Oops! What to do when email mistakes happen

Everyone makes mistakes every now and then. When it comes to email marketing, everyone’s done it; even the big guys make gaffes sometimes. When this happens, the important thing is to take a breath and not panic. Most people think they need to send out an apology right away, but depending on the error and your audience, you may want to wait. Sending too many emails at once, even for a mistake, can send your unsubscribe rate skyrocketing.

Here are four steps to take if you’ve made a mistake in an email:

1. Assess: Before you do anything, take a moment to see what the impact is of the mistake. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you act:

  • What is the email list size?
  • What is the open and click-through rate?

It’s possible that you caught the error early and can send out a follow-up with minimal impact. Then, ask:

  • How big is the mistake?
  • How will it affect your business?
  • Did you make a spelling error or a pricing mistake, or did you promote the wrong date for an event?

A minor typo, misspelling or coding error probably won’t have much impact, other than some embarrassment or people pointing out the mistake. In this case, sending out a follow-up could be an annoyance for your recipients – save the correction for the next email or newsletter that you send out.

A pricing error or the wrong date could have a major impact on your business or organization, so sending out a follow-up email is a must.

2. Respond: Once you’ve assessed the situation, decide how to respond.

Keep these tips in mind if you need to send a follow-up email:

  • Be quick – A quick follow-up can catch people before they see the first email
  • Be clear – Subject and pre-header should be clear about the purpose
  • Apologize – Own up to the mistake and say you’re sorry for any misunderstanding
  • Send an offer – If you can’t give what was promised in the email, offer a back-up
  • Brand – Stay on brand in the apology, but humor is always good
  • Use social media – Consider acknowledging the error on social media to be transparent and help alleviate customer support issues

You can also try to correct the mistake, depending on where it was in your email. If you’ve made an error in the subject line, in a link or in the content, these tips can help you correct the mistake, even if you’ve already sent the email:

  • Subject line oops – This impacts your open rate, so one thing you never want to do, no matter how tempting, is to use a placeholder subject line like TBD or “test” while creating your email – just in case you launch the email without remembering to change the subject line. You may not know your subject line right away, but even if you use something like “August Newsletter” for the time being, it’ll support your email if it does get sent, and won’t be as detrimental as “test” might.
    • In follow-ups:
      • Use the words “Correction,” “Oops” or “We Apologize” in the subject line, so your recipients know why they received another email.
      • Consider using the pre-header for the correction information.
  • Link oops – Links can be corrected in the reporting area of your account. If you have a URL spelled out incorrectly in the copy, i.e., www.verticalrponse.com, it can’t be changed, but the underlying link can. At least those who click will go to the right page. Since your reporting will tell you how many clicks you have, and which links were clicked, consider mailing only to those who clicked the bad link, rather than your whole list.
  • Content oops – Images can be refreshed. If some of your recipients saw the wrong graphic in the email, contact our support team; they can help you refresh an image in your email. If you’ve made a typo, or the mistake is not business-impacting, address it later. If you’ve mailed to the wrong list segment or have the wrong offer in the email, send an apology email with the correct info.

3. Measure the impact: Once you’ve decided what your plan is and you’ve taken action, or not, look at how things went. The reporting from your emails will give you insight into how your recipients responded to the mistake:

  • Track your opens and clicks – Do you have a normal open rate for your emails? Did it change due to the error?
  • Watch the conversions – Are they where you expected them to be? Or are they higher or lower?
  • Check the unsubscribe rate – Hopefully everything you’ve done has kept it low, but keep an eye on it.
  • Compare original and follow-up emails and see how the stats compare.

4. How to avoid an “Oops!” in the future: Proofread, proofread, proofread. If you’re the only person looking at your emails, enlist someone else. Just one other set of eyes can prevent a mistake from happening again. Also, always send a test email and look at it! Make sure the copy makes sense, that you see the right images and they’re rendering correctly, and that all your links work.

Try some of these content tactics:

  • Use auto-correct and spell check, or use Microsoft Word to discover grammar problems.
  • Print out your emails and check for errors.
  • Read each word out loud to catch anything wrong.

Everyone makes mistakes; the important thing is to learn from them.

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Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in August 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.

© 2017, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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