Oh no, I screwed up… Now what?

Let’s be honest with each other. Mistakes happen. Us humans are not machines, and even those occasionally make mistakes. There’s always a risk of something going wrong when we send out our email campaign. Because there are different elements, besides your own input, that could impact a flawless roll-out.

Your subject line could be wrong. The wrong image is loaded. Your legal disclaimer is missing or the personalized salutation is displayed as “Hello <firstname>,”… But it might as well be your website that is unable to handle the amount of traffic your email is generating.

As an agency or as a freelance marketer, the most cringe-worthy mistake you can make is sending your email to the wrong group of people (and incidentally, not sending it to the people who actually should have received it). A client trusts you to do the job right. So if you screw up, there is no one else to blame but yourself (and that’s the harsh truth, sigh…)

Sometimes email mistakes have an impact that goes beyond your subscribers. Be sure to inform the right people as soon as you can. Other channels might offer solace in this case.

Once it’s sent, it’s sent…
Whenever your email is sent out to a group of people it’s not intended for, your options to rectify that are very limited. That’s the unfortunate thing with email marketing. Tweets and posts on a website or blog can easily be deleted or edited, but an email is (in most cases) a static combination of text, links and images. It’s the error itself and the magnitude of it, that might make you consider to either fix it or leave it as it is. Further damage control may create an even bigger problem. Every situation is unique, so be sure to carefully reflect on all your options before you take action.

So what can you do?

An image is always hosted on a particular location. Whenever you have an error in one of the images used in your email, you can opt to change the image at the source. Whenever you open the email, the correct image is then loaded and the error has been resolved. This works for most email clients, but be aware that some do cache their images. It might take a while before the corrected image is displayed.

Erroneous links can be corrected in 2 ways.

You can change the link in your ESP. Most ESP’s use tracking links with ID’s, a link that redirects to another link. Similar to your image, you can change the source of that link and have it redirected to the correct link.

Depending on the syntax, you can also adapt the link on your website. Recreate the erroneous link on your website and redirect it to the correct page.

Stop the send
If you’ve detected the error soon enough, pause the sending process. Correct the error and continue the send. Even though you can rectify a part of your send, fixing it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to send another email. It might do more harm…

And what can’t you fix?

Subjectlines, From and reply data
A big influence on your opened rates. It is a static given, and can’t be adapted once it’s sent out. You have every right to hit yourself over the head for this one.

It can be integrated in various ways. But a single error in the database can hold up the entire email and its content. 

How to prevent screw-ups from happening

Make a checklist of all the important elements of your email to double (or even triple) check before sending.

1. Content
2. Links
3. From and reply data
4. Subject line
5. Personalisation
6. Rendering
7. Approval by the client

Multiple test persons
If you are still not 100% sure, test the email by sending it to a colleague. A second pair of eyes might detect an anomaly you missed while making the email.  

Observe the situation.
As we have mentioned before, an error does not necessarily involve an action to rectify that situation. A resend or an apology can also cause frustration and have a negative impact on future mail-outs. Discuss the issue with your client and search for the best way to resolve the situation without causing further damage.


Whenever humans and technology team up, errors are unavoidable. They can be beyond your reach, but in most cases they can be prevented. Take the time to review your email before you send it out. If an error occurs, observe the situation and talk to your client. Search for a solution together. A wrong decision might end up creating an even bigger problem. 

Posted on
Nov 26, 2015