Email mistakes happen, but they aren't the end of the world! 

Top 3 fears? Spiders, heights and hitting send on an email campaign. It’s very real. After all of that time and effort, once you hit the send button that’s it. No more tweaks, no more alterations. So when a mistake is spotted in your email it can be an anxious and somewhat disheartening moment. Then follows the corrected email and the communications letting the subscribers know that the original email contained an error – now where is that hole in the ground that can swallow me up?

As awesome as we email marketers are, we are all human. And mistakes happen. It’s how you respond to them that counts. Consider the recent ‘gaffe’ from HBO Max:

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This is not apportioning blame, or even a sense that this brand is worried that an email marketing mistake will cause reputational damage. It’s a lighthearted, empathetic message that admits a mistake, apologises and strikes a very human and relatable tone. And one only needs to look at the vast stream of supportive replies to this tweet to see that this isn’t the end of the world – everyone has done something similar.

Empathetic messaging helps soften mistakes

As marketers, we are entering an age of empathetic marketing – where brands strive to connect with their customers and prospects on a more human level. Talking to people as, well, people. It helps build a lasting and trusting relationship with your audience when you communicate shared values and with a human tone. We’ve written about employing emotional intelligence in your marketing communications before, but is admitting to email marketing mistakes also a type of empathetic marketing that helps cement a positive sentiment towards your brand? If done in a relatable, ‘human’ way then yes! Let’s look at a couple of ways to do this.

Leaning into the joke

If a mistake has been made, why hide from it? Best to join in with the jokes right? This way of dealing with public mistakes from email campaigns is growing more common as we marketers realise that people respond to a humorous response in overwhelmingly positive ways. People would prefer to read something funny than a soulless ‘corporate’ response that shifts blame to anything but them. You can’t connect with something like that.

American Eagle chose to lean into the joke, and to great effect. When an email was released with a broken GIF (if only they’d read our ultimate guide to animated GIFS in email!), they responded quickly with a corrected version, but with a couple of excellent changes.

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Click the image to see the GIF in action

Firstly, you can see that they are offering 25% off to subscribers if they use the new code ‘NOGLITCH’ – a clear reference to the broken GIF in the previous email. You’ll also see a working GIF that is designed to look like it is breaking in another self-referential joke. Combine that with a short message about the last email making them feel ‘awkward’ and a screamer that also references the mistake, and you get a humorous email that admits the mistake, corrects it, and connects with the audience in a self-effacing way that attaches no blame to any individual within the company. Oh, and the subject line was ‘Son of a Glitch…’ I say no more.

Everyone makes mistakes!

And when I say everyone makes mistakes, I mean everyone – including us! We recently sent an email promoting our What the iOS 15 Changes Mean For Email webinar that contained a broken registration link. The one thing it needed to work! Once this was spotted and quickly rectified, we took the decision to lean into the joke too.

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Taking the opportunity to poke fun at ourselves, and our mistake, with a humorous CTA Button (Register Take 2), a funny GIF and including the classic intern joke in the copy, we wanted to display to our audience that making a mistake is intrinsically human and not the end of the world. Communicating in an empathetic way helped soften the mistake for everyone involved – the subscribers, the brand and even the people who made the email.

Being empathetic doesn’t always mean being funny

Whilst empathy can come from using humour, this isn’t the only option. Sometimes, in the right situation, it’s speaking to your customers with humility and honesty that can connect you to them on a personal level.

Take Shutterfly, an online printing shop. They sent out an email congratulating new parents who had recently made baby-related purchases from them, they accidentally sent it out to their entire database. An innocent mistake and one that could easily be laughed off? Shutterfly rightly considered that this celebratory message around becoming a new parent may now be being read by anyone in their database that, sadly, were struggling in their fertility journey.

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The apology email that was swiftly dispatched was sincere, genuine, and showed a real care for customer welfare. The fact that it was personalised and also signed by the CMO of the company is a really thoughtful touch, as it adds a human connection to the message. It’s common for brands that have made a mistake to quickly send out an apology, but usually it’s just a statement with their logo. The Shutterfly marketing department thoughtfully personalised this message that addressed a sensitive issue to help it connect with their audience, all whilst under substantial pressure.

Empathetic messaging helps connect you to your audience, no matter what the situation

Even when addressing a mistake within your email marketing, using an empathetic tone and wording in your communications is a positive step to connecting with customers. They know that there are people behind the brand, working to create the marketing they receive. And they know that people accidentally make errors occasionally. Addressing it on a more human level, rather than crafting a generic corporate apology, can enable customers to understand and relate to this. This creates a swell of goodwill towards the brand, or it at least prevents much negativity.

And as the subscriber, we should assume good intent from brands. We can empathise as consumers that mistakes happen. Marketers increasingly rely on different pieces of technology, which can be tough to juggle with maximum effectiveness so we should bear that in mind before judging brands. Plus, how these situations are handled by brands (like a few of the examples above) will show the brand intentions too.

Taxi for Email helps prevent email marketing mistakes

Even though we’ve highlighted how being empathetic in your marketing can help lessen the impact of mistakes, they’re best avoided in the first place. And whilst cutting out all mistakes forever is impossible, Taxi is designed to actively prevent and warn against all sorts of potential accidental mistakes.

Taxi’s Expectations, Conversations and Permissions are just three features that help keep mistakes from creeping in.

Expectations enables you to set rules and best practices to your Email Design System to guide users how to build your brand’s emails, and catch any mistakes or instances that don’t follow the set rules. Here’s a few things Expectations can help with:

  • You can add ‘must-change’ rules to default (placeholder) text areas: this makes sure you aren’t left with default copy (e.g. Lorem Ipsum) when it comes to sending.
  • You can set Rules to modules and fields to ensure they aren’t left blank.
  • Setting copy limits to ensure your layout isn’t broken
  • Ensuring dropdown fields are selected before exporting

Conversations enables you to start a chat-based thread in any area of your email. By leaving comments in the thread and tagging team members, you can collaborate with your team in real time to help speed up approval times and work together to make sure the email is as good as you can make it. For example you can:

  • Give your whole team oversight of the email you/your team are working on, so that more pairs of eyes can spot any potential mistakes.
  • Make comments and changes in Taxi rather than going back and forth between documents, preventing errors arising from copying and pasting.
  • Flag any errors/important changes, meaning the email can’t get exported before it is resolved.
  • Tag your team to ensure the changes you make are as intended

Permissions enable project leaders to control which team members can access different parts of the email creation process. This means that you have confidence that anyone working on the email is the correct person to be doing so at that stage.

We also have a myriad of smaller features that work behind-the-scenes to ensure mistakes don’t affect your email creation process.

And outside of Taxi, it’s great to ensure you have a really solid email QA process in place to make sure that mistakes are found before they get sent out. Make sure you have an email QA checklist you can refer to, and get other team members to help QA as there might be something you miss!

Want to see Taxi in action and how it helps prevent mistakes? Sign up for a demo!

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