Email Mistakes and How to Prevent Them

There are few things as nerve-wracking as hitting send on your next big email campaign. After all, you’ve spent a lot of time crafting every line of copy and choosing the perfect imagery to hit the right tone with your audience. 

You’ve also spent time, energy, and resources building your list, crafting segments, and A/B testing. As if those aren’t stakes enough, you’ve also got a specific goal tied to your campaigns, whether it’s an ROI goal for your email strategy or an individual goal you want your email to accomplish.

And after all that work, something as simple as a broken link can throw all that work out the window. That’s why we’ve launched our new Link Review tool.

A broken or missing link shouldn’t ruin your email—or your day. When you know your links are working as they should, that’s one less thing to worry about.

Despite your best-laid plans, marketers are only human and plans can still go awry. But mistakes don’t mean the end of your career. It just means you have one more thing to add to your email marketing pre-flight checklist and a few extra tasks to make amends.

Below, two email professionals are sharing their stories of an email send that didn’t go as planned and, more importantly, what they did next.

Lizzie’s story

Lizze Newbern is the Email Marketing Manager for Asurion with more than five years of experience. (When Lizzie isn’t working, she likes to spend her time illustrating!) 

Even with that much experience behind her, she missed how a subject line would get truncated on mobile for a specific inbox provider. Needless to say, it’s a mistake she won’t make again. 

Cut-off catastrophe

Like many email marketers, the subject line is one of the biggest stressors in hitting the send button. This one line of text is essentially the subscriber’s first impression of your email, and can seriously impact your open rates and sender reputation. You can try your hardest to proof and re-proof, and test and re-test, but at the end of the day, unfortunately we’re not computers. And we all have off days where our child kept us up until 4 a.m. wanting to watch the newest Frozen movie. 

We’re human, and mistakes can happen. Although some mistakes are worse than others…like a perfect, once-in-a-lifetime subject line truncation. 

One of my previous positions was working as the Email Marketing Manager for one of the top senior living companies in the business. We occasionally marketed events for the local communities where we’d send an email invite to the residents, and other interested leads in the area. This event in particular was for a conversation-starting cocktail night, where potential residents could come tour the community and meet some of the residents over some craft cocktails. 

The subject line that was written was “Celebrate the long weekend with cocktails and conversation.” Pretty harmless. The email was tested, proofed, and sent on its way. Throughout the day, I noticed I was getting a few responses to the reply-to inbox. 

I immediately started to sweat when I started seeing responses like “SO inappropriate.” “Wow, so unprofessional.” “Looks like someone didn’t check their subject line cut-off!” 

Panic ensued. 

I finally found a response that included a screenshot of the subject line, and how it displayed in their inbox. There, in all its glory was “Celebrate the long weekend with c***…” 

Oops. 

Immediately all the panicked thoughts came flooding in: “How can I recover from this?” and “Where’s the nearest hole to bury my head into?” 

I had to take a deep breath. The first step was to figure out the damage: How large was our audience? Realistically, how many people had this truncation issue? Luckily—if there was any luck to be found in this situation—our audience was very small for this particular send. We’re talking less than 100. 

I was feeling a little bit better, but not great. Next, I had to figure out how many opened on mobile. It turned out to be over 45%, and at this point I was feeling less better.

We had to decide whether to risk additional exposure by sending a follow-up email addressing the issue. At the end of the day, you have to weigh your mistake, and the impact it had on your message. In this particular instance, we felt that due to the audience size and the small amount of responses, we were going to let this mistake lie. It’s not the most exciting response to the situation, but as an email marketer you have to make those decisions when mistakes inevitably happen. 

I feel like every email marketer I know has some sort of document, or notes page titled “MISTAKES MADE IN PREVIOUS EMAIL SENDS. DON’T DO THIS AGAIN.” At the end of the day, you take your mistakes and you learn from them. You become more aware of the issues to test for, and you move forward. 

Most people in the email field have “send-button shakiness.” (If you don’t, you’re either a robot or have an English degree.) The main challenge comes with how to handle the inevitable mistakes that can sometimes happen and, most importantly, how you move forward.

Justin’s story: 

Justin is the Email Marketing Manager for CM Group and he has over 6 years of experience. But when you work in email, technology is always evolving and the introduction of dark mode led to an email mistake.

Dark mode faux pas

Once you’ve been around email marketing for a little while, you start to notice some quirks with how your sent campaign will look different across email clients. There are tons of different apps and thousands of screen sizes out there. What looks one way in Outlook may show up differently in Gmail. 

And while every email I’ve built gets tested, I recently failed to test one campaign for dark mode compatibility. Parts of my email were unreadable in Gmail’s dark mode.

While none of our subscribers pointed out the issue, several of my team members were on the email list for this campaign and noticed right away.

The first thing I wanted to do was to group together all the stakeholders for this email and inform them of the potential issue customers may have with the email. From there, I truly wanted to identify the source of the readability challenges and make note of what to change for the next send. 

I also made sure to go back into Litmus, where I do all my testing, and make sure all Dark Mode email previews were checked in my test settings.

My confidence did shake a bit after this one send. When you’re an email marketer and you make a mistake, you know that your next several sends are going to get extra attention, but I think there’s also an opportunity in that extra attention. 

Because of this experience, I have more team members willing to help me test future emails. I was able to revisit designs with the rest of the team to double-check other templates we have to ensure the same issue won’t get repeated, and also add in more time to do testing before each scheduled send. 

Having a supportive team around me has helped in regaining confidence.

Wrap up

Whether you’re just starting out in email marketing or you’ve been around the block, mistakes are an inevitable part of any email marketers career. Luckily, no one expects you to be anything other than human.

What matters most is that you learn from your mistakes and take steps to prevent them moving forward. Figure out when you need to send an apology email and when you need to contact stakeholders. Sometimes, as in Lizzie’s case, doing nothing is better than drawing more attention to the problem.

Whatever your next email send is, you can rest easy knowing there’s one less thing you have to test on your plate. The Link Review will monitor your URLs so you can spend your time and energy on other areas of your email.

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