. “How long would it take 10,000 emails to be received by, um, 3 inboxes?”

“You sent 10,000 emails to 3 inboxes? Separately? Not, like, a copy of an email to 3 inboxes?”

She squeaked out a quiet “Yes. To the executives. Um, CEO, CFO, COO. I’m sor–”

Dial tone.

She sank into her chair, murmuring “The emails got Jim too.” She stared at the computer for a long time, willing the emails to go back where they came from, knowing they wouldn’t… they were out… they were everywhere.

“Well,” Harry cleared his throat. She jumped. “Jim says there’s a problem with the email systems and they’re shutting everything down for the rest of the afternoon, so I say we close up early. I’m going to play a round. Tom is headed home to dress his kids for trick-or-treating. I told everyone else to finish up whatever they’re working on and head out. Happy Halloween!” He waved as he walked out the door.

She stared after him.

A new email pinged on her computer. She screamed.

The end.

Avoid your next Marketing horror story by requesting a complimentary Pardot account audit or by signing up for a Pardot training course.

By |2019-10-07T15:37:05+00:00October 7th, 2019|Categories: CRM, Marketing Automation, Marketing Horror|Tags: , , |0 Comments