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We Messed Up: How (and When) To Apologize When You Make a Mistake Emailing Your List

Mistakes. We all make them. With the high stress of sending an email campaign and the ever-increasing number of moving parts, it can be easy to to make a mistake on an important email send. You’ve got to write and edit the copy, figure out the appropriate branding, get your images in place, and let’s not even talk about the hassles of different email clients rendering CSS differently! Today, we’ll be covering a few rules for handling marketing email mistakes that can help you smooth things over when things just don’t go right.

There’s a fascinating phenomenon in social psychology known as the spotlight effect. The spotlight effect is the belief that you are being noticed by others more than you actually are. As a marketer sending an email to someone’s inbox, you’re probably used to being significantly more critical of your emails than you need to be. Is one pixel of extra white space really going to be noticed by the general public? Is that typo worth sending another message to call attention to the error? Probably not – in fact, it probably didn’t get noticed by 90% of your subscribers! So, on that note, let’s talk about how you decide if you need to apologize at all.

As a general rule, you should only do something when it negatively impacts your subscribers or your brand. Otherwise, don’t call unnecessary attention to the mistake. There are a few easy ways we can define “negative impact”, to help you decide if you really need to send a follow up apology email:

  • 20% off for Canadian subscribers! ….but I’m in Georgia
  • Our CTA has a broken link in it!
  • We sent to our whole database, but we shouldn’t have. Yes, even to our opt outs.

[Test Subject, Please ignore]

Oftentimes, when you’re testing an email, you send multiple email tests to numerous stakeholders in your company. This test may be full of random copy, silly subject lines, or cute pictures of kittens….and you just accidentally sent it to your clients. In this case, we’d definitely recommend sending an apology email as soon as possible with the *right *copy included to those clients. Don’t draw too much attention to it by sending multiple apologies, and definitely don’t send a recall notice (as it generally doesn’t work!). Just send one email, try and laugh off your mistake, and let it go.

20% off for Canadian subscribers! …..but I’m in Georgia

This one definitely warrants an apology email, as it lets me know that you’re giving discounts to someone else that I’m not able to take advantage of, even if I wanted to. This definitely has the potential to cause negative outlook for your brand, so it’s important to deal with this particular issue as quickly as possible. The best way to handle it is to offer the deal to everyone who received that email now, if at all possible. This mistake can be costly, but the negative impact on your brand is way worse than just opening up the deal to everyone.

Our CTA has a broken link in it!

Broken links happen. Maybe you forgot to update your link after your IT team changed something with your domain, maybe it’s a testing link, whatever it is, you just sent it to all your most important subscribers. Now what? For this, depending on how much time has passed, you may not even need to send an apology! With Pardot, you can contact our support team to change a link even after the email sends. If it’s been a few hours and you’ve got a lot of opens, it’s best to fix the link, segment out those that have already opened or clicked the email, and send just that segment an apology with the correct link. That way, you don’t have to clutter anyone’s inbox for a broken link, but can still ensure those that opened the email are able to take advantage of whatever that CTA was.

We sent to our whole database, but we shouldn’t have. Yes, even to our opt outs.

This particular mistake is the worst one here. First and foremost, you may be in violation of CAN-SPAM or other laws that you must adhere to for email sending, so you’re going to need to contact your legal team to determine the appropriate course of action. To make a potential apology easier, segment out your former opt outs from the rest of the database, then send that opt out file to your legal team for review. They’ll have to be the final word on what to do about those opted out prospects, to ensure you continue to be legally compliant when it comes to your email sending.

That’s it for today! Next up, we’ll be talking about some best practices for apology resolution. Have you seen a really good email apology recently? Tweet it to me over @holobachgirl!