As an email marketer, you’re probably aware of the myriad of mistakes you can make any time you create and send your campaign. From spelling mistakes to broken links, or inaccurate segments, things can go wrong for even the savviest of marketers. This is probably why many marketers experience that all too familiar, knee knocking fear before pushing “send” on a campaign.

It’s inevitable that at some point a mistake will happen, so let’s take a look at some common reasons for sending ‘oops’ emails, see some real-life examples, and examine how to deal when you find yourself facing an unfortunate error.

Common email marketing mistakes

Incorrect links

It’s somewhat common to come across emails that contain broken or incorrect links. Although this may sound like a minor issue, it could cost you if the problem isn’t caught and rectified. This is why sending a test email prior to sending out your email is vital. It provides you a chance to test all the elements in your email from the subject line to CTA buttons and of course, your links. Make it a habit of clicking on every link in your test email to ensure your links go where you want them to.

Note: As a Campaign Monitor customer, if your campaign goes out with a broken link our Support team can fix it on the backend so people who haven’t opened or clicked won’t be affected.

CycleSurgery chose to send this email to subscribers who had already clicked on their email that had a broken link.

Technical difficulties on your website

Technical troubles seem to be one of the most common reasons for sending an ‘oops’ email, especially among e-commerce companies. This can often be an unforeseen problem, where a website goes down due to increased traffic, or technical issues. In this case, it’s a good best practice to get back to your subscribers as soon as your website is back up-and-running with a small incentive to say sorry.

This example from Reebok gets straight to the point with a short and snappy message and a 30% discount. Notice how they even use the word “Oops” as the promo code:

Park Seed ran into issues when they updated their website and rewarded their subscribers with a 20% discount as a consolation. Again, they use a clever promo code with “All is Good.”

Incorrect segment

Sending to the wrong segment or no segment at all has the potential to confuse your subscribers and harm your brand. Shutterfly sent an email to its entire database of subscribers, congratulating them on their newborn children. Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, it was picked up by media and discussed at length on Twitter and Facebook:

Shutterfly email example

Shutterfly swiftly followed up on this mistake with a formal apology email from their chief marketing officer, who explained what happened and invited concerned subscribers to email the company.

Sending the incorrect version of an email

Brands often create two different versions of an email, with the intent of sending one version based on the result of a game, event, or vote. Unfortunately, it seems like every year we see an example of when the wrong version is fired off. This can be a high profile and potentially damaging mistake to make, depending on what’s said in the email. If this happens to you, you’re usually best off sending an apology email with an explanation ASAP to those affected.

The Cal Bears Shop made this mistake when they prematurely sent an email celebrating a win and offering a discount on hats before the end of a game. Unfortunately, the other team came back to win 49 to 45. Cal followed up with an apology and promise on Twitter that the discount was still valid.

Planning for mistakes

Rather than reacting after a mistake happens, it’s best to have a plan in place, in case things go awry. This will ensure that you can act quickly and calmly if you run into trouble.

Email mistake response checklist:

• Make a list of all potential issues – Typos in the subject line, broken link, incorrect price, slow website, wrong segment, broken HTML, etc.
• Determine which potential issues require a response – Spelling mistakes, broken merge tags, or an incorrect image don’t usually need to be addressed or could be fixed without any attention being drawn to them. Any issues which could hurt your brand or reduce your conversions should be addressed.
• Define how you plan to respond to each of the more serious mistakes – Will you send a follow-up email, apologize on social media channels, send a physical apology letter, or do all of those things? Set appropriate response times with your marketing team and make sure that everyone knows the plan.
• Get agreement – Formal sign-off from your boss and the marketing team on your response plan will ensure that everything goes a lot smoother when something does happen. This also gives you the opportunity to set reasonable response times.
• Outline the creative approach for each type of apology email – Will you simply change the subject line, insert some text in the pre-header, add some text above the primary content, or create an entirely new email?
• Prepare an ‘oops’ email template – Have a few “audible-ready” templates for different scenarios; one for light-hearted errors with appropriate images and a discount code ready to go, and another more formal template for serious issues.

Wrap up

Now that you know some common email marketing mistakes and how to deal with them, you’ll be prepared in case an error happens in your campaign.

  • Richard Michie

    It’s great to know that Campaign Monitor can update buff links on campaigns. I test everything before I send but knowing that should the worst happen I can save my campaign is good to know.

Want to improve your email marketing? Subscribe to get tips on improving your email marketing delivered to your inbox.

Join 200,000 companies around the world that use Campaign Monitor to run email marketing campaigns that deliver results for their business.

Get started for free