Get Back on the Road After Sending the Wrong Email

Young couple stopping on country road and looking at the map for directions. Man and woman on a road trip in countryside on a summer day.

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Posted: June 8, 2016 | Email Marketing

Over Memorial Day weekend, I took a road trip with my twin sister through Northern California. Before we embarked on our journey, we prepared for everything we needed (or so we thought): directions, extra snacks, water, and a good road trip playlist. However, nothing could have prepared us for the fact that anything can happen on the road, such as a flat tire or getting lost.

Unforeseen incidents and mistakes happen in marketing as well, no matter how much you prepare. And similar to road trips, there’s no magical undo button that can take back whatever just happened, like the moment after you send an email and realize it wasn’t what you intended. But that’s how we learn, right? Usually, it only takes us making a mistake once to learn a valuable lesson. And no matter how bad things seem at first, it can be remediated.

Drum roll, please. In the many years of working with marketers at Marketo, Business Consultants like myself have been called in to fix many of these road trip-like blunders. One of the most common email marketing mistakes that we see is when marketers accidentally send the wrong email to a subscriber. It could be sending a Russian email to all English-speaking customers (yes, we have seen this happen). Or sending out an incorrect subject line: “[Replace] with your creative subject line.” Or even offering something that does not exist: “20% Off of Unicorn Sale” (again, this has fallen into our laps, but we wished it was real).

At Marketo, we don’t consider marketers battle-tested until they can overcome sending an incorrect email. Sometimes, this is done by sending an apology email. An apology email should be to the point and explain what happened, without risking further damage to your brand’s image. You certainly don’t want them to unsubscribe or lose faith in your brand, so decide if the mistake warrants an apology (this ebook offers some advice on how to determine whether or not to send one), more publicity, and if it actually risked customer’s confidence. And if it does, use the tips below to get back on the road.

Here are four steps, written from the road, to crafting an apology email to redeem yourself:

Step 1: Turn Around and Fix It

Even the savviest of road warriors can take the wrong exit and get lost, but once they address the mistake, they can quickly get back on the road again. For email marketing warriors to do this, you need to first admit that you’ve made an error so that you can fix it. This starts with crafting the beginning of your apology email.

There’s no need to overly explain your mistake; just get to the point. If your apology email is brief and sent to your email recipients soon after, you can catch most of them before they open the original email. Then, you can provide them with the correct information before they negatively respond.

You could start off by saying, “Today, we sent you the wrong email by mistake.” By getting straight to the point, you are owning up to what happened without sounding overly wordy or concerned (even if you are, save your real feelings for internal conversations).

Taking responsibility for the mistake clears the air. And by being clear and concise, you can send a message of confidence, security, and sincerity. Don’t waste any more of your time, or your recipients’, because there are more important things to get to—like continuing your journey.

Step 2: Say You’re Sorry

Whether you’re sending an email to your customers or on the road with your friends, proper etiquette still applies. One of the rules of the road is to apologize when your actions affect your fellow passengers. So, if you ate the last piece of beef jerky without asking anyone if they wanted some, then it’s time to say sorry. The same goes for an apology email. Ultimately, you need to say you’re sorry.

In some cases, sending the wrong email will not raise any red flags for your recipients, but in others, this might be a sign your team is slipping. Depending on your line of work, the type of information you have about your customers (e.g. credit card, sensitive data) a misstep like the wrong email, can put them on edge if they receive an incorrect email.

To put everyone’s mind at ease, you can include a section in your email that apologizes for the mistake and explains what went wrong and what you’re doing to ensure it will not happen again. Reassuring your customers of your ability to fix the mistake helps them continue to trust your brand.

This section can also be an opportunity for your team to show a little humility. Some apology emails use humor to lighten the tone, but if your company is not known for humor, just stick to the facts. For example, you could write: “We apologize for the mistake. We have addressed the issue with our team and have taken steps to ensure this will not happen again.” You can even customize the subject line to: “Correction,” “Oops,” or “We Apologize.”

Step 3: Ask for Forgiveness and Make Things Right

Mistakes happen, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for forgiveness when something goes wrong and try to make amends. No one wants a road trip to end on a sad note and neither do your subscribers when it comes to marketing mistakes. Give your subscribers a reason to not only forgive you but also re-engage with your brand.

Transform your mistake into an opportunity to re-engage inactive subscribers by offering a great deal. People are more willing to forgive you if you give them a good reason to and nothing works better than offering them a sweet deal. If you’re on a road trip and eat the last of the snacks, offer to pick up the tab for the next batch. As for marketers, the last section of your apology email could look something like this: “Click here to take an additional 10% off.” If you do not have a deal to offer, then you could end with, “Our customers are our highest priority. If you have any questions or concerns, please email us and we will respond to you promptly.”

Step 4: Final Pit Stops Before Hitting the Road Again

While it’s hard to avoid all the possible marketing mistakes, you can do your best to prepare for them and address them accordingly when they happen. It goes without saying that one of the best ways to prevent a blunder in the first place is by testing and scanning every email and double checking your lists and campaigns. Good email marketers understand that every email should follow a series of different checkpoints before it goes out. Here are some questions that you may want to ask yourself as you review your emails:

  • Will these emails be sent to the right lists and segments?
  • Do the custom fields throughout the email reflect the right information?
  • Is the content up-to-date? Is it free of spelling or grammatical errors?
  • Do the images render properly?
  • Do all the buttons and links hyperlink to the correct URL?

These checks and balances ensure that you’ve reviewed your email for mistakes to the best of your ability.  And if a mistake manages to slip through the crack, revisit where you made the mistake to prevent it from happening again. The last thing you want to do is send out another wrong email right after the first one.

Do you have any email horror stories of your own? How did you overcome them? Share your experience in the comments below!

Jessica Minasian is an Enterprise Business Consultant at Marketo, where she supports many Enterprise projects and has become a “Marketo Sherpa," guiding customers towards their business goals. Jessica is metric and relationship-minded, but she has a voice as well—she was a trainer and speaker at Marketo Summit 2015. Jessica graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor in Communications Studies - Rhetorical and Linguistics.

Read Jessica's Blogs

It's not the mistakes you make, but how you correct them that defines you. Recover from your #emailmarketing ones:

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