I wanted to die.

Ok, that’s too dramatic. We do email marketing here, not life saving surgery. But when I accidentally included our entire (REAL) email newsletter list on a demo/test email last month, I at least wanted to crawl under my desk and hope no one talked to me for the rest of the day. Between “Hey did you know that this email was lorem ipsum?” and “Did you mean to send this.. or did I get a test?” I had to explain my dumb mistake to a dozen different colleagues.

(TIP for you helpful colleagues asking your email marketing manager if she knows this went out wrong: Yes. She knows. Trust me. You don’t have to come by to tell her, unless you’re bringing chocolate or wine to soothe her ego.)

I’m supposed to be the pro, the guru, the expert! I’m the one who tells everyone to proof it again, just for good measure. But time and time again, I eat a little humble pie when I have to draft up an Oops email.

It was a classic scene: I was testing out a new template feature and forgot about that nifty trick on our newsletter template, where I can (and did) auto-tie it to the newsletter group so I don’t have to check the box to send to the group. (Great, right?) It wasn’t until the out of office replies started pouring in that I realized my mistake. Throwback to this article on email marketing nightmares where I basically accurately predict/describe my reaction (last example).

The original email had one good article in it and one placeholder, complete with lorem ipsum text. The cherry on the cake was that it was the “October News” and I hit send on September 19th. I took slight solace in knowing that the “oops” would probably drive up our open rates for the week. I took a deep breath, and I sat myself down to crank out an Oops Email.

I knew 3 things about my Oops Email going into it:

  1. I had to take credit for my mistake, signing it with my own name, written from my own voice. This wasn’t the intern’s fault or a technical glitch. This was PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard). Mea culpa, all the way.
  2. If I was going to send a second email mid-month without any actual juicy article content, it better at least be entertaining. I needed fun copy from subject to pre-header to message.
  3. Make it short and get it out fast.

The night before my oops, the ballpark fireworks guy in Cleveland has his own face-palm moment when he shot off fireworks for a KC Royals home run. (Hey, I wasn’t complaining.) I remember watching him get up from his chair and walk around like he wanted to run away and though, Man, I feel your pain. I’ve had those moments. The very next day, I felt the same. I played off the comparison. Here’s the Oops:

Oct emsights oops email

Lucky for me? I send newsletters to fellow email marketers, comrades in arms. The responses I got were overwhelmingly supportive and made my day suck just slightly less. From a pal who said, “Now THAT’s how you write an Oops Email!” to one who actually brought whiskey to my office with a note that says that making mistakes in my own email marketing meant I was focusing on the right thing: my clients! I’m grateful to have such understanding and fun-loving subscribers.

It happens to the best of us, I suppose. As I said: May the proofing be ever in your favor!

Need a checklist of tips on Oops Emails? Check out Sara’s article from earlier this year.

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