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How to fix your e-mail marketing mistakes

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It’s a rare marketer that doesn’t mess up once in a while. Whether it’s leaving a place holder in a subject line, sending out the wrong call to action or inserting the wrong link. At some time, in some e-mail, you’re going to make a mistake. How you handle that mistake, however, could mean the difference between a customer who sticks around and one who loses trust in your company.

Loren McDonald, VP-industry relations at Silverpop, and Kara Trivunovic, senior director of strategic services at StrongMail, provided these tips to help you recover from an e-mail gaffe gracefully.

1) Consider whether action is necessary. If you sent out an e-mail with a place holder or spelling error, you may not want to send out a retraction, which will only focus attention on your mistake. Trivunovic suggests sending an apology if your mistake could be viewed as something that will damage your brand.

2) Use analytics to see how many people are affected. If you sent out an e-mail with the wrong link, for example, you can move your landing page to the address contained in the e-mail and no one will know the difference, aside from those who clicked through. These people are the ones you’ll want to follow up with and ask to click through again.

3) Contain it. You might think the only people who will know about your mistake are the ones who are receiving your e-mails, but that’s not the case. Your e-mail mistake can go viral very quickly in today’s social networking world. You can track whether your mistake is getting any attention by monitoring conversations on LinkedIn and Twitter, Trivunovic said. “If people are upset, they are going to tweet about it or post about it in the social world,” she said. If you do read something negative, make sure you address it there, but immediately shift into action via e-mail, too.

4) Bring in the cavalry. If your error was a spelling mistake or broken link, you can probably handle it yourself, but if you sent out a 50% discount offer instead of a 5% offer, you need to get more people involved, McDonald said. “Get multiple people involved in the discussion and strategy around the correction. You need to act quickly, but you don’t want to take the wrong action or offer something that the company can’t deliver on,” he said.

5) Spin it as a positive. Your mistake may be a way to boost revenue. McDonald explained that one of his previous customers—a parts and accessories company—made a mistake, sending out the wrong pricing on a product. It sent out an apology to everyone who had opened the original e-mail. Using humor and a strong offer of free shipping and 10% off, the company saw a 75% open rate, 25% click-through rate and 10% conversion rate from its e-mail apology.

6) Give it a time limit. If you do offer an apology that contains a special discount or incentive, give it a time limit, Trivunovic said. “Update the landing page with a countdown—for the next 48 hours this offer will be available,” she said.

7) If you are going to correct it, those who are sending out weekly e-mails may be able to wait until their next communication. Otherwise, e-mail corrections should happen within 24 hours, McDonald said. “More than 90% of opens happen within 48 hours. If you’re going to follow up, it’s got to be within a time frame so your original e-mail is fresh in their minds,” he said. “If it goes beyond that, it’s really another mistake.”

8) Pick the right fix. Your apology should have short, concise language. Explain what your mistake was and what the correct wording, link or offer should have been. Saying you’re sorry isn’t a bad idea, either. “Make sure the apology is human and coming from a human,” McDonald said. “Don’t change the ‘From’ line, but give it some personalization at the end of the message so it’s more personal.”

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