We all live in the real world, at least most of the time, and we know that not every email is going to be perfect, no matter how many QA processes are in place before it is sent.  If you create a message from scratch or if you have to send off a message in a hurry, you may be greatly increasing the chance for errors or mistakes.


We're human and it will happen to us at some time or another (probably even multiple times in our email marketing careers).  Here are a few pretty common “oops” moments: a missing/incorrect subject line, the wrong offer, correct copy but to the wrong list, offer code not working, etc.  There are times when the website itself is running slow or out of commission.  Sometimes we even send out an email that is poorly timed or flat out “in bad taste.” You have to remember, it’s less about the error/mistake that you make and more about how you recover from it.{C}

The first thing you should do as a marketer who just uncovered a mistake in your last mailing is assess the situation.  Don’t jump the gun and fire off an apology email within minutes of your last send to your entire database.  This approach may cause a spike in unsubscribes.  Think about how big the audience was that received the email message with the error.  Is this mistake going to really impact your business?  Do you have some type of incentive that you can offer those affected by the mistake?

Once you’ve assessed the situation, you’ll now need to figure out how to respond.  Try to only target those that received the email message with the error.  There is no need to create confusion and lack of trust for those subscribers that weren’t aware to begin with.  I have known a few retailers to actually make bank off of their apology emails and want to send them to their entire subscriber list, but there are risks associated with this and you will not want to do this often as your subscribers will begin to lose trust in your brand.

Don’t just send the same email message with a different subject line.  Take the time to craft a dedicated apology email.  If you don’t have the design resources available, think about a text only campaign. 

Here is a text only email apology message that Clarks sent when they were experiencing site issues: 

Clarks Email

Be transparent with your subscribers, starting with the subject line.  Here are a few apology subject line examples that stood out in my inbox: We Made a Mistake!  We're Sorry....Take X% Off To Make Up For It!  We're sorry. Let us make it up to you.

Keep the language light-hearted and playful.  Include some type of incentive. You may find that the apology email is one of your top performers from an engagement and revenue perspective. 

Check out this apology example from Crate & Barrel with a 15% off coupon: 

Crate and Barrel Email

You can see that there is a lot of thought and work that must go into the apology email message.  Hopefully, these tips will help you out in a time of need.

Emily Keye
Marketing Strategist at Bronto