If you have sent a mass email to your members before, I’m sure you can relate to the nervousness as you hit the “send” button. Even though you have triple-checked each field and asked a co-worker to proofread for you, the indelible nature of the send-off has you paranoid something will go wrong.
Most of the time, you’re solid. But every once in awhile, there is a mistake, and it runs the risk of reflecting poorly on your association. With an awful pit in your stomach, you must act quickly to repair the damage, as you can watch the open rate increase.
But how do you fix it?
Sometimes, you’ll be able to make an adjustment on your end that will leave your members relatively unaffected, as in this tale from ABET Chief Marketing Officer Danielle Baron: “We just had our oops moment last week when we sent out an e-blast to our volunteers with a discount code for our annual event. Unfortunately, the code was wrong (numbers were out of order), and one of our volunteers emailed to let us know he was having trouble with the code. It was then that we realized our mistake. So we ended up creating another code (to match what we had sent out) and fixed the issue on our end. This way we avoided sending another e-blast, which could have caused more confusion.”
But most of the time, you have no choice but to reach back out and explain. When I asked a group of communications professionals how they recovered in such times, what came back was an excellent lesson: In every mistake lies an opportunity.
“Early this year, we promoted (and promoted) that our conference registration would be up on Jan. 13. On Jan. 12, our AMC tanked and registrations were not working. Most of our members register within the first few weeks, so this is something they were waiting for. I chose to handle it with humor [and sent this out]. Two separate members said they were stealing the approach to use with their end-users.” — Christina Zimmer, CAE, Communications Specialist, ACT Ohio. (Note: Christina was working with the Ohio Association of School Business Professionals at the time)
MARKETING AUTOMATION FAIL
I once sent out an identical email a week later instead of the newer one I had just written, as I had input the wrong email into the workflow. Within five minutes, I had four unsubscribes, so knew I had to act quickly. I immediately sent out a retraction with the subject line “I accidentally emailed you twice!” and then wrote an apology signed from me, not my organization. It had the highest open/click rate to date, and I got several direct email responses thanking me for the blatant apology.
“One time in setting up a blast, I did not insert the first name field correctly. The blast launched, and all the recipients had the pleasure of reading: Hi, [name]!
Of course, the moment it launched, I realized what I had done. So I immediately launched another, using humor and subject line, “’What’s In A Name?’ The first sentence of the email was, ‘Well, just everything, frankly!’ A two sentence apology was made claiming operator error.
I received almost 100 emails back in response to the apology email, saying things like ‘No problem!’ or ‘I’ve done the same thing!’ I had to respond to each email I received individually.” — Donna Tschiffely, Executive Director, Direct Marketing Association of Washington
What do you notice?
The mistakes turned out to be an opportunity to show the human sides of these organizations, and to show that the human sides have personality! Not to say you should make mistakes on purpose, but …
“In the fundraising field, there was an old adage credited to Roger Craver (although he understandably denied it) along the lines of ‘there should be a little something wrong with every solicitation’ by which he generally meant if not a typo, a visual element a little awry, a phrase that might feel awkward but becomes memorable because it deviates from the reader’s expectations. As it turns out, he was ‘wright’ … every time we ever made a mistake it outperformed the control, often by a large margin. Not saying we should try to meet our mistake quota, but there is a certain spontaneity and opportunity for bonding with some constituents after you’ve screwed up.” — Kevin Whorton, President, Whorton Research & Marketing