Back to the scene of the crime…

By  •  Updated: 05/08/17 •  3 min read

On Wednesday night I’m giving a talk at ASOS, the UK-based online fashion retailer, which is fairly decent of them considering..

  1. The chaos I caused the first time I worked with them (more on that in a moment).
  2. My total apathy towards fashion retail in general (more on that another day).

Many years ago, around 2002 ish, I ran some of ASOS’ first email campaigns.

They weren’t the company they are now, in fact few people know that ASOS stands for “As Seen On Screen” and they were selling movie memorabilia and clothes spotted on celebrities.

The website was still run out of the founders’ houses and they’d hit a limit with their homespun email marketing tools so they came to E2 Communications, the business I ran the consulting division for.

We took on the first email campaign, one they already had set up for their own systems and that’s where the problems started.

You see E2 were capable of pushing out millions of emails per day, so their list which I think wasn’t much more than about 10,000 took seconds to send.

These people all hit the ASOS website at the same time, and it crashed.


But that wasn’t the end of it.

The stock we were promoting ran out and the people at the back of the queue started complaining.

They had to pull people in to make sure the orders were sent out, (previously this would have been spread over a week, not an hour).

It was a mess.

However, we had a magic wand up our sleeve.

E2 had a feature called “Adaptive Sequenced Messaging”, an early forerunner of the Marketing Automation tools which are spreading like wildfire today.

We could send follow-up emails when people signed up to the mailing list, and change the messages based on what emails they opened of clicked after that.

All standard stuff nowadays, but back then it was revolutionary.

We’d create short email campaigns that would run one-by-one as each new name joined the list, whatever hour of day or night.

No spikes, no stress, and the shoppers got introduced to the company at a pace that suited them.

This episode, and others that followed, convinced me that these short simple marketing “funnels” were the way to manage your marketing for the maximum impact and minimum stress, and I’ve worked with everyone from the UK’s biggest direct responses businesses like Reed Business Publishing, down to one-man training businesses, refining this simple art.

If you want to find out how to get started with it in the quickest way possible, “The Foundation Funnel” is your first step.

You can find it here

Stephen Pratley

I build email lists, that grow into one-man businesses.