subject line - “Please Comfirm Your Subscription to ….” Both the client and I missed that typo in the subject line after multiple checks. Although this happened seven years ago and I have sent thousands of messages since, I still wince each time I tell the story. When we mentioned email mishaps or mistakes, what came to mind?
  • Broken links
  • Incorrect copy
  • Typos
  • Offer code not working
  • Sent to wrong contacts
  • Technical glitches
  • Wrong subject lines
The first thing you should do when you have uncovered a mistake is assess the situation. Before you take any action, you want to think rather than shoot off an immediate correction or apology message. Mistakes do happen but we should not compound them. Relax and take a deep breath. If you can stop the send to all or even part of your list, then of course, do so. You can always correct the mistake and then send out the revised email to the remainder of your list. Your initial reaction might be to send an immediate follow-up message with a correction or an apology. However, doing so may bring unnecessary attention to the issue and cause a spike in unsubscribes. There are four questions you can focus on to assess the situation and determine if it will be necessary to send a correction/apology email.

1. How did it affect my customers?

  • Could the customer not take action due to the mistake?
  • Did a promo code not work?
  • Could a customer not see the image of the product they wanted to purchase?
  • Was the website down when they attempted to shop?

2. How big is the audience?

  • Was the message sent to your entire subscriber base or a segmented portion of that group?
  • How many of those subscribers have opened the message?
A few customers will notice your error and let you know about it. You have to handle these individually and apologize to them. Do this quickly and cordially.

3. What is the downside of doing nothing?

First, consider that emails are not read entirely and are opened by less than 50% of recipients. That being said, what is the downside if you do not act?
  • Will you miss out on revenue opportunities as a result?
  • Can you honor the mistake?

4. Is action required?

If so, prepare a standardized response email and stick with the template. Say the same thing to every customer and keep the message simple. This is critical if the email error went to a large number of subscribers. Some considerations while crafting your correction and/or apology message:

Correction Emails

If the decision is to send out a corrected email, then do so as soon as possible to reduce complaints and curb potential lost sales. If using the original subject line, then append it with "Correction to," so that those contacts that had already opened the original message could quickly tell two things. First, this message is not a duplicate of the original email. Second, there was content from the original message that was incorrect, and they should open the corrected email to find out what the mistake was. Next, state the correction at the very top of the message in the preheader space, so it cannot be missed. You could put that correction text in red or bold to make it stand out from the rest of the content. Include some type of incentive.

Apology Messages

Apologies work better the sooner they are said (or sent), so you want to respond as soon as you can once you have determined that a correction needs to be made. If you do not have the design resources available, consider a text-only campaign. Be transparent, apologetic and use a personal tone to the message. Keep the language light-hearted and playful when possible and appropriate. In the email marketing world, apologies are usually sent with an incentive or reward offer in your message. Offering an incentive is great way to make your customers feel valued. Even if someone did not notice the error or was not affected, they are likely to open the email just to see what you’re sorry about. Who knows? You may even find that the apology email is one of your top performers from an engagement and revenue perspective!

Try using “Oops!” in your subject line:

A common apology approach is the “Oops” message because it is short, simple and to the point. You then leave plenty of room to convey the reason for the additional send. This word also creates an emotional reaction. Examples:
  • Oops! Sorry Our Site Was Slow. FREE Shipping on Everything & Sitewide Sale Extended Today!
  • Oops ... It'll work now, promise! 25% off everything + free shipping
  • Oops! We fixed it: See the best ways to ...
  • Oops! Here's the promo code we forgot!

Use Supportive Preheader Text

The subject line and preheader text will need to work together. Factor in the approach that you took to your subject line and determine what information is missing. Put yourself in your subscribers' shoes and see if the subject line and preheader text combo is really explaining the issue and the remedy. It is how you respond that can drive revenue. In this example from Paragon Sports they tell you in the header of the message what happened and that it’s corrected. “Your Promo Code Works Now.”

 Example 2

Here is an example from 3Balls in which they do an awesome job of addressing the correction and taking full responsibility for the error while also keeping the message simple and humorous. In the header of the message, it says, “Sorry, the response was so heavy our site crashed. We’re good now … (please click gently) Go claim your offer.” They even include a makeup offer for their goof. Example 1

Read more in Falling Forward Part 2, and dive into more live examples of how some made the most of bad situation and got the “Oops” message spot on!]]>