Let’s face it: humans aren’t perfect. As much as we try to use technology to avoid errors and automate our work, there is still a human element in most of our day-to-day activities.
Email marketing is no exception.
Email Mistakes Happen
Think about it this way, there’s someone who physically creates and designs the imagery of the email, another person who writes the content, and often someone else who organizes the list and pushes the send button.
That means there are at least three separate people working on one email to get it out to customers -- and many opportunities for a mistake. In email marketing, there is no way to fully avoid human error.
We’ve all been there. Whether it is an image cropped wrong, a misspelled word, or sending an email to the wrong customer list -- it happens. That means that on occasion, an email makes it to the customer’s inbox that isn’t 100% right.
Sometimes, a mistake in your email can get overlooked by subscribers. But many people have stated that spelling and grammar mistakes in emails are annoying -- meaning that people do notice when something isn’t right.
Unfortunately, when it comes to emails, can be a highly visible mistake. From the company executives to the thousands or in some cases, millions, of subscribers an email can’t simply be pulled back due to a spelling error. Once it has been sent, there’s no option to recall or make a quick edit -- it’s out there for everyone to see.
Knowing mistakes happen, let’s take a look at how you can respond to an email marketing error and make the most out of the situation.
What Can Be Fixed
Although it seems like the end of the world when you realize there was a mistake in the email you just sent out, there are a few mistakes that can be fixed. While you can’t take back the error for those who have already seen it, here’s a few tricks to better the experience for the rest.
Correcting Image Errors
Luckily when it comes to mistakes with an image in the email, you have an opportunity to adjust the problem. Did your graphic go out with a spelling error or need cropped a little more?
Replacing the image on your server with the needed edits and saving it with the same filename as the incorrect image will correct the image on the emails already sent. Meaning that after the update has been made, anyone who opens the email will see the new image in place of the old.
One note to keep in mind regarding updating the image is that it may take some time for the new image to populate.
Correcting Link Errors
Links can be a frequently missed step during the review process. We tend to pay more attention to the content and imagery and forget to click through all of the links to make sure they are working and linking to the proper location.
While not every linking situation can be fixed, many can. This can be done by modifying the link through your email service provider. Of course, catching the error prior to launching is the best-case scenario, this is a great option if it slips through the cracks.
Once the link has been modified, anyone who opens the email and clicks the link will now be directed to the proper landing page or product.
Correcting Live Content Error
The use of live content within an email will allow you to make copy adjustments after the email is sent. Live content is a feature that pulls content from an external webpage into the email. Meaning that you can adjust the content on the webpage and it will then pull the corrected content from that page.
Live content will pull the information from the webpage at the time of the open. That means that if you sent the email three hours ago, noticed the error, and fixed it someone opening the email now they will see the newest content.
What Can't Be Fixed
Although it is reassuring to know that there are a number of different options for adjusting the email once it’s sent, that isn’t true for everything. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the mistakes that can’t be fixed.
The Subject Line
An email’s subject line is one of the most important parts of an email. It’s often the decision between opening something or junking it. Which makes one of the worst spots to make an error -- especially because there is no way to fix this mistake.
When reviewing emails, it’s important to spend a little extra time and have another set of eyes look over the content of the subject line. Sometimes a writer is too close to the work to notice and error, so the more eyes the better.
In an email from Blue Fly, the subject line read “See it. Love it. Not get it.” It’s a pretty good bet that the subject line was not supposed to read “Not get it.” The point of their email is to encourage a sale, so why would they end with not making a purchase? Chances are good that this email meant to read “See it. Love it. Now get it.” It makes much more sense and would help encourage customers to make a purchase.
While live content can be changed via the web page once it is sent, HTML text cannot. Once this content has been created and the send button has been pushed, there’s no way to modify the content.
Content is one of the easiest places to make a mistake. Words can be misspelled or skipped and it can even change the meaning of the content. Sometimes it’s a simple transcribing error that could have been avoided by copying and pasting, while others it’s just an overlooked misspellings.
No matter what the circumstance is, the content is out there and will live in that email forever.
When to Send an "Oops" Email
Not every mistake requires an “Oops” email. In some cases, subscribers may not even notice the error, so why point it out if you don’t have to? But in some situations, there is a need to send a follow-up to correct the mistake.
If there was an issue with the promotion itself, this is a good time to send a secondary email. This could be promoting the wrong dates, sharing a discount code that doesn’t work, or listing the wrong discount. These types of mistakes will affect the campaign as a whole and you’ll want to make an announcement.
If the website crashes or the shopping experience you were promoting didn’t perform as planned, you’ll want to send a follow-up email. This could happen due to high traffic to the website or a DNS issue.
This example from Red Envelope, which extended their Cyber Monday sale last year due to site issues for customers, is a great example.
The email addresses the issue by pointing out that the shoppers may have had difficulty accessing their deals and presents them with the resolution. By adding an extra day of discounts, it lets shoppers who experienced issues the first time around come back and get the items on their list for the price they wanted.
You Don’t Have to Tell Everyone
Generally, you don’t need to send an “Oops” email to everyone who received the email. Check the stats and only send the email to those who were affected by the mistake. That means taking the time to see who opened the email or those who tried to click-through only to find themselves in the location. Then, send the update to them and let them know you realized there was a mistake made.
In most In this example from Lee the wrong end date of the sale was displayed on the mobile version of the women’s email. The end date read “5/9″ instead of “5/19″ and was coded in HTML text.
In this example, an “Oops” email was sent to only those subscribers who opened the email on a mobile device, with an updated subject line reading, “Oops! Our shorts sale isn’t THAT short…”
Honing in on the customer segment that received the mistake, in this case, users who opened the email on their mobile device, allowed them to communicate directly to those affected. They also did a great job playing off of the short time frame and poking a little fun at themselves.
Sending an “Oops” email works if you can correct the issue and make the appropriate follow-up to those affected. But there are some situations where this just isn’t the case. If the mistake cannot be corrected and was a big enough error, sending an email to the entire send list might be the best move.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t draw more attention to the error than you have to. While a follow-up email about a mistake may perform well, it can really affect your brand’s credibility -- especially if multiple email mistakes are made.
The goal is always to catch mistakes before they are sent out. Preventing mistakes comes from thorough quality assurance processes as well as testing tools for rendering and link validation. That means using and adhering to Service Level Agreements (SLAs) both internally and with any external resources is critical.
The Threshold for Errors is (Rightfully) Low
As an email marketer, one of the worst things we can do is send an email to someone who shouldn’t get it, or not send an email to someone who should. Accuracy in email marketing is important for every company that uses it as a marketing platform. Making sure content and imagery are perfect before hitting the send button will help you build credibility and keep from creating new work to get a follow-up out in a timely manner.
Spending the extra time to improve accuracy will reflect positively in your email marketing stats.