Shame, discouragement, frustration, PANIC! These are just some of the emotions that you feel when you’ve just sent an email containing one or more mistakes to hundreds of people. But do not yield to these emotions. After all, to err is human and can happen to even the most meticulous among us.
If you’re involved in email sending, you’ll make a mistake too, sooner or later. Sometimes, mistakes are small, like a typo or an image misalignment. And sometimes more serious, like wrong product pricing, an inappropriate sentence that you forgot to change or the use of a wrong mailing list.
This is when an erratum should be used. You made a mistake? Why not try to turn this embarrassing situation to your advantage? Some “Oops” messages even get better results than the originals. You just need to get this one right.
When to send an erratum?
Ideally, send it as soon as possible after the mistake was made. But don’t rush it too much. The last thing you want is to make a second mistake! Trying to fix a mistake can be very stressful, so take the time to assess the situation, check who is impacted, and whether a correction is needed.
Here is a scale of severity of possible errors when sending an email:
- Minor error that does not really affect the company or the recipient. It can be a simple typing error or a visual error. This type of error does not require an email apology but should still be the subject of reflection to find solutions and not make this error again in the future.
- Embarrassing error. A more technical error that can impact the customer experience but can be easily resolved with an apology email. For example, it could be sent to the wrong segment or at the wrong time of day.
- Error harmful to the company’s reputation and to the customer experience as well. We can think here of sending a promotion that leads to a website that doesn’t work, or accidentally offending a group of people in the content of your email.
- Serious error. This type of error is damaging to reputation and can affect the company’s revenues. It can also cause long-term damage to the company and their contacts. One can think of a data leak, for example. An action plan including a series of communications with a list of measures that will be put in place is necessary to restore the situation with your clients.
If one day you find yourself in the last two levels, it is important to develop an action plan in advance to be prepared for this eventuality and avoid being in reaction mode. New technologies and techniques are entering our daily lives, bringing a certain degree of risk. This is why you should be proactive. The speed of reaction as well as the control you demonstrate over the solution is often critical at these times and that is why it would be beneficial for your company to be prepared.
Most of the time, companies are in the first two levels of seriousness and can get away with an apology email and a little humor. That’s why the majority of our examples and most of our advice in this article will apply to embarrassing errors.
Here are a few examples of situations that deserve an erratum in this category:
Broken or incorrect links
Inserting broken or incorrect links in your email can become costly if not corrected quickly. This is especially true in the case of a link to buy a product. The contact expects to fall on the page to proceed with the purchase, and if this is not the case, there is a good chance that the contact will simply leave without asking for the rest. Many sales will be lost on your side if you don’t rectify the situation quickly.
To avoid as much as possible this kind of error, an essential step should be performed just before the official sending: send yourself a test of your email. This step should be done before each sending. This way, you will be able to make sure that all clickable elements point to the right place and correct it, if necessary. Test all the links: your buttons, your header logo, text links, images, the profile modification or unsubscription link, in short, everything that should lead to a specific page.
If, by accident, a broken or incorrect link would have appeared in your email, despite all your precautions, it would be more appropriate to send an erratum only to the contacts who clicked on one or more of your links and not to all your recipients. Indeed, a contact who wasn’t interested enough to click on one of the links doesn’t have to know that you made a mistake related to the links. This could simply harm your image with contacts not concerned by the problem.
Email sent to the wrong segment
Whether you are a beginner or a segmentation veteran, there is always a possibility of making a mistake when it comes to selecting our recipients. Of course, the impact of such an error can be minimal, but in some situations, it is an error that can hurt your company. For example, a company that sells personalized items with photos sent an email to all their contacts to congratulate them on their new child… This is a major mistake, especially for a sensitive subject like this one!
When the impact is significant enough as in the example given above, it is important to send a signed message of apology on behalf of a specific person such as the marketing director or the president of the company. This helps to humanize the company because many customers forget that there are people behind all communication and that we are not robots.
Acknowledging your mistake also helps to generate empathy among your recipients. Indeed, taking responsibility for our mistakes generates more empathy and prompts to forgive more quickly than if you try to ignore your mistake without admitting that you were wrong. Transparency is highly valued by the majority of consumers, so you are more likely to harm yourself by doing nothing but apologize.
Here is an example of an email apology for sending to the wrong segment:
Critical inaccurate information
This is probably the most common type of error because it is also easier to make mistakes in the content of your email and in the information given. These can be very simple errors but still have a big impact.
You give the wrong date or time for an event or the beginning of a promotion?
Are you sending the wrong offer or promotion to your contacts?
Are you giving the wrong location for your launch?
Your promo code is not the right one or does not work?
With this kind of mistake, it’s quite simple to make up for it, you just have to admit your mistake and rectify the situation by giving the right information.
Here is an example:
Who to send an erratum to?
Think of who received the error in the first place. If you sent the original email to all your contacts, it’s logical to send the correction to all of them too. Same thing if you targeted a segment. You will then want to target the same segment again.
But, depending on the type of error in question, it might also be interesting to target only the contacts who opened your email. On top of that, you should automate the whole thing so that all contacts who have already received your erroneous email but have not yet opened it at the time of sending the erratum will receive it if they decide to open it eventually.
It may seem simpler to target only the same group of contacts as your original email, whether they opened it or not, but it’s also a little less skillful. In fact, all your contacts will know that you made a mistake, while many of them probably wouldn’t have noticed because they didn’t open your email.
In addition, as explained above, if the problem was a broken link or a landing page in error, it might be a good idea to send the correction only to those who clicked on the link or visited the page.
What to include in an erratum?
Several elements that may be interesting to include in your message depend on the relationship you have with your contacts and the nature of your error to correct. However, your error message should always include these three key elements:
- An apology;
- A clear indication of the correction or the measures taken to rectify it;
- A special offer (if appropriate) or a way to make up for it.
For the rest, of course, it depends on your brand personality, but several elements can be in your favor when the time comes to send an apology message following an error:
Humor often works very well in excuse email. Whether you use it in your subject line, your text or your images, a light and humoristic tone allows to ease the impact of the previous mistake and show your company’s personality. Of course, it all depends on the nature of your mistake. Indeed, humour should be avoided for more serious situations such as accidentally offensive content, for example.
Forget the frills, when it’s time to apologize, simplicity is the key. Use a simple and minimalist visual, go straight to the point, without going overboard. Remember that it is still an email and your contacts don’t want a novel in their inbox.
As long as you send an email apology, you might as well do it as honestly as possible. There’s no point in making up a tall tale to justify yourself, the important thing is that you admit your mistake and correct it. That’s all your contacts really ask for and they will be grateful for it.
Here are some other examples to inspire you:
Methodical – Wrong information in email sent
Filter Easy – Bad timing
We would all love to never make any mistakes. But since they’re inevitable, it’s always better to be prepared. Here are a few bonus subject lines you could use when sending an erratum:
- Oops, we made a mistake
- Oops! Here’s an offer for you to forgive us
- Nobody’s perfect…
- Date correction
- Correction – [original subject line]
- Uh oh, an error occurred in our previous email
- This time will be the right one
- Our apologies
- We are really sorry
Error is human and it is easy to understand it when the company recognizes its mistake, takes responsibility for it, and makes the necessary corrections.
Of course, there is no miracle recipe, but one thing is certain, testing your emails in different ways will limit the risk of unfortunate errors that can be avoided.
For larger errors, remember that a concrete action plan is elementary and allows you to deal with a situation that could possibly get worse if you don’t react in the right way.
Finally, it is by making mistakes that we grow as marketers and the important thing is to learn from it and not repeat them.