UNSEND! I just sent the wrong email to 4,000,000 people!

Hoping to hop to Tahiti

Apology email

One of our customers once had an unfortunate situation where someone mistakenly sent out a test message to all of the subscribers in their database. We quickly noticed the anomaly, informed them about it, and they came up with a rather creative solution.

They prepared a story about a fictitious employee who just couldn’t stop thinking about work, even whilst on holidays in Tahiti when he sent that erroneous email. They apologised for the mistake and asked their subscribers what they should do with him?

“Should we fire him or forgive him?”

The email had an overwhelmingly positive response from the company’s customers. Many customers sent jokes saying that he had had “too many cocktails”, but most just asked for him to be forgiven and to even give him a few more days to enjoy his holiday. He even became a character that popped up from time to time in subsequent campaigns!

It’s not always however, that we’re able to save face so gracefully and sometimes we’ll find ourselves in this very situation.

Problem: You just sent out the wrong email

Hopefully you didn’t send the wrong email to so many people, but occasionally you might find yourself in a similarly uncomfortable predicament and you need to prepare yourself for the aftermath that will most likely eventuate. However, maybe there’s something you can still do to save face?

Pro move:  Assess, then follow-up if need be

It’s best to be professional here and to go through a thorough assessment of the scale and impact of your mistake. Did you send to the wrong audience? did you have the wrong subject line? a broken link? a typo? or maybe you sent the wrong offer? You want to minimize the impact in each of these scenarios and each one may warrant a different reaction.

What you can and can’t change: From worst case to best case scenario

Wrong Audience
If you’ve sent a message to an unintended recipient, unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to stop them from receiving that message. You do however, have a couple tricks up your sleeve when it comes to content.

Wrong Content: Subject line, message body, images, links
We can’t change the subject line after the email has been sent, but there are elements within the email message body that we can change. These include images (they are hosted on servers and you can replace an image with another of the same file name and it’ll be updated) and links (which are redirected and tracked by external servers) in your messages.

So that’s what you can and can’t change. Now it’s time to decide how you’d like to respond.

Is a follow-up email really necessary?

If you sent an email with a typo, then it may be a little bit embarrassing, but you could probably let it go by without too many consequences. If on the other hand, you sent an email in the wrong language or with the wrong offer, then you might want to consider sending an apology email.

In the latter case, you should be as prompt as possible, the sooner the better as your customers may not even read the erroneous email if there’s a follow-up email that quickly corrects the mistake. You could have a subject line that makes this clear, for example; Correction: or Second cut: and specifically address your mistake at the beginning of your email.

A little bit of humor can go a long way

You could also take a more light-hearted approach as our client did when their holidaying employee sent a test message out that they shouldn’t have.

Prevention is better than mitigation

As with most cases, preventing a mistake from occurring is better than trying to mitigate the pitfalls later. Are you using an email checklist before sending your emails? Is another colleague checking your from name, address, subject lines, links, unsubscribe link, message body, dynamic content and the subscribers you’re going to send to? It’s better to be safe than sorry. Either way you should now be a little bit better prepared should anything ever go amiss in the future. Happy holidays!