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April fools!

I’ve preached before about the necessity of being real and responsive in your marketing, which includes owning up to your own screw-ups, but it’s not easy. So here’s one of mine—we botched up our newsletter mailing lists. April Fools! Well, no, we really did mess up the lists by inadvertently subscribing everyone on my Biznology newsletter mailing list to my wife’s Diet Survivors FeedBlitz subscription. No one’s e-mail address was ever made public, but I still feel bad about dumping unwanted e-mail in my subscriber’s inboxes. If you want to read all the details of what happened, they are after the break, but suffice it to say that you can click the link at the bottom of the unwanted e-mail to unsubscribe. And we’re sorry this happened.


My kids get a kick out of April Fools Day but my wife Linda and I don’t really notice it too much. But this year, we were the April Fools.
Some of you may know that my wife and I publish three e-mail newsletters each month. Linda writes Diet Survivors—advice on intuitive eating for weight control without dieting. She started it after writing the book How to Survive Your Diet and has loyal readers that wait for her newsletter each month.
I publish my Biznology newsletter, which you probably know, and we jointly publish a Life Planners newsletter to assist families in setting up care instructions for their disabled children. (Some of you may know that the oldest of our four children is 14-year-old David, who has Down Syndrome.)
We’ve published all three of these newsletters for years without incident, but yesterday was an April Fools Day to remember. Linda pressed the button at 6:45 am to send out the first newsletter—Diet Survivors—through the list server provided by our Web hosting company. Everything looked just fine. Until we started receiving e-mails from subscribers telling us that they were getting multiple copies of the newsletter. Not just two or three, but 10 or 12!
That’s when the unsubscribes started coming in—some of the folks were angry, as you might expect. (A few reacted with good humor, one saying that Linda’s newsletter is so good that it might make sense to read it all ten times.) We called Wyenet, our hosting company, and hung on the phone while they tried to figure out what was wrong. They tried several things before they finally stopped the mailings. We then sent an apology e-mail to the same mailing list to let people know what happened.
Except Wyenet hadn’t fixed it.
Some folks reported getting the apology notice, but many did not. Lots of folks got dozens of empty messages instead of the apology. (April Fools!) We got back on the phone with Wyenet and they escalated the ticket to an emergency and their system administrators started working on it. That sounded good, except that they told us that once the system administrators start working on the problem, that we can no longer call them to report any new symptoms or get any status—everything has to be done by e-mail.
So, as we noticed changes in the symptoms of spewing e-mail, we dutifully sent e-mails to the Wyenet system administrators with no reply. At this point, frustrated with our inability to tell the Diet Survivor subscribers what was happening, and concerned that we were annoying folks no end with this e-mail avalanche, we decided to accelerate a project we’d been toying with for a while. Linda was planning to move her mailing list over to FeedBlitz so that she’d have just one mailing list for both her blog and her newsletter—we decided this would be the perfect day to do that.
So, she extracted the mailing list from our backup copy and uploaded it to FeedBlitz. But there was one problem. She inadvertently extracted the Biznology mailing list! My wife is an extremely careful person and nothing like this had ever happened to her. She was very upset, because now she had sent Diet Survivors’ e-mails to all the wrong folks. Suddenly, we were the April Fools.
We quickly went to the FeedBlitz site to delete all the erroneously added subscribers, but ran into a problem. No matter what we did, we could only display a couple of hundred of the thousands of addresses. We deleted all that we could, but most of them are not shown in the FeedBlitz list management screen.
Mortified, we e-mailed FeedBlitz to find out how to fix the error. It was a Sunday (April Fools!) so we still haven’t heard back yet. We haven’t heard back from Wyenet either, so we have been afraid to send out the Life Planners and Biznology e-mail newsletters. We didn’t want to make a bad problem even worse.
So, if you received a notice that you are now subscribed to the Diet Survivors newsletter, just click on the link at the bottom of the e-mail you received from FeedBlitz to remove yourself. We would like to be able to remove everyone from the list ourselves, but we can’t be sure there is any way to do that—we’re waiting to hear from FeedBlitz.
I’d appreciate it if you did not report us to the FeedBlitz abuse address, because it was a mistake and we are trying to fix it. We already have told FeedBlitz what we did.
So, although we wish that this was just a big April Fools joke, it wasn’t. We’re sorry for the e-mail snafus that we caused, and those caused by the Web host that we picked. I’ll try to get e-mails out for the Life Planners and Biznology newsletter as soon as it seems safe. Thanks so much for your patience with us.
UPDATE: FeedBlitz has graciously removed all of the Biznology e-mail addresses we mistakenly populated into the Diet Survivors mailing list. Thanks again for your patience with us. We have been incredibly impressed with FeedBlitz, who has provided excellent support, even though we don’t pay them anything. I am about to attempt to ship my Biznology newsletter, hoping that Wyenet has corrected its problems and I won’t need to make any more updates to this post.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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