“Reply-All” disasters, roasting someone you didn’t realize was included in an email thread, sending a marriage proposal to the wrong person via email … we’ve all been there, right? But when you manage to screw up an entire email marketing campaign, the stakes can be even higher.

Top 9 Things to Do When You Screw Up Your Email Marketing Campaign

With the average office worker receiving 121 and sending 40 business emails each day, it’s no surprise that most brands can commiserate on making email marketing campaign mistakes. Most will be minor and only slightly embarrassing—spelling and grammar errors, forgetting to change a subject line, or not including an attachment. These are petty mistakes we all make, and as such, most of us are willing to overlook them when they show up in our inbox—often while having the thought, “I’m glad it wasn’t me this time!”

The major mistakes can be much harder to get past—things like hitting “Reply All” when a message is intended to be private within a small group or writing the wrong name in an important pitch. Or, you could experience something similar to what happened to us the other day on a campaign we are fondly referring to as #MyNameIsNotLeah when we inadvertently sent a personal message to our entire database of clients, suppliers, and sales leads. #Oops!

What You Say When You Screw Up Your Email Marketing Campaign

Top 9 Things to Do When You Screw Up an Email Marketing Campaign

The good news? Life is not over when one of the 100 things that can go wrong actually does go awry when you press send on your email marketing campaign. Follow the list below and watch how your campaign can turn from a mistake into a memorable message in no time.

1. Take a Positive Approach

When a serious email marketing snafu happens, your knee-jerk reaction may be to find someone to blame, get mad, or spend the rest of the day locked in your office eating chocolate. We feel you! A few years ago, we sent 10,400+ people a personal email written for and addressed directly to a former client of ours named Leah. Yah! Definitely not what we had planned.

Our first reaction when we got wind of the email marketing campaign error was to stop breathing. And we did for a second. The news, which just so happened to be an important announcement about our company’s rebrand, felt like really, really sour lemons. But after that second of holding our breath, we shifted our attitude and started laughing, imagining what everyone must be thinking receiving an email addressed to Leah. That quickly led to our team brainstorming the ways we could turn the sour lemons into the sweetest batch of lemonade. That major shift in attitude united our team and helped us react quickly and positively to what otherwise could have been a major catastrophe for a marketing company. The result? The highest open and response rate we’ve ever experienced from an email marketing campaign.

Using Humor to Recover From an Email Marketing Blunder

So, when life, or your email marketing campaign, gives you lemons, before you do anything else, stop, adjust your attitude, and make a batch of lemonade.

2. Tell Someone

If you make a major email marketing misstep, don’t waste valuable time hoping it will simply disappear like that cute guy you dated in college—it won’t. Contact a higher-up and let them know. The problem might not be as bad as you feared it was, or it might be even worse, in which case it’s even more crucial that you told someone. Supervisors and bosses often have more information than you and will have a better idea of what needs to be done next. Remember, when you’re their employee, it’s their neck on the line too.

3. Own It

When you make an email marketing mistake, admit it. Don’t try to convince yourself or others that it was someone else’s fault. Sure, it may sting a bit and your ego may be slightly bruised. But stings only hurt for a moment and bruises are gone within a day or two. Everyone makes mistakes and you’re no different. Someone who can recognize and admit when they do something wrong is a valuable person to have around. Email marketing mistakes can be fixed, but time is of the essence. Take accountability as soon as you realize there is a problem, so you can move into problem-solving mode.

4. React Immediately

Average email marketing campaign open rates vary from 10 to 55 percent for advertising, marketing, and PR companies. Average click-through rates hover around 5 percent. Click here to see current data on averages for your industry. My point is that not everyone you send an email to (intended or unintended) will even open it. Reacting immediately to an eBlast blunder ensures that your email recipients see your most important message—your recovery (AKA, the retraction email)—first or as close to the original email as possible.

5. Create a Recovery Strategy

The most simple and fastest way to react to an email marketing slip up is to send a retraction which clears up the confusion. Depending on the scope of the error, you may also want to consider other elements: social media, blog post, personal outreach, phone calls, or a press release. Your initial panicked reaction may be to take out a billboard in Times Square or to hire a fleet of Goodyear blimps, but after taking a few calming breaths, you’ll realize those steps aren’t necessary (if they are necessary however, we know a guy). Only you can know the best way to set things straight, but before you write and send the follow-up message, think about the best response and take a strategic approach.

5. Apologize

In your recovery email, a simple, clear apology is always a good idea. Don’t go overboard. Don’t belabor the issue. It doesn’t matter whether the email service provider was to blame or you sneezed and hit the wrong button. Just take accountability. Everyone can empathize with email marketing mistakes. We’ve all been there.

6. Use Humor

To respond to our recent email marketing campaign blooper, we opted to use humor not only to get people to open our retraction email, but to hopefully help them see the lighter side to our very human error. We used the hashtag #MyNameIsNotLeah as our subject line and the following as our sub-subject line: “Will #TheRealLeah please stand up?”

While our message was sincerely apologetic, our secondary goals were to elicit empathy and laughter and to let people know that while we were really trying our best to be authentic, we’re also human. Here’s what we shared:

Email Marketing Campaign Retraction Example

The responses were completely unexpected. Here is just a sampling of what we received:

  • That’s the best oops email I’ve ever seen! #DidntGiveItASecondThought #MovedOn #LeahIsMyHero
  • This is the cleverest email ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Very nice email, taking ownership of a mistake that many of us have made. Very classy move.
  • Way to handle a goof with humor! Bravo
  • Well played.
  • Love this email. Nicely done.
  • Bravo I received a note to Leah and was dying to know about the Wet Ones campaign….this made my day.
  • I thought this was very charming! Thanks for the cute follow up note and the info about the rebrand. Keep me on your list and good luck in growing the business.

7. Learn From It

Now that you’ve told your supervisor, owned up to the mistake, and have taken action, there’s only one thing left to do—learn from the experience. While you may feel like hiding under your desk and self-medicating with a bag of Cheetos, you need to first figure out how the colossal blunder happened. Wait a short time for the Cheetos dust to settle, then march yourself right back down to your boss’ office to explain what you’ve discovered and the steps you plan to implement to make sure it never happens again.

8. Problem Solve

If you find that the error was due to a systems problem (e.g., your email marketing platform), you may feel tempted to close your account and find a different, more perfect email marketing system. But jumping ship at the first sign of a problem only means that you will never really figure out what went wrong and why. And, ultimately, it would require spending time, money, and energy learning a brand new system that is sure to have kinks as well.

Instead of focusing your energy on getting mad, blaming, or other unproductive emotions, go up the chain at the email service provider until you find someone who is willing to work with you to brainstorm and fix the problem. Consider changing platforms as your last ditch effort only after all solutions have been explored.

9. Follow Up

You’ve sent out a retraction. You recovered from the email marketing campaign chaos. Now what? With any email marketing campaign, it’s all about the follow up. Unlike regular follow up messages that ask: “Did you see the message I sent you last week?”, email marketing blunders give you the opportunity to get creative with subsequent outreach. Consider writing a blog post about your lessons learned or another relevant topic to the mistake, take to social media, make t-shirts. Go all out. You have unintentionally united a group of people on a topic and/or experience. Why not encourage further connection from it?

In Summary

Sometimes we have to take a few steps backward to move FORWARD, especially when it comes to delivering successful email marketing campaigns. Once an email goes out to the masses, it’s out there. Breathe, laugh, react quickly and positively, and make a big batch of sweet lemonade from what, in the moment, feels like the most sour lemons ever. In other words, spin the situation into a successful campaign.

And should you ever receive an email marketing message that is so bad you can’t handle it (and you will), remember you’ve been there and done that. Take a minute and write a quick and thoughtful or funny message to the sender, letting the person know you empathize. They will love you forever.

Interested in learning more about influencer marketing, our real expertise? Reach out to us at jyl@forwardinfluence.com.

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