Stress Test Your E-Newsletter

Question: What’s a fun, summertime activity that the entire family can enjoy?

If you said, “Build a tree house in the backyard,” you’re right! (If you said, “Sneak into your neighbor’s pool when nobody’s home,” you’re close.)

The point is, there’s nothing quite as delightful as bringing together a pile of kids, a pile of wood, and an unsuspecting tree. And so that’s exactly what we did… last August.

Granted, back then I wasn’t quite so enthusiastic about the whole idea. Between the time I spent complaining about the price of lumber (“How much?!”), or grumbling about the laws of physics (“Damn gravity”), I was somewhat preoccupied.

Fortunately, and now that ten months have passed, last summer’s tree house building episode has morphed into a warm, happy memory. (Given enough time, even the most excruciating experiences have a tendency to feel pretty good in retrospect; a fact that I have to believe accounts for the majority of repeat visits to Adam Sandler movies.)

Anyway, I did have one primary concern as we were building: Safety.

My kids wanted the tree house high off the ground (the higher the better) and fairly large (the fairly larger the better). Two requests which, taken together, gave me some sleepless nights.

So I brought in a bunch of experts – my brother-in-law Neale, the carpenter; my friend Steve, the “guy who knows about building things;” and plenty of Google search results. By the time the railings finally went up just before Labor Day, I was confident enough to allow living children to visit unsupervised.

But that was August. Since then, our tree house has lived through snow pile ups, animal nesting and plenty of wind. All factors that conspire to weaken a tree house.

And so early this spring, the first thing I did (because it was the first thing my wife Linda told me to do) was get out the ladder and check everything out.

I tightened the bolts. I pulled on the back-up cables. I pushed against the railings. I did everything I thought a kid might do (other than peeing off the backside into the woods), just in case. When it all looked good, we gave everyone the green light.

So here’s my question for you, Mr. or Ms. E-Newsletter publisher. When was the last time you similarly “stress-tested” your own publication?

In other words, how long has it been since you did the electronic equivalent of tightening bolts, pulling on cables and peeing pushing on railings? If your answer falls somewhere between “a couple of years” and “uh, never,” here’s what I suggest:

  • Sign up for your own newsletter and check the mechanics. Get a fresh e-mail address (Gmail or Yahoo are fine), visit your own web site and follow the sign-up directions.

    Make sure all the links work; enter an improperly formatted e-mail address (e.g. me@address-com) and see what happens; download the free downloads you offer to ensure that they still work; reply to the “welcome letter” and see where the e-mail goes.

  • Sign up for your own newsletter and check the content. Do the words you wrote way back when still apply? Is the “voice” still consistent with the rest of your newsletter? Do all the images appear as they should?
  • Try to unsubscribe. I know, I know, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would ever grow tired of your words of wisdom. But you know, just in case. Is the process easy and obvious, or have you built a tree house with no safe way to get down?

You get the picture.

Bottom Line: In creating an E-Newsletter, it’s critically important that the final product looks good, works properly and promotes your brand. But it doesn’t stop there.

Like a tree house, your business is also exposed to a constant barrage of wind, weather and change. And while everything may have worked splendidly on the day the railings went up, it’s the responsible “parent” who checks things out periodically, just to be sure.


And speaking of our tree house, thanks to the overwhelming beauty of my three children, I’m sure you’ll enjoy our three-minute, “Making of the Tree House” video, courtesy of my oldest son, Evan.

Click here to watch.

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