1125 words|4.3 min read|

Can there be anyone who has never sent an email in haste or in error only to experience that sickening sensation a moment later when they realize there is nothing they can do about it? The internet is full of hilarious stories of email mishaps (check out these, these, and these if you want to laugh).

It’s bad enough when it happens with a single email, such as hitting Reply All when you really, really should have hit Reply. But when you are sending out a few thousand emails at the click of the button, email disasters are something you have to be especially careful about. Even so, it happens all the time. And it will happen to you one day—if it has not already. The secret is knowing how to change disaster into opportunity.

Be Quick to React

As with everything in online marketing, you need to react quickly. The quicker you react, the sooner you can start to repair the damage. But to react quickly, you have to become aware of the problem. That’s where it pays to monitor your email responses carefully. Often, the first thing your subscribers will do when they see something wrong in an email is hit reply, so always keep a close eye on your inbox for the few hours after sending an email.

Accept Your Mistake

Whatever’s gone wrong, don’t try and hide it. Cover ups will not work, and they will only make the situation worse—as well as make you look dishonest. You have to accept that a mistake was made. Depending on the mistake, it may not be so bad. Maybe you sent an email to the wrong person, sent too many emails at once, or sent a message filled with placeholders like {NAME}. But whatever it is, acknowledge that you messed up.


Even after the worst email mistakes, people will often be happy to accept a genuine apology. Like I said, most people have experienced an email disaster at some point in their lives, and they therefore know how easy it can be to make one. An apology can go a long way to resolving the problem. Just make sure that it is sincere, and don’t be tempted to use template language. You know the sort: “We are sincerely sorry for the recent email. Please accept our apologies.”

Show that you genuinely care about your subscribers by using real language rather than boilerplate BS. You might explain how you hate wasting their time and you know how frustrating it can be. And send it from one person, perhaps the CEO or the person who sent the original email. Apologies are so much more believable when they come from a person rather than a company. A good apology can also be the point where you can start turning disaster into opportunity.

By apologizing genuinely, you are showing your subscribers a side of your business that they may not have seen before. A human side that, despite your efforts, may not come through in your other communications.

Add Some Humor

Depending on your brand and your relationship with your subscribers, you could also introduce some humor into the mix. For example, you could include an image in your apology email of Homer Simpson saying “Doh!” You have to play this based on the type of relationship your company has with your subscribers, but it could be an opportunity for you to show your funny side.

As long as it was just an honest mistake rather than a malicious one, humor can come to the rescue. After all, other people’s mistakes can be funny, so join in the joke. Again, you have to be careful. If the mistake was something really serious, like sharing everyone’s private details with your list, then humor may not be the best course of action. So act quickly, but don’t send anything that will make things worse.

Opportunity Awaits

By apologizing genuinely and using humor, you can benefit from your error. Everyone makes mistakes, so everyone can connect when someone else makes one. Your sense of humor can be an attractive quality, as can showing your subscribers that you care enough to apologize genuinely.

But you could go further.

How about providing your subscribers with a special offer to make up for the mistake? Create a “We Screwed Up” voucher and provide a 10% discount for the next 48 hours.

That’s right, you could turn it into a business opportunity. It would be the height of foolishness to suggest making a mistake on purpose in order to turn it into an opportunity—but smart businesses know how to spin even potential disasters around to their advantage.

Share the Story

Don’t stop with your subscribers. Stories of mistakes make you more human, and as long as no serious damage has been done, consider turning it into a social media update. Tell your community about it. Explain the humorous story behind how it happened. Elaborate on it. Make people laugh. Don’t hide it away, and instead do the opposite. Show the personality behind your brand, and make more friends along the way.

Plan for Emergencies

Dealing well with an email disaster involves planning for emergencies. This means determining the most likely scenarios that could go wrong well in advance, and creating a few possible responses.

For email marketing, a possible mistake could be sending out an email to the wrong group of people. So think of a plan for how you can react should this situation arise. Then when it does occur, you have something to go with quickly, helping to avoid panic—as well as the resulting hasty decisions that might not be the best ones in hindsight. Even something as simple as having a few humorous memes ready to send out can be useful.

Keep a close eye on the emails that you have signed up to. You may already be signed up to various lists, and sooner or later you will notice a mistake. Watch how the sender deals with it. What do they do that works? Do they handle the situation badly? Make a note of this for your own plan of action.

Mistakes Happen, so Turn Them into Opportunity

Email disasters are terrifying because of the instant nature of clicking the “Send” button and being unable to do anything about it. The best way to think of it is that it WILL happen to you one day, and the only thing you can do is to prepare properly.

So come up with a plan of action. Think of a few genuine and humorous responses you could send out. Then decide whether there are any ways that you can turn the mistake into a business opportunity where everyone wins.

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About the Author: Jason Corgiat

I started building websites in 1999. Through the years I've worked with hundreds of businesses in various verticals and have built, implemented and managed digital strategies for companies of all sizes. My education is not formal and neither are my methods. Chances are, I can add value to your organization from day 1 but I'll let you be the judge. I'm a proud father of 4, luckiest husband in the world, and enjoy the occasional gym session. How was that for a bio?

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