Magically Change Your Email Post-Send
By Amanda Gagnon May 5, 2011
Here’s how to magically make your email content adjust itself to the situation so when latecomers open it after the fact, they see a completely different message.
When you send out your marketing emails, you probably have some hopes for response. You may also have a few thin-lipped expectations. And there’s always that fond dream of your content going viral.
All of which means you probably use the urgency tactic once in awhile. You know, the “six hours only!!” sale or the announcement of “just three copies left!!”
And this can certainly work. But if anyone opens your message too late, it thuds like a drop in a hollow bucket. Worse, if they try to click through to purchase, they could be cranky when they realize they’re too late.
What if you could magically make the email content adjust itself to the situation so when latecomers open it after the fact, they see a completely different message?
The “Oops! It’s Over” Announcement
First of all, keeping your message current like this is just good customer service.
Secondly, it shows you’re on top of things, which can only benefit your reputation.
And finally, it shows that the urgency of your offer is for real – if subscribers want your deals, they’d better open faster next time.
If you’re a product shown in your email sells out, create an image that reflects this and swap it with the previous image. Like in this email from women’s retailer Chadwick’s.
Or, when your sale is over, replace your sale announcement with a notice that they missed it, but you’ll have others soon! And in the meantime, give them something else to do, like Home Depot did in this email.
And you don’t have to be a giant chain store to do it…you can just be one guy in front of a computer, or the tiny cafe down the street. It just requires…
Swapping Out An Image
You can update any information in your email, as long as it’s in the form of an image.
Why? Because images don’t actually live in your message. They live on the web page you uploaded them to.
Think of that page’s URL as the image’s address. When someone opens your email, it displays whatever image it finds at that URL. So all you need to do to update your email post-send is change the image that lives on that URL.
To make the magic happen, you’ll need to be hosting your images on your own site manually, or via a content management software like WordPress. (This doesn’t work on public image hosting sites.)
If You Host Images Manually
This is an easy fix: after the sale or other event is over, use your FTP client or other file management software to upload the new image.
The advantage to this method is that you have complete control over the file’s URL; the catch is that it does require you to be familiar with using an FTP client or other file management software.
Here are a couple of FTP clients that you can use for this:
- FireFTP (a plugin for the Firefox browser that works on Windows or Mac)
- Cyberduck (software for Mac or PC)
If you don’t want to manage the file upload yourself, have a developer handle it for you, or try using a content management system like WordPress.
If You Use WordPress
Note: before you use WordPress to manage this, check to see if you’re organizing your uploads into folders based on the year and month you upload them. You can do this at the “Settings” > “Media” page in your WordPress admin area. If you are doing so, it may be better to not use WordPress for this, because in some cases you won’t be able to overwrite the original image properly from within WordPress.
- Upload your original image into your media gallery. Use the URL assigned to that image to place it in your email, as usual.
- When your sale is over or your product sold out, prepare for the switch. Important: give the replacement image (the one that says “sold out!” or something similar) the same name as the original.
- In your media gallery, delete the original image. Immediately upload the new image with the same name. Now when someone opens your email, it will follow the URL you’ve put into place and display the updated image.
Something to Consider
Remember, this method is only good for images. But if you make the entire email one big image, it might trip a spam filter. So only use images for the parts you’ll want to update later.
Just make sure the rest of your email looks good around both the original content and the update, and you’re good to go!
What Else Could You Swap?
Once you get this process down, you can get creative with how you use it. Announce the end of sales and sold out products. Change your price if something’s not selling (or selling too much at too low a price!)
Would you ever make these updates by swapping out the images? What other changes might you make?