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Email Mistakes Are Brutal — These Marketers Shared Their Worst Ones

Email mistakes can be embarrassing. [Stocksy/Guille Faingold]

Members of our Trailblazer community revealed email blunders that they’ve made over the years and what they learned from them.

Email mistake. Those two words are enough to send a pang of fear down any marketer’s spine.

A bad typo in the subject line. An incorrect hyperlink. A personalized message to the, um, wrong person. Everyone makes mistakes. But some mistakes are more embarrassing than others — like when they happen in a brand email sent to thousands of people.

Hey, this is why email anxiety is a real thing. Who doesn’t feel a bit anxious after firing off an email to a group that includes customers, prospects, and even your own co-workers?

We asked our Marketing Champion community – made up of marketing leaders at companies that are Salesforce customers – to tell us some of their email horror stories. They were good sports and happily chimed in. Read their tales and learn how you can be a better email marketer.

Hone your email marketing skills with these resources

Learn how to plan, design, and deliver email campaigns that build long-term customer relationships.

Heather Ilsey McCullough, solutions architect 

“One time we were using personalization in the greeting of our email. Testing went great and everything looked good — until after the send. A valued customer who was very upset forwarded us her version of the email with an expletive in place of her first name! I was horrified.

“Fortunately, she was very forgiving, and it only happened to one other individual that received the email. This is why data validation on forms and data hygiene are so important to me today.”

Ray Mason, director of marketing operations

“I once had a ‘thank you for attending’ email sent not only to our attendees for an event but also to a much larger list of prospects that never registered for that event. To resolve it, I sent an apology email coming from our CEO, offering a promo code for a conference of their choice on our company’s event calendar that year.”

Cindy Akus, independent consultant

“One of our largest email campaigns went out with the subject line we used internally for proofing. Something like, ‘PROOF please review and approve.’ It was awful, but it happens. Email is hard.

“The funny thing was we got replies from people asking, ‘Was that subject line intentional?! I opened your email thinking it was from someone on my team. Great idea!’

“We created solid documentation and tightened our processes after that snafu.”

Cristobal Galindo, Salesforce Marketing Cloud analyst

“I was covering for our email specialist. They asked me to switch a section’s font color. I made the whole background in the footer black and the only thing visible was the unsubscribe link. There were tons of unsubscribes from that single email because people are prompted to click on bright-colored items over dark backgrounds.”

Ashley Anger, project manager, marketing solutions

“In the first email I sent from Pardot, I was creating my recipient list, which was supposed to be a very small list with explicit criteria. Instead of using ‘match all,’ I used ‘match any,’ which was the equivalent of sending to the client’s entire database. When I realized the error, I owned up to it being my mistake. The client respected that and said not to worry. We put a QA process in place, and I still work with them even to this day.

“I found out the following week that because I sent that email to the entire database, they had interest from people they did not anticipate. It opened a few new relationships. All worked out in the end!”

Swati Bhalla, Salesforce Marketing Cloud launch lead 

“I once forgot to add an .ics (calendar) link in an event invite and added a wrong link in the CTA. Both issues were resolved by the job links feature in Email Studio. Mistakes can happen by anyone. Thanks to Marketing Cloud technology, we have easy ways to rectify those errors.”

Oana Munteanu, senior marketing consultant 

“My biggest blunder happened in my early days of marketing automation. I sent a product launch email prior to the actual launch date. What made it worse was that the customer was told about it midway through their speech at a conference, talking about that same product. I still haven’t recovered from it.”

Follow these tips to send great emails

Read our 50 Best Practices for Email Marketers guide.

Sachin Shenoliker of Salesforce
Sachin Shenolikar Content Strategy Director

Sachin Shenolikar is a content strategy director for Marketing Cloud. He focuses on how brands can use technology and creativity to build memorable marketing moments that lead to lasting customer relationships.

More by Sachin

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