Q&A: What to Do When Email Marketing Snafus Happen

oopsDisaster strikes! Read 3 big email blunders and what to do about it.

Email disaster 1: I sent an email with a big mistake in it.

How big? Can your readers still read the copy? Does your software for email marketing have an “unsend” function?

If there’s an important factual error like the date of a sale, or a broken link to the landing page, then send a second email with the correct information. But only send a correction when there’s extreme need! The primary reason readers unsubscribe from a company newsletter is too much email. Most readers would rather ignore a broken image link than receive a second, nearly identical email with a correct link. If it’s a good photo, post it on your Facebook instead.

If you need to email a correction, post the info on your Facebook, Twitter, etc, as well, because the incorrect email will be forwarded faster than you can issue a retraction.

Email disaster 2: I accidentally emailed something private to my entire list.

Everyone has made the “reply to all” mistake, but when this happens, most customers just want to know it won’t happen again. A few people may unsubscribe in anger, and some people may delete the email and not think about it again. You have to own up to your mistake, acknowledge the error, and say it fast. If you need to make restitution for leaking a customer’s private information, do so.

Apologize in private to the affected party, and then draft a short message to the list. Admit that you made a mistake, you’re sorry, and to please delete the email from their machines. Don’t call attention to the error by mentioning it publicly again, but do respond promptly and in an even tone to any emails you get privately.

Email disaster 3: A national tragedy occurred. Keep mum or say something?

When a major news event occurs, like a hurricane or a terrorist strike, companies often release a statement to their email subscribers. Often, the reason is appropriate: for example, customers want to know if their bank’s website is available for online banking during a city blackout. These help-based emails are well received if they are delivered promptly, are brief, and respond to customers’ needs.

Public outcry can be scathing, however, if a company attempts to leverage a national disaster as a sales opportunity. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, several stores, including Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and American Apparel, sent email advertisements for online sales. Due to the content of the emails — a gory Frankenstein graphic for the “Frankenstorm” and another email prescribing shopping “In case you’re bored during the storm” — the stores were criticized for appearing flippant and disrespectful.

Before emailing, consider whether you have something to say. Many people read email on their mobile phones. During a disaster, users devote their phone time to checking up on news and the statuses of friends and family. Well wishes from a corporation is not at the top of their priority. Instead, post your “thoughts and prayers” post on Twitter or Facebook.

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