Email Error Etiquette: When Brands Make Mistakes in Messages

EJ McGowan
by EJ McGowan 01 May, 2017
We all make mistakes and email marketers are no different - especially on Mondays when we have more errors in subject lines than emails sent on any other day according to research from Boomerang.

Unfortunately, innocent blunders can have further-reaching effects for brands than for everyday email senders. A typo to a friend is no big deal, but for businesses, the same typo can damage credibility. Worse, certain email errors can even make subscribers feel devalued by brands, potentially leading to decreased loyalty or loss of business completely.

Read on for common email marketing mistakes to look out for, guidance on how to avoid them and what to do if a bad batch slips out anyway.

Common Errors

1. Copy mistakes: Perhaps the most common error, these are simple typos that can occur either in the body of the email or the subject line. Those in the body may go unnoticed, but typos in subject lines are likely to cost businesses at least a few email opens.

2. Dated information: This refers to promotions for sales that have already ended or events that happened last month. Subscribers will be stumped by the call-to-action and aggravated that they wasted time reading the email.

3. Irrelevant offers: Even if offers are valid, they are still likely to confuse contacts if they are irrelevant to them. Take, for instance, notifications about events coming up in the local Dallas store sent to customers in Chicago.

4. Broken links: These mistakes are pretty straightforward; links can either take contacts to the wrong page, or take them to no page at all. This issue can cost brands serious bucks if the contacts clicking on those bad links were originally intending on making a purchase.

5. Invalid personalization: Including a person's name in the email greeting can impress contacts, but when emails show up saying "Dear First Name," or "Dear [...]," the intended effect is reversed.

Content Culprits

Though simple mistakes can often be the result of human error, it's also likely that at some point in the campaign creation process an error is introduced.

For instance, if an email includes "Dear User Name," this is likely an issue in the syntax of the campaign. On the other hand, bad data, like a missing first name for an email contact, is often the root cause of "Dear [...]".

Both of these issues are usually introduced in the process of merging fields. Additionally, failure to segment campaigns appropriately can lead to messages containing irrelevant or outdated information.

Preventing Problems

Marketers can circumvent some of these errors by routinely scrubbing contact data and making note of any contacts with missing information fields. Specify a default term to prevent any recipients from seeing an invalid personalization attempt in the greeting line.

For instance, default blank first names to say, "Dear Subscriber" or "Dear User." Most importantly, test, test, test. Send test emails internally before sending out a campaign; others may likely spot typos that the creator is blind to.

Additionally, turn to A/B split testing to ensure that emails are performing as they should before sending to the entire list. In the event that a mistake is found after sending the test group campaigns out, marketers will have a chance to fix it before the message is sent to the rest of the list.

Saving Face

If and when the inevitable happens, know how to best respond to recover from the error with grace. Sometimes, this means doing nothing at all. For instance, if it's a small error such as a minor typo, use the opportunity to improve business processes internally without publicly apologizing.

If a major error has occurred-like a broken link or an unintentionally offensive email-customers are more likely to forgive and forget when the brand fesses up to the mistake. Try to acknowledge the error and put a positive spin on it when appropriate (e.g., "We were eager to get you this great deal and sent the email before it was ready."). When mistakes slip through, respond accordingly to save customer relationships. 

About the Author

EJ McGowan, general manager of Campaigner, has more than 25 years' experience in the software industry with expertise in building highly available, scalable SaaS-based solutions.