Email marketing is a fast-moving, high-volume, high-reach channel, so mistakes should almost be expected. With caution and a little luck, you can stave off the inevitable forever—but it's best to have a disaster plan in place so you can react quickly, just in case.

Start by defining possible mistakes and then laying out the appropriate response, recognizing that every mistake doesn't warrant a response—and that sending an apology email is just one of many possible responses. Here are five ways to respond to varying levels of email errors.
 

  1. Shake it off

    For benign mistakes like typos and minor formatting issues, it's best just to let it go. Small errors are likely to go unnoticed and will be understood as errors if they are noticed. Temporary issues that don't dramatically impair your emails or your website are also worth letting go. Even some deployment mistakes fall into this category, so long they don't cause any material damage.
     

  2. Triage on the backend

    For less benign errors like emails with serious rendering or formatting issues, messages sent at the wrong time, or emails missing minor content, take actions to mitigate the damage that don't involve sending any additional emails.

    Possible actions include:

    • Halting or pausing the send, fixing the issue, and then completing the send.
    • Updating image files to correct mistakes or to remove incorrect content.
    • Using the landing page to clarify the offer, timing of the event, or other details.
    • Acknowledging the error in other channels like social in response to customer questions.

    Sending an apology email can draw more attention to the mistake and cause the whole issue to become overblown.
     

  3. Targeted resend

    For significant errors that only affect a small portion of your email subscribers, consider sending an apology email or a resend of the original email with a message of explanation at the top that's segmented only to those affected.

    Before resending an email like this, it's a good idea to check your email analytics just to make sure the email is seriously underperforming—and if its performance is where you want it to be, consider skipping the re-send. Sometimes things aren't as bad as you think.
     

  4. Email apology

    For a serious mistake that specifically affects your email subscribers, an apology is necessary to clear things up and mend the relationship. Permission is sacred. Accidently violating it is worth apologizing for and making it clear to subscribers that they won't receive any more messages from the brand—with the subtext being, "Please don't mark that email as spam."
     

  5. Full-spectrum apology

    Sometimes mistakes are particularly harmful or hurtful, and in these cases it's all hands on deck—sending an email apology to subscribers, reaching out via social media, and making statements to the media.
     

Even if you make every effort to put processes in place to minimize the risk of mistakes, human error will sometimes find a way to slip through. Matching up various scenarios with a plan of action helps you avoid over- or under-reacting in the heat of the moment.

 
 
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