7 Steps to Earning Money On Email Marketing Bloopers


It’s Thursday, 9.15 pm, and you’re stuck in the office working on the finishing touches of the latest campaign. The webmaster and copywriter are getting impatient, but you’re still testing. When it’s finally closing time, you press one last button and it’s hello long weekend! Unfortunately, the evening karaoke is interrupted by a call from your boss: ”Just look in your inbox! What the heck is this?!”

I’m sure you all know working in marketing means always struggling with time. Campaign planning, corrections from your boss and customers, endless optimization, testing and more testing.  There’s no such thing as a reasonable timeframe, especially during the holiday season or special remembrance days, when offers like this are rushed out to customers:

Only 48 hours left. End-of-season sale -70% off!

3 days left to Valentine’s Day.  Order your gift by midnight and pick up your coupon!

Only 300 items left on sale. Hurry or miss out!

However, despite all our testing and experience, a slip-up can happen to anyone.

So it happened to the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain. The email list was scrupulously segmented; targeted offers were sent and customers spoiled with coupons (which I myself enjoyed). But someone at Ruby Tuesday slipped up.

The entire list of subscribers got birthday wishes based on data incorrectly assigned to individual addresses. As a result, customers whose birthday was in July or September, got their “Happy Birthday” wishes in January! Well, you can imagine how this could really strain their trust in the brand. Even worse, the laborious relationship building and personalization of messages was derailed by a newsletter that made the recipients think: “Do they really know who I am?”

Fortunately, every failure presents new opportunities for success and the “We’re sorry” campaign by Ruby Tuesday is a lesson in turning lemons into lemonade.

Below is the email Ruby Tuesday sent to their subscribers along with 7 steps that can help you not only make up for a major mistake, but also get customers to spend MORE money in your online store or restaurant.

#1 Monitor feedback and identify the problem.

This is not the time to speculate, but rather to listen to your subscribers. Carefully review the responses sent to the “Reply To” address, the number of unsubscribes, or spam clicks. If you include a call center number in your emails, be sure to check phone feedback from the campaign.

If you’re not aware of the mistake and the response to it, you will probably make it again in the future. Why risk a shrinking email list and plunging response rates?

#2 Don’t panic!

Your mistake is an opportunity to show off your creativity and effectiveness under pressure. Throwing up your hands can only make things worse, just as will making hasty decisions without a strategy for a “We’re sorry” campaign.

#3 Admit your mistake.

The success of Ruby Tuesday’s ‘”sorry” campaign was based on the fact that they openly admitted they made a mistake. Apologizing to the whole list was a bold move and, at the same time, a chance to show the human side of the business: “Our newsletters are sent by people, not machines. And since erring is human, we’ve got a special discount coupon to thank you for your understanding and support!”

#4 Keep it light.

Most mistakes can be smoothed over with a little humor – a great task for your copywriter. If you operate in the B2C segment, this should be easier, thanks to the less formal tone.

Ruby Tuesday turned their blunder into an anecdote involving a childish prank:

“We could never forget your birthday. It’s just that someone hit the big red button that says DO NOT PUSH.”

#5 Offer a gift along with your apology.

Now we’re at the stage where you can kill two birds with one stone. The gift you send shouldn’t be a freebie generating only expense on your end. The ideal solution is a discount coupon that can be used to encourage more shopping or dining, etc. Ruby Tuesday offered a free salad bar with the next meal at their restaurant – a win-win for everyone!

Don’t forget to make the offer time-limited, though. If customers don’t “cash in” their coupons before your next marketing campaign, it could affect your results.

#6 Track your blooper ROI.

Instead of a loss, you’ve just reaped a two-fold benefit:

  • You’ve improved your image – you survived a touchy situation without losing face. In fact, you showed a more human face.
  • You’ve probably improved sales – with a well-planned campaign you could attract more traffic to your online store/restaurant/website.

#7 Live and learn.

Analyze the mistakes that caused you to create the “We’re sorry” campaign and be sure not to make then again. However effective your compensating campaign may have been, in the words of Molière:

“The smallest mistakes are always best.”

And what are your experiences with last-minute newsletter campaigns? Have you ever pressed the big red button?