There’s a Reason They’re Called Email DEADlines… Don’t Let ‘Em Beat You!


The advantage of email marketing is that it’s fast. Very fast. You can quickly deploy thousands or millions of emails with the touch of a button. Voilà! They’re in the inbox of your subscriber (provided you have good email deliverability).  There’s no printing, no media to be bought and no long production lines.  

The drawback to email marketing is that we’re expected to deliver and produce campaigns at a fast-and-furious pace. However, email marketing done right also takes time. How can you balance the need for speed with the need for accuracy and awesomeness? Let’s walk through some steps on how to tame the deadline beast.


Is It Really an Emergency?

If there’s no true emergency, don’t treat it like one. Think of it this way: If you get a paper cut, would you run to the emergency room? I think not.

Some situations are emergencies, such as an email sent with an error, incorrect pricing/offer, or website glitches. In those cases, you should have “canned” emails ready to go; you can tweak the specifics as needed. Like I wrote about in the article about crafting your email calendar. injects a little humor in this apology email. The subject line reads: OOPS – we didn’t mean to send that last email



The fact that a colleague is hovering over your desk or a client is on the phone is not a true emergency. If the content is delivered after the deadline has passed, it will not be put in the email newsletter. A day late with the input or final approval? Send the email a day later. It’s not the end of the world.

This may seem impossible in your organization, but most often it is entirely possible. This tactic will redirect the problems to where they belong. By sticking to it, you’ll see you don’t have to insist on deadlines as much if contributors know there are consequences.

That’s why it’s so important to have email production policies in place. For example:

  • A standard email broadcast requires X number of days for production.
  • A dynamic email broadcast requires X number of days for production.
  • One round of changes per campaign. Extra rounds of changes are $X each. (This is particularly helpful for use with external clients.)
  • A rush job (anything outside the above parameters) will cost an additional $x, and resources must be available to accommodate the request.
  • Final approval is required X hours prior to deployment. For next-day campaigns, approval required by X p.m. the previous business day.


Pad the Production Timeline

Try to set a wider deadline. Even if you don’t need all that time, the day will come when everything goes wrong. Coding and rendering issues, deliverability problems, key personnel getting sick and, on top of everything else, your email tool crashes.

You want to meet your deadlines, especially when you insist that others meet theirs to keep emails on schedule. So make sure you have enough time from the get-go and calculate your timeline, taking into consideration that you’ll need some leeway to troubleshoot issues every now and then.


There’s Always a Plan B (Isn’t There?)

Having a back-up plan in place is also a lifesaver. Start by documenting all the steps in your publishing process, who is involved and what they do (you should do that anyway to streamline your process). Next, think of ways to “work around” them if certain steps are unavailable. Have two or three people in place who could perform certain tasks (cross-training for tasks is crucial); develop some evergreen content or offers ready that you can easily publish as a replacement email, etc.


This Just In…

It’s a bit more urgent if your email is waiting for last-minute content like statistics, figures, offers, (business) news or similar types of data. Your best shot is to create another version of the email, not dependent on that information, to publish in case of lagging input. This allows you to test and approve the email in advance. The last-minute content can reside on your website. One step further in the email process, perhaps on a dedicated landing page instead of in the actual email. Remember, web pages can be modified later, even after the email deploys.


Defeat the Deadline

If you face crazy email deadlines on a regular basis, make it your priority to get these tactics in place. It will make your life as an email marketer much easier, allow you to perform your job better, and reduce stress. Show those deadlines who’s boss. You need to be in control of the email, not the other way around. That way, the next time you hear the word “deadline,” you won’t think of it as “dreadline.”