Five Email Screw-Ups, And What To Do About Them

I know a thing or two about screwing up. With almost 10 years working in email marketing I, or the people who work for me, are bound to make mistakes once in awhile. I have nightmares about it. I have anxiety about hitting “send.”  Inevitably mistakes happen.  As the legendary physicist Nils Bohr said, “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” If that’s what it takes, call me an expert. Let me share with you some of those mistakes and, in my expert opinion, the best way to handle them.

1)    Wrong or dead email link: Whether the link is dead, or goes to the wrong landing page, most email service providers (ESPs) can switch the redirect post send.  Call them.  If first level support can’t help you, escalate. It can be done; sometimes it’s just a pain to do it.

2)    Bad image: If the image is wrong in any way, replace it on the image server post-send. All it needs is to match the path of the wrong image in the email. This can also be useful if, say, the email features a product that is now sold out or an offer changes and you want to make an update. Just tread lightly here. If your email is forwarded or archived, the subscriber might want the original content.



3)    Misspelling in text: In general, I say let it go. Unless it’s obscene or leaves open some kind of legal liability, leave it alone. Sending an apology email will only make it worse and bring attention to the mistake.  Some might not even notice the misspelling. However, if the misspelling is within an image, fix the image and refer to #2.

4)    Inadvertently leaving out an opt-out link. Turn it into an opportunity. Send an  “Oops” email, with a prominent opt-out or better yet, a subscription center link to allow for opt-down instead of opt-out. Use the email to bring attention to your subscription center or to ask people who really don’t want to receive your email to opt out. Be sure to include social media links to allow people to keep up with your company in other channels.

5)    Send to the wrong list: This depends on what was sent and to whom.  If, from the viewpoint of the subscriber, it seems a little strange but innocuous, let it go. For example, you send a version of your retail email to the girl list with guy products. If it’s altogether wrong, doesn’t follow best practices or subscriber preferences, an apology email is probably the best route, but again turn it into an opportunity if possible.  If the mistake was to send the wrong brand creative to the wrong branded list, then use the apology to send a discount offer that can be used for either brand.

The big caveat of course is, you have to be true to your brand. Every industry is different, and BtoB differs from BtoC. You know your business better than any so-called “expert.”  Be mindful of social media and any mentions of the mistake. If there’s a scenario where you decided to let it go, but its getting tweeted all over the universe, you probably want to address the issue either in social media or with an apology email. And remember, next time it happens, you’re one step closer to becoming an expert yourself.

7 comments about "Five Email Screw-Ups, And What To Do About Them ".
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  1. Mike May from Huge, January 10, 2012 at 10:59 a.m.

    Very refreshing perspective. Thanks for writing, Liz. I particularly appreciate your last paragraph, about monitoring the social channels to determine how egregious your mistake may have been. That in itself is a reason to build out social channels - to see what you've done that might by rubbing your customers the wrong way.

  2. Jason Klein from Selligent, January 10, 2012 at 11:33 a.m.

    Very good advice here. I've had to use a couple of those tips before too. Mistakes happen, but As Douglas Adams once said, "Don't Panic."

    P.S. When are you bringing the Darth Vadar Deathstar Topiary shirt back? ;-)

  3. Chad White from Litmus, January 10, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.

    Liz, I like your focus on fixing mistakes post-send and letting small things go. An apology email is only warranted for the biggest mistakes. Of the 18,000 emails I tracked from the largest retailers last year, only 0.18% were apology emails--so to say apology emails are rarely called for is an understatement.

  4. Monica Sims from iContact, January 10, 2012 at 4:29 p.m.

    Liz, reading your first paragraph, it could have been a biography of mine! I've been working in email in one form or another since '99 and I still get nervous whenever I hit send, or these days, "schedule".

    You've got some great tips here for all of us who get anxious when sending out an email to a list (large or small). Thanks for the great article!

  5. Nick Cavarra from Quigley Simpson, January 10, 2012 at 5:57 p.m.

    Great post. Appreciate the acknowledgment of yes we all make errors, but really appreciate your thoughts on how to fix it if possible. Thanks!

  6. Liz Ryan from Hansa Marketing, January 10, 2012 at 10:07 p.m.

    Thanks for the kind words everyone, I'm glad you liked it.

  7. Ethan Halevi from Xertive, January 11, 2012 at 8:04 a.m.

    Liz, I enjoyed reading the article, very interesting and important information... don't we all know how it is to screw up our email marketing campaigns... :)

    Well done, keep it up.

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