“Ok, everything looks good… Check, check, check. I think we’re good … Send!”

Pause… “No, WAIT!

Ever wished there was an Un-Send button?  Don’t worry, so has just about every other email marketer in the world.  Whether it’s a mistyped date, a broken $$firstName variable, or you sent next month’s email a few weeks too early, mistakes in email happen.  But the good news is, unless you accidentally hit Send on a bulk email containing the passwords and credit card numbers of your entire customer database (in which case, you might consider a different career path…), there is a way to rectify the situation: the often overlooked and usually powerful Oops email. So, what makes an Oops email work?

The Oops Email: What to do

Admit your mistake.  Be up front with your customers about the typo or programming error, apologize, and quickly give them the correct information.  Even better – call yourself out on it!  We love how our client, Dodie Jacobi, handled a missing first name variable in one of her emails:

Dodie Oops to Sara

(Notice how she also pointed attention back to her blog? 10 points for smart marketing, Dodie!)

So, do you think admitting to her mistake cost Dodie some engagement?  Not at all.  In fact, her Oops email performed BETTER than her original newsletter, which is often the case!  The Oops got a 5% higher Unique View rate, and 11% higher Total View rate!  People love to catch other people’s mistakes, so many of those viewers probably opened the next month’s newsletter just to try to catch another blooper.

Be timely, and to-the-point.  SPIN! Pizza caught the mistake in an event email almost immediately, and wanted to make sure that they told subscribers quickly that the event was on Sunday, not Saturday. By hitting the inbox right away with an attention-grabbing subject line, SPIN! avoided a lot of potential confusion from those planning to attend the event:

SPIN Oops subject line Preheader

And, even smarter, they included the correct day again in the pre-header text, so you didn’t even have to open the email to know that the event was actually on Sunday!  How was the engagement on the Oops email?  They won a 3% higher Unique View rate, and a 4% higher Total View rate.

Sur La Table gives another great example of a well-written, to-the-point Oops email:

Wustoff Oops

Notice those broken eggs?  They weren’t in the original email!  Oh, how punny.

Resend to All recipients.  A View or Open is reported when the subscriber downloads images or clicks on a link in your email, so it’s always a minimum number, and doesn’t include those that don’t download images.  This could be a fair number of additional viewers, so don’t limit your resend to those reported as having viewed the first. After all, about 35% of inboxes have images turned off by default!

The Oops Email: What NOT to do

Don’t send the exact same email with the correct information.  First, because inbox providers don’t like duplicate emails.  Duplicate emails look like spam, or like an accidental re-send, neither of which are likely to get through to users’ inboxes.  Even if you change the few characters that needed correcting, if 98% of the email is identical, you’re doing more harm than good.  More importantly, if you don’t point out the mistake and acknowledge the correct info, how will your subscriber know what’s different? What if they only read the 1st email and don’t realize it’s wrong?

Don’t try to cram other, new marketing content into your Oops email.  Like most apologies, short and sweet is probably best.  Leave your regularly scheduled campaigns alone, and let the Oops email do its job. And don’t fake the oops. Yes, your Oops emails get better open rates, but if people feel tricked, they’re unlikely to fall for it and open future Oops emails again.

Don’t make it a habit… Once in a while is ok, but if you’re sending Oops more than once or twice a year, you’re damaging your brand.  Review your content creation process, set earlier due dates for your designers and copywriters, and have a group of reliable proofreaders available to review every email before it goes out.

Have a great story or example of a clever Oops campaign? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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