email marketing best practices

Recovering from "Oops" Moments in Emails

If you’ve been reading this email marketing blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that we like to talk about the importance of testing. Only through testing do you learn what works for your email marketing campaigns, and what doesn’t. Testing is how you continually improve your email marketing. And there’s another benefit to testing: you can avoid mistakes that require apology emails later.

By testing emails, you can catch typos, prevent broken links, ensure that data feeds through correctly and segmentation works. If your email marketing best practices include testing every email before it gets sent to your list, you would see a significant decrease or even an elimination of almost 100% of the problems that typically plague email marketers.

That said, if you actually did have a Rick Perry-style “oops” moment and need to apologize to your subscribers, there are some email marketing best practices for apology emails that you should make sure to follow.

1) Make sure the mistake is worth apologizing for. After all, an apology email is yet one more email to hit your subscriber’s inbox – make sure, like all of the content you send, it’s valuable and relevant. If the mistake is minor, unlikely to cause revenue loss or significant brand damage by annoying, angering or offending subscribers, then don’t
send an apology. Everyone makes the occasional mistake or typo, just ensure it’s not a regular occurrence or else your professionalism, email marketing reputation, and ultimately, email deliverability will suffer. If, however, your email misstated an offer, contained broken links or worse, e.g., major rendering problems or list segmentation deployment error (recipients received the wrong email), then an apology email is in order.

2) Send the apology email as soon as you can. Just like in real life, apologies work better the sooner they’re said (or sent). The point of any apology is to fix the mistake and get back in the person’s good graces and better to make your subscribers aware of the fact that you made a mistake before they catch it, or soon thereafter.

3) Make it clear in the subject line that you’re apologizing. The ironic twist about apology emails is that some email marketers say that they are some of their best performing emails. After all, everyone is human, and sometimes making your subscribers aware of the fact that you, indeed, are a human, can endear your email marketing campaign to them even more. For that reason, if you’ve made a big error and are apologizing for it, make it clear in the subject line. Even if someone didn’t notice the error or wasn’t affected, they’re likely to open the email just to see what you’re sorry about.

4) Give them a reason to forgive you. If you want to increase the effectiveness of your apology, give your subscribers a compelling reason to forgive you. Typically, apologies are accompanied by flowers. In the email marketing world, consider an additional incentive or reward offer your “apology bouquet”.

5) Don’t make excuses. Just fix the problem. People don’t care about the technicalities behind why the error occurred, so much as how they might benefit going forward (i.e., what you’ve done or planning to do to fix it!). Keep any explanation of what went wrong to a minimum. And before you send that apology email, make sure the problem is actually fixed. And here we are again, back where we started: at the benefits of email testing. If there was ever a time to test and retest, it’s now. If you have to apologize repeatedly for problems, you’ll start to appear disingenuous, unprofessional, or worse. And there goes your email marketing reputation, you’ll lose subscribers, and your email deliverability will suffer.

6) Don’t make a mistake in the apology email. Well, “duh!” If there was ever an email marketing best practice to follow with respect to apology emails, it’s this one. If you want to reassure your subscribers that you really are professional, on top of your email marketing campaign, and value their time and loyalty, make sure that the apology email or any resend is flawless. Which means, of course, that you need to test your emails. Again. And again.

You can always improve your email marketing program and email marketing ROI. Always. Testing is necessary not only to avoid the mistakes that lead to the need for an apology. Testing is an email marketing best practice that not only helps you avoid errors, but is actually an email marketing best practice that improves the overall effectiveness of your email marketing program!

Need help deciding what, how, and how often to test? Ask ClickMail today!

Published On: November 16th, 2011Categories: Email marketing best practices

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

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