links for 2008-09-09
links for 2008-09-10

Making Good On Your Mistake

Here's what I found in just one day's worth of email messages recently:

1. Wrong landing page
2. Spelling mistake in the subject line
3. Test subject line not removed
4. Email sent to the wrong company division list
5. Personalisation code showing instead of name
6. 2007 copyright date
7. Broken link to Web version
8. Images failed to load even when enabled
9. Brand name misspelled

Yes, everyone makes mistakes. But how you recover from them will either save your reputation and business or make readers think you're unprofessional and untrustworthy.

A good recovery isn't enough, though. Know where your greatest vulnerabilities are in your email program and what you have to do to make sure errors either don't happen or get caught before you click "send."

First Rule: Don't Panic!

Don't rush out an immediate email correction. Sending a second email to your entire list right after the first one can make you look like a spammer to ISPs if your list has too many undeliverable email addresses. You look like you're pounding on addresses that don't exist, belong to closed accounts, have become inactive or are temporarily unavailable.

If the mistake doesn't involve an email function – broken or wrong links, wrong price, incorrect image, wrong copy -- or won't mislead your readers, don't send out a follow-up to the whole list. Instead, include a short apology in your next regular email.

Second Rule: Fix the Mistake

You must correct the mistake if it could mislead readers or if it breaks the email's functionality. Also, if you are sending the email on an advertiser's or partner's behalf, you have to make good. However, it's still not time to rush out a correction email to your entire list.

If the mistake involves your Web site –- the landing-page link is broken, or you published the wrong link or the wrong offer –- post a note on the page with an apology and a link to the correct page. Post a similar note on your front page, again with a link to the correct page.

How to send follow-up emails:

1. Send a follow-up email only to those who either opened or clicked within 24 hours. This is a typical watch period for most ISPs and spares you from hitting all those inactive or undeliverable addresses again.

2. Send a follow-up email after 24 hours to your list if you can't segment out your openers and clickers. If you email more often than weekly, wait until your next regular email, then including an apology and the correct information.

Yes, you could lose some sales, but that will motivate you to make sure your emails are correct before they go out,

Third Rule: Apologise the Right Way

What not to say: "Ooops! We goofed!" or "Did ya ever have one of those days when nothing goes right?" if you mail to a business list. It looks unprofessional.

Better: "We apologise for the mistake and the inconvenience. Here is the correct link/information/price." Imagine what your typical reader would say, and match your apology to that.

Fourth Rule: Look for List Churn

Scrutinise your list metrics for higher unsubscribes and changes in open or click rates. Also, watch for more spam complaints and act on those immediately.

Fifth Rule: Step Up Your Quality Control

These steps can help you spot mistakes better without adding too much time to your publishing schedule:

1. Create a checklist that includes all relevant information for the email, including deadlines, who's responsible for it and who signs off that the information is correct. Include the offer, price, images, graphics/design, lists/sublists/segments the email will go to and any other relevant information.

2. Create a fresh email message every time, using an error-proofed template. You won't forget to change the subject line or placeholder copy or images.

3. Create a test message before it goes live. Spelling and format mistakes will stand out. Unlike the test you use to try out subject lines and offers, this test goes only to a few people inside your company.

4. Have others review this message in different Web browsers, on different platforms (Mac, PC, smartphone and not just iPhone) and in different email clients (desktop, Web client and smartphone).

5. View message without images and in preview pane. Then, turn on images and open message, view content and click all links.

6. Watch all mailboxes to spot bounces or customer complaints about mistakes as soon as the message goes out.

Sixth Rule: Know the Traps

1. Content:

  • Old/placeholder subject line left in final mailing
  • Wrong/placeholder pictures
  • Old content retained in reused message (headlines, head shots, graphics)
  • Spelling/grammar/punctuation errors 
  • Wrong offer in mailing (old, not approved by client or sales team, etc.)
  • Outdated contact information

2. Format:

  • Errors in links
  • Coding incompatibility resulting in unreadable or broken formats in different browsers or on different platforms

3. Landing page:

  • Page not updated to reflect offer or before articles are uploaded
  • Link error redirects to homepage or an interior page
  • Page taken down too soon

4. Mailing list:

  • Mailed to the wrong list
  • Mailed test message to entire list
  • Mailed general message to single segment
  • Wrong segments identified for targeted mailing
  • Mailed live message to do-not-email database or to unsubscribe database
Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!
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