Quit Flubbing: How To Avoid Email Mistakes

Ryan Phelan, the CEO of RPE Origin, is a veteran email marketer who has seen just about everything. Yet in January, shortly after his appointment as CEO, he made a mistake that cost his agency money. 

It wasn’t much money, and it didn’t end up in inboxes. But if Phelan can make even a minor error, it can happen to anyone. 

How can you avoid blunders in email?

“The times where teams have made mistakes have been when they’re rushing and not following process,” Phelan writes in an email. “If you don’t have one, make one.”

But doesn’t a pro like Phelan have a process? Sure he does.  

“We’re all crushed with work, even me,” he writes in the email. “I love what I do, but I constantly have to remind myself to slow down, and follow the process and remember that people hire us because we are really smart and take our time to offer advice or direction.  I owe it to them, and myself, to ensure that I deliver on my promise to them. Whether that is a client, or a team member.”



Phelan explores this issue in an article in MarTech. 

“In email, a mistake can seem like the end of the world because so many people can see where we messed up,” he writes. “A typo in the subject line. The wrong product image. The wrong copy in a call-to-action button. The right button copy but the wrong link to the landing page.

Phelan continues: “Back in my retail email days, my mistakes would go out to millions of subscribers. Once, one of my team members accidentally included all of our unsubscribed addresses in a mailing. 

“Talk about an 'oops!' If that had happened today, not only could we have irritated many people, but also we could have been held liable for spamming in some countries.”

Those are the types of incidents that have historically occurred in email. But blunders like them — or even worse ones — can happen today. How do you avoid them? 

First, slow down. Phelan writes, “The problem with slowing down in email marketing is that it doesn’t come naturally. We keep telling ourselves: “I gotta get this job done because it’s on the calendar.” 

“The CEO wants this in his inbox before the weekend.” 

“I have to get this promotion out the door.” 

He recommends that marketers document your deployment process. “Have you mapped all the steps in your deployment process and then written it out? You need to spell out all of your fail-safe efforts like identifying redundancies to cover gaps when key people are unavailable.” 

Marketers should also identify gaps where mistakes can sneak in. “One helpful tactic here is to designate a ‘last mile’ person, someone who can look at your email, text or social post and flag errors in everything from content to audience before you hit ‘send,’ Phelan argues. 

If a mistake does occur, don’t beat yourself up — privately or publicly.  

For instance, should you send a correction email?

“About 50% of the time, I tell companies not to send an “Oops!” email because the mistake isn’t a big deal,” Phelan says. “Sure, it’s a big deal to the person who made the mistake, but seldom is it a mistake that would justify a second mailing. It could even do more harm than good.”

Phelan shared with his team that he had erred. 

"That acknowledgment of humanity — admitting fault and taking responsibility for mistakes — is important. You aren’t giving your team permission to make mistakes. But you’re letting them know that it’s not a death sentence if they do.”

Phelan adds in an email" “Thankfully, we never make the same one twice (most times).”



1 comment about "Quit Flubbing: How To Avoid Email Mistakes".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. mike popalardo from next steps marketing, February 23, 2024 at 7:13 p.m.

    In regards to the "oops" email.

    If it's not a particularly embarassing error for you or your client, in general I have experienced higher open, click, and order rates.

    I attribute this to genuine curiosity on the part of the recipient about what could have happened.

Next story loading loading..