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Emily Nash

By: Emily Nash on September 12th, 2018

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Litmus Makes Outrageous Claim for the "Oops" Email and HighRoad Agrees

Email Marketing | Quality Assurance

mailto:demo@example.com?Subject=HighRoad Solutions - interesting article

This will sound outrageous to many email marketers according to a recent report by Litmus, but it’s time you plan for the apology email. Not planning for one because you think will never be in that boat is a missed opportunity for three reasons: it means you’re playing it too safe, you may be in a culture of fear, and you have poor quality assurance.


If you are still convinced your email marketing will never make a mistake worth publicly apologizing over, consider this. Litmus lays out how apology emails out-perform the average email for short-term performance; something to do with the schadenfreude quality we all share in reveling in others mistakes. Then, they perform long-term in building customer trust. Planning for the apology email means you know how to boldly lead with keywords like “Oops,” or “We’re Sorry,” as an opportunity to reveal that your email marketing team is vigilant with mistakes, your company culture sees occasional mistakes as learning opportunities, and your email program is innovative enough to risk a mistake for a better customer email experiences overall.

Poor Quality Control

Behind sophisticated automated email sequences, complex segmented lists, and intelligent integrated systems are humans. We make mistakes from time to time. Whether it’s a missed personalized token, an unsegmented list, or a broken link - there are plenty of opportunities to miss a detail in email marketing. The trick is how vigilant your team is and poised they are to catch these mistakes. Does every email go through a predetermined, pre-send checklist? Litmus proves that email programs that have stronger quality assurance (QA) in place make more apology-worthy mistakes. Overall, programs with QA are better-resourced, spend 10% longer on production, spend 24 more minutes reviewing each email (or 3.8 hours), are using a checklist, and test every email before sending. What does 24 more minutes mean to you?

Culture of Fear

Picture this. You’ve been planning all year for your huge conference in a big fancy city. It’s the second day of the big annual event and all eyes are on the CEO-keynote as he dives deep into the “Customer Code,” and how to build trust with customers by owning your mistakes. Boom. The enterprise-level software services you provide are down obliterating a calm conference morning and turning what could be seen as a fireable offense into an opportunity. This scenario played out earlier this week with mega marketing automation giant, HubSpot.

The lesson is in the attention to detail the company applied to their response. Immediately a status page went up that was updated sometimes twice an hour, an apology blog was published by 9am Eastern (only 4 hours after the problem was identified), and in case that wasn’t enough - an email was fresh in everyone’s inbox the next morning with the full break down. The first two words, “We’re sorry.”

If you are in a culture of fear, where employees would consider hiding the problem at first, then the immediacy of such a public response would be delayed causing a snowball effect of increasingly worse scenarios. Now HubSpot’s customers know the company is true to its ethos, will own up to their mistakes in real time, and will take every step possible to reveal the entire process to a resolution.

What is an example of a time you’ve seen a company lead with the “We’re sorry,” email? Did you feel the urge to click to see what mistake they made and did that make you trust that company more? Going further, the immediate response by HubSpot may have not been planned out, but it could have been. Just like a public relations aspect of a business will have a crisis plan, so can your email marketing team. Turn your occasional mistakes into an opportunity for transparency, authenticity, and building trust. Then, fix the process that lead to that mistake and move forward.

Playing it Too Safe

You have quite a bit to lose by merely moseying through a status quo email program. This when there is adequate capabilities to segment, personalize, and use data you already have to your customer's benefit. It may take a little muscle-building to be innovative with your email marketing program, but Litmus proves folks making mistakes are more likely to use more advanced email elements. They’re applying content dynamically based on user data, their implementing animated GIFs at a greater rate, they’re A/B testing, and they’re engaging with video. Consumers don’t view mistakes at the same level of seriousness as from within the company. Your email marketing team should be encouraged to take risks for greater gain and experiences for your customers. Because if you aren't taking risks, your peers and competitors are for a greater competitive advantage.

Final Thoughts

Litmus is making the case for how mistakes in email simply prove you are being innovative, executing proper quality assurance protocol, and you aren’t afraid to highlight the mistake with a separate “Oops,” email. At HighRoad we appreciate the data-backed statistics on making "apology-worthy mistake emails," if it means taking a risk and spending a bit more time up front for testing. (Because if there is a fail, you can follow the lead of HubSpot and own your mistake while building trust.) If you're ready to take the leap in to more advanced features with your email program, the HighRoad team can assist.

About Emily Nash

With a unique background in start-ups-to-studios, and consulting-to-corporate settings, Emily specializes in solving for unknowns, pioneering new services, and collaborating with marketers and strategists. In her community, she served on the board of American Institute for Graphic Arts as their Communications Director to help promote networking and mentorship opportunities for area designers and creatives. She’s also a co-producer for Rethink Association, a podcast for associations.