How to Survive and Learn from Your Email Marketing Errors

How to Survive and Learn from Your Email Marketing Errors

In email, a mistake might feel like the end of the world since so many people can see where we went wrong. A error in the topic line. The incorrect product image. The incorrect copy in a call-to-action button. The button was copied correctly, however the landing page link was incorrect.

During my retail email days, my blunders would reach millions of subscribers. One of my team members once sent out a mailing that included all of our unsubscribed addresses by accident.

Talk about a “oops!” If that had happened today, we could have annoyed many people while also being held accountable for spamming in some countries.

Three strategies to handle and prevent email errors:

Mistakes occur not because digital marketers are irresponsible or incompetent, but because we all move quickly. We’re working to complete one campaign while preparing the next. But we need to pause and reflect.

How can we avoid mistakes in email? How do we examine, process, learn from our mistakes, and then go forward? It’s easy to become stuck in mistakes. We need to focus more on understanding what happened, preventing it from happening again, and moving on.

These three modifications will help you avoid more mistakes in the email process while also learning from those that do.

  1. Slow down.

Just before I messed up this year, I advised everyone in my company to slow down and concentrate on what they were doing. And why did I make this mistake? Because I was moving too quickly. I didn’t consider what I was doing or why. I just did it, and it came back to haunt me.

The challenge with slowing down in email marketing is that it does not come naturally. We repeatedly tell ourselves:

  • “I gotta get this job done because it’s on the calendar.”
  • “The CEO wants this in his inbox before the weekend.”
  • “I have to get this promotion out the door.”

So we rush to finish the job. When you haste, you are more likely to make mistakes.

So, in our marketing promotions, social media campaigns, and mobile marketing, we need to find strategies to escape the rush. These two relatively little improvements can make you less prone to mistakes:

Document the deployment process. Have you mapped and documented all of the processes in your deployment process? You must outline all of your fail-safe measures, such as identifying redundancy to fill gaps when essential personnel are missing.

Before your campaign moves forward, make sure to cover all of the details, including who is in charge and what to do. Distribute the strategy to your entire team so that everyone is aware of what is happening at all stages. This type of organization is one of the most effective techniques I know to avoid mistakes.

You don’t want to send a “oops” email. (But I’ll discuss that later.)

Identify gaps where errors can get in. One useful strategy is to appoint a “last mile” person who can review your email, text, or social post and report mistakes in anything from content to audience before clicking “send.”

When I worked in retail email, I would have someone from the direct mail team review my campaign emails, test them, and search for problems. Why send direct mail? Because those folks have an eye for detail, which is an important aspect of their employment. With print campaigns, once a campaign is sent to print, it is locked in and cannot be changed on the fly.

Look throughout your firm for someone who is sharp enough to review your work and knowledgeable enough with your emails to know what to look for, but is not a member of your email team. They should read your emails in the same way that your consumers would, but also click links, look for errors in the inbox and message copy, and highlight any strange-looking coding.

Most importantly, do not wait for errors to occur. Document your procedure and identify your last-mile steps. These will address error-prone gaps that could cause brand or team shame.

2. Think before sending a ‘Oops!’ email.

If you make a mistake, should you send a follow-up with the corrected information? I’ve answered this question countless times over the last 25 years. Every time I get it, my response is slightly different.

About 50% of the time, I advise organizations not to send a “Oops!” email because the error is minor. Sure, it’s a huge thing for the individual who made the error, but it’s rarely a mistake that warrants a second mailing. It may possibly cause more harm than good.

The next time you make a mistake — and there will be another; see my point above about people and their fallibility — ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it necessary to correct a misconception concerning pricing or terms?
  • Did my call center suddenly see an increase in upset or furious customers?

If you can respond “Yes” to either question, please submit a correction. But you don’t have to make a huge deal out of it. Send the correct campaign, include a letter explaining what happened, and move forward.

The key dilemma is which subscribers should receive your apology email. In the past, we would forward the revised version to anyone who opened the email. Now that the opens have been contaminated, should you send it to anybody who clicked on the email? That answer will be determined by the dynamics of your list, the content of the message, and other elements specific to your list and client base.

Be objective in your decision-making process. Forget the mistake and focus on your brand and customers.

If you want more tips on how to write effective apology emails, my email colleague Kath Pay has some wonderful suggestions and examples: “How to create an effective apology email: 7 examples.”

Stop sending bogus “Oops!” emails, please. That small trick to get customers to open your emails is plain inbox abuse.

3. Share with your team.

After I messed up, I wanted to crawl into a box. Fortunately, I was on a plane and could spend three hours without speaking to anyone. But I felt terrible.

When I returned to work, I told my staff what had transpired. This was difficult, but I needed my people to understand two things:

  • Not to repeat what I did.
  • Even the CEO can make mistakes.

That acknowledgement of humanity, admitting wrong and accepting responsibility for mistakes, is essential. You are not allowing your team to make mistakes. However, you are informing them that it is not a death sentence if they comply.

So, when you send an email with a faulty link, you document what happened and how you resolved the issue before sharing it with the team. You are responsible for your mistake. Yes, this is embarrassing. It’s meant to be. However, once you’ve overcome your shame, you may apply what you’ve learnt and go forward.

This is how we learn, improve our procedures, perform our tasks more effectively, and make fewer mistakes. When one of my team members unintentionally emailed our unsubscribes years ago, we didn’t blame anyone. We sat down together and discussed how to avoid making the same mistake again.

We’re all traveling at 12 million miles per hour, especially during peak seasons. Let us examine the procedure that resulted in the error and determine where we may implement protections. Focus on the solution rather than who is to blame.

Slow down and treat failures compassionately.

Let me emphasize my main point: we all make mistakes. If you haven’t had a huge one yet, don’t worry; it will happen to you. My mistake was larger than most, and I received a lot of teasing and joking. That’s okay; I deserved it.

However, I also heard from team members who said they valued my openness and that mistakes were OK. Years ago, I made a major mistake. When the boss called, I expected to be reprimanded.

“That was a big deal, wasn’t it?” He said. “You probably beat yourself up more than I could. Let us just make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

I appreciated his acceptance that making a mistake was OK, but that it was my responsibility to correct the situation and prevent it from happening again. We don’t make mistakes on purpose, but we don’t have to be afraid of making them.

If you can document your email operations, find out your last-mile actions, slow down, and work in a calm environment, you will send fewer errors into the world.

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