Dealing With and Reacting to an Email Disaster

October 28, 2015: Kristin Williams, Digital Publishing Assistant Team Lead

Oh no! You just hit send on a big email and now something doesn’t look right. Unfortunately, there are many ways an email can go wrong. It’s important to be aware of what can cause trouble with your messages, avoid those problems and have a plan for when things do go awry.

Be On the Look Out

Knowing what to look for can help you prevent problems in the first place. Beware of these common email mistakes.

1. Typos, grammar and other writing errors

Misspelled words and poor grammar can sneak into any paragraph. Or maybe you simply forgot to update the subject line. Whatever the case, content errors can cause your email to look less than its best. Always proofread your email content several times to ensure it looks right and makes sense. If you can enlist someone else to check, even better!

2. Incorrect links

Links are crucial in emails—they’re the quickest way your audience can interact more with your messages. If a link has changed, was entered incorrectly or is just wrong, it can interfere with a user’s experience. Link checking tools can help you determine if any links are broken, but the best way to check links is by clicking on every one during testing. It’s the only way to ensure that link goes to the page you originally intended.

3. Broken images

Images help convey information and contribute to your email’s good looks. While a well-designed email should display properly even with images off (as many email clients set by default), images that are broken or incorrect don’t look good. Check that images display properly and make sense within the context of the email.

4. Wrong email list

At times, you’ll want to personalize emails and only send to subscribers meeting certain criteria. Sending to the wrong email list (or everyone) can cause confusion and/or hard feelings. Always check your send lists to ensure any criteria and subscriber counts are correct.

5. Errors in email clients

Email clients can display code and content differently—what shows well in one may look very different in another. We use Litmus to test our emails in common email clients before sending so that no one gets a bad view.

Be Prepared

It happens—you check everything multiple times and something still goes wrong. Having a plan can help alleviate a lot of the stress related to making an email error. 

1. Keep calm

If you can, limit the problem. Pause or stop any sends still occurring so fewer people receive the mistake.

2. Find the problem

The first step towards deciding what to do is to figure out what went wrong. In some cases, errors may be fixable even after the email has been sent.
It’s also important to consider how your subscribers will react to the issue. An incorrect link might be a minor issue in some newsletters, but not if it was directing them to a big offer or promotion. Find out what impact the problem may have on your business.

3. Decide how to respond

Once you’ve determined the issue, respond quickly. Your response should differ depending on the impact. For larger errors an apology or correction might be required.
If you decide that an apology is required, here are a few things to think about:

  • Who was affected by this error?  In some cases, such as sending to the wrong subscriber list, some recipients may have seen the message correctly. Determine whether an apology is required for everyone or for only a certain group.
  • Apologize quickly, but avoid over-explaining. Many subscribers may not have seen the initial message with the error. Use words such as “correction”, “oops” or “apology” in the subject line so that subscribers know why they’re receiving another email.
  • Take responsibility for the issue. Assure subscribers that you have recognized the mistake and that it won’t happen in the future.
  • Consider using humor. If it fits your brand voice, using humor can alleviate negative perceptions.
  • Make sure the problem is fixed! Sending out another mistake will only exacerbate the problem.
Consider planning for problems before they happen and have responses ready for specific types of situations.

Measure the Impact

Once you’ve decided how to handle the situation, check the email reporting to see how recipients responded to the error. Compare open and click rates to previous sends and check the unsubscribe rates to see if they were affected. Monitor other communication channels, such as email, phone and social media, to see if your subscribers provide feedback in other ways and respond accordingly.
Looking for more email marketing insights? Download our Email Marketing Resource Guide.

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