This article was first published November 2015, updated May 2020.
As an email marketer, you’re probably aware of the myriad of mistakes you can make any time you create and send your campaign. Whether spelling mistakes, broken links, or inaccurate segments, things can go wrong for even the savviest of marketers.
This is probably why many marketers commiserate around 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.
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Common email marketing mistakes
Addressing a specific mistake head on is often the best way to address these kinds of problems. See what you can do based on the type of mistake that’s made.
1. 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 campaign 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 ecommerce 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 apologize.
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.”
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 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.
Plan 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:
To help you navigate your way back to safety after sending out an email with mistakes, here’s an easy checklist to follow. Recovering from a mistake requires a level head and taking the right steps. A checklist will help you with both.
1. Make a list of all potential issues.
Before you go ahead and try and salvage the situation, the first thing you’ll have to do is list all the potential issues in your botched email campaign. Doing so will help you get a handle the situation and tackle every mistake in an orderly and professional manner.Jot down each mistake, whether it’s typos in the subject line, broken links, incorrect pricing, slow website, wrong segment, broken HTML, etc.
2. Determine which potential issues require a response.
Marketers are human, and that means, once in a while, mistakes are bound to be found in a campaign. However, not every mistake warrants a response, as some can be fixed without any attention being drawn to them. Others, like spelling mistakes, don’t even need to be addressed (unless it’s a glaring typo).
Once you have noted the mistakes in your campaign, determine those that need a response. These are usually the errors that have the potential to hurt your brand or reduce your conversions. For example, sending a wrong email to a segment and forgetting to include a call to action should warrant action.
3. Define how you plan to respond to each of the more serious mistakes.
It’s easy to get into panic mode when you discover a mistake in your email marketing. However, it’s wise to take a deep breath and calmly define how you’ll rectify each of the 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. Failure to do this will result in more mistakes, due to a lack of coordination.
4. 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 helps verify that nothing slips through the cracks and gives you the opportunity to set reasonable response times.Working as a team (and having a checklist) is a great way to reduce the chances of falling victim to the most common email marketing mistakes—and the uncommon ones.
5. Outline the creative approach for each type of apology email.
Rectifying an email campaign gone wrong requires a lot of creativity—in fact, more creativity that was needed for the original email. The reason for this is that you now have to kill two birds with one stone:
- Regain your audience’s confidence in you.
- Achieve the results you wanted to in the original campaign.
So how will you recover from the mistake and keep your campaign on track? 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?
Brainstorm the solution with your marketing team and come up with the best approach. A well-executed apology can actually help your campaign run as smoothly as if everything had gone normally from the beginning.
6. Prepare an “oops” email template.
Having an email template for such emergencies is wise. It’ll save you from scrambling around when you need to send out an “oops” email, particularly if it’s a time-sensitive campaign. Have a few “audible-ready” templates for different scenarios. You could have one for light-hearted errors with appropriate images and a discount code ready to go, and another, more formal template for serious mistakes.
Source: Really Good Emails
Make sure you have an email template ready to go before anything hits the fan. Start out with our apology email template and drop your branding in to make it a perfect send every time. Try out the template here.
Planning for the eventuality of mistakes, as rare as they may be in your business, is still an important aspect of running a solid marketing campaign. It’s also important, once in a while, to run drills where you set up a mock situation to help keep you and your team ready for the real emergency.
While some marketing mistakes are common and easy to spot, others are not. In order to mistake-proof your campaigns, make sure to check out our article that highlights the top email marketing mistakes you should stop making.