When campaigns go wrong: How to turn around an email marketing disaster

On October 30, 2017

It's our worst fear as direct marketers: the mailers have been posted out, the emails have been sent… and that's when you see the spelling mistake. Or the broken link. Or the inappropriate word choice. Perhaps you wind up looking incompetent. Or worse, maybe you unintentionally offend people. What do you do next?

Anyone can make these mistakes (as we know from bitter personal experience). Accidental slip-ups don't define you as a marketer or a person, but what you do next does. 

Accidents don't define you as a marketer or a person, but what you do next does.

What could go wrong?

Unfortunately, there are as many ways to mess up a mailer as there are words on it – and then some. Consider the high-profile screw-ups of Shutterfly, who sent out an email to their entire database congratulating them on their newborn, or the Cal Bears Shop, which offered customers a discount to celebrate their team winning before the end of the game – a game that they lost in the final minutes. 

Well, you messed that up. So what are you going to do about it?
Well, you messed that up. So what are you going to do about it?

What can you do to make it right?

In both of the above examples the company was quick to apologise, and this is the most important lesson we can offer. Once the mistake is out in the world you need to accept it and take responsibility. An apology goes a long way – so long as it's sincere. Don't fall into cold template language, says Jason Corgiat, founder of website developer LeapGo. This will just make it seem like you're apologising to save face, rather than because you're genuinely sorry.

Depending on the situation, a bit of humour may help. If everyone is laughing about your mistake on social media, joining in can defuse the bad press.

Whatever you do, do it quickly.

"Far too many people overreact to everything and take themselves way too seriously," says Katie Burke, HubSpot Director of Media and Analyst Relations. "Know what is a crisis and what isn't."

Not every screw-up can be laughed off, of course, but it's worth stepping back and looking at the situation before you leap in with an earnest response.

Whatever you do, do it quickly. The sooner you deal with the issue, the sooner the story becomes 'company makes amends' rather than 'company screws up'.

As it is in many situations, prevention is better than a cure. Here at The Prospect Shop we work hard to make sure our mailing lists are as accurate as possible, and we can advise you on the best ways to use them for a direct mail campaign. Get in touch to find out more about how you can take advantage of our experience and expertise.

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