Testing An Automation
And the Gmail ‘+’ hack
“Make sure your email automations are going to the right people”
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We love automations
The great thing about automations is that they get sent automatically based on a condition being met (the trigger).
They save you time, increase engagement and are an essential part of a successful email marketing system.
The bad thing about automations is that they get sent automatically based on a condition being met (the trigger).
…and if you’ve not fully tested them prior to going live, they could end up going to the wrong people at the wrong time… and because they’re automated you wouldn’t know there was a problem until someone told you-and who wants that?
Testing your automations is just as important as building them… you NEED to test them so you are confident that you can ‘set and forget’ them, knowing the emails are going to the right people at the right time.
Testing Mailchimp Automations
The thing is, testing an automation is not as simple as you’d think.
For example, imagine a situation when you’d built a system of different emails going to different people, based on a form they’d filled in.
To test an automation you need to have an email address you’ll use to ‘trigger’ the automation.
…but what happens if you realise that something is wrong? you make the adjustment, and then use the same email address to test it?
If you’re using a classic automation in Mailchimp, you’re a bit stuffed as Mailchimp only sends a specific automation to an email address once.
If you’re using a customer journey, you can click the box to allow an email to go through the workflow multiples times… but this is still a pain as either:
- If you only want the automation to fire once when it’s fully live, you’ll need to remember to unclick the box after you’ve tested it
- In some instances, you’ll need to go in and tweak the information associated with the email so it can be used again (e.g. delete a tag, if a tag being applied is the trigger)
- …and in some instances it won’t work anyways (e.g. when the trigger is joining an audience… this can only happen once!)
Bottom line, it’ll either not work, or just be a pain to sort out.
..and this is the case even if you go in and delete/archive the email, Mailchimp will still know.
If you are doing any sort of testing of automations in Mailchimp, you really need to have more than one email address to use for testing.
I’ll admit, I’ve built up a stack of different email addresses over the years as my business and the brands I’m involved with evolve.
…but many people just have one, and if they’ve got another one, it’s likely they’ve not really used it or forgotten the password (and when you’re testing automations, you’ll want more than just 2!)
How do you get multiple email addresses, without jumping through hoops?
Gmail to the rescue.
The Gmail ‘+’ hack
Gmail accounts have a built in function that give you unlimited email addresses, without the need to actually create them.
(this even works if you’re using Gsuite and your own domain)
How can you have an email address without creating it I hear you ask.
Well it’s amazingly simple.
Just add a “+” sign and a word/number after the first part of your email (before the @).
So, if your gmail account was firstname.lastname@example.org
You could create emails like:
Now the brilliant thing about this is, you don’t need to create these emails beforehand – you can create them “on the fly”.
Gmail cleverly recognises the first part (and the gmail.com) and puts all of these messages into one account, even though they are different emails.
(and this works on domains using Gsuite too).
Gmail ignores the words after the “+”… but Mailchimp doesn’t and treats them as individual email addresses
…which means you’ve got unlimited test email addresses now, and can test to your heart’s content – knowing they all get sent to one gmail account.
(and since gmail is free… what are you waiting for?)
How to test using Gmail ‘+’
There are a few things that you want to be aware of though when you are Gmail to test things…
- Even though Mailchimp recognises them as individual emails, if you use too many in a short space of time, Mailchimp gets a little grumpy and thinks someone is spamming them.
Personally, if I use more than 5 gmail address variants on a form in quick succession, Mailchimp stops submissions – so be wary and don’t go mad!
- It makes a lot of sense to have some type of “formula” when you’re testing things using Gmail + Variants.
I use variants that tell me what form I’m testing AND the time (so I know which order I’ve tested things).
So an example of a series of test emails would be:
They’re all testing a form on the home page, but I’ve ‘time stamped’ them so I know which test is which (and which is the latest).
- Remember that these are still live emails, so once you’re happy that everything works, you need to archive them, so you aren’t paying for them… and you don’t receive an influx of the same email, every time a new campaign is sent in that account.
- You can use these gmail + variants for any form (not just your own), and you can set up gmail to filter these messages into specific folders.
Even though Gmail pushes them all into your inbox, it still knows the individual email addresses, and so you can use filters to identify emails with a specific +suffix into a folder – great if you want to “segment” emails from lists you aren’t fully engaged in (unlike the Chimp Answers list, of course!).
Testing is important
Whenever you set up an automation, you should be testing it to make sure it reacts in the intended way.
The last thing you want is random emails being sent (or not being sent) to people who did a specific action.
Mailchimp’s automations only get sent once to a specific email address, which means you need more than one email address to test comprehensively. (It’s also important to consider this when it comes to automation planning).
Using Gmail + variants gives you (free) unlimited email addresses you can create instantly to test your systems.
So you’ve no longer got the excuse that you didn’t launch an email automation because you couldn’t test it fully.
Want to brush up on the fundamentals of Automations? Check out my Quick Guide
Robin Adams is a business owner who is passionate about helping businesses build effective marketing systems that work and don't waste money. Having a lifetime of Marketing experience (he's got a degree in Marketing before there were degrees in Marketing!) and having worked for big and small businesses and both client and agency side, he understands not only the theory, but the systems that are required to underpin everything.
51% marketer and 49% Chimp, Robin is the main man behind chimpanswers.com and the Mailchimp Answers Facebook Group - the world's biggest Mailchimp User Group. Connect with him on Linkedin.
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