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The most embarrassing email mistakes

The most embarrassing email mistakes

If you’ve been in business long, you already know every customer thinks they’re your one and only. Which is why they get so offended when it becomes evident a robot is behind all those highly personalised emails. What do you mean I’m just a [FIRST NAME] token to you?!?

Marketing automation can make your life easier, especially in the email department. But it’s just like bringing in the groceries with a takeaway cup in hand or playing that whac-a-mole game at the arcade – the faster you go and more you try to do at once, the more likely you are to slip up.

Mistake 1 – sending too many emails

This one’s not really an automation error, but an organisational problem. If you’re firing off countless emails, your customers or subscribers are going to get annoyed. The most likely result? Major disengagement. Worse? Unsubscribes. This issue is particularly worrisome if you’re coming at readers from all angles, sending messages from various accounts within the business. Not only is this annoying and confusing, but it can make you look unprofessional and disorganised.


Have an email strategy in place before you begin using automation software. While working out the optimal number of emails to send isn’t easy, it can – and should – be done.

Bring everyone who communicates with your audience together and work out exactly how many emails you’re sending and the purpose of each. With a comprehensive picture of what’s being communicated, you’ll likely learn that either:

  1. You’re sending too many and certain messages can be eliminated or bundled together.
  2. You’re sending too few and there’s more to the story than what’s being told.

This meeting should also serve to map out a consistent tone, style and business-wide best practices for email. You may also decide to set up a single account for the business if you don’t already have one.

Mistake 2 – A lack of personalisation

If you’re just getting started with automation software, you might think using it to personalise your email recipient’s first name is pretty groundbreaking. In reality, however, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Most people can spot a stock email a mile off, and while mass messages are a reality of doing business, your audience won’t see it that way.

The importance of personalisation is no secret – 94 per cent of marketers say it’s critical to their current and future success and 47 per cent believe it increases customer engagement. If you aren’t doing enough to tailor your emails to each recipient, you’re likely missing out.


While there are a number of tokens you can whack in to make your emails seem more personalised, the only real way to write more personalised messages is to know your audience. To this end, make sure you’re using marketing automation software to collect the right information and understand the people you’re targeting.

Once you know who you’re writing to, create marketing personas and share these with everyone who sends on behalf of your organisation. Every email you write should be directed at these semi-fictional users.

Mistake 3 – Not testing a new sequence or template

Crafted an amazing template or sequence? The customer may not agree. That’s why you should never begin using a template or sequence without testing it first. The thing about automation is well, it’s automated, which means once you set it up, dust your hands and walk away, it’s gone.


Most automation programs will allow you to test sequences using a ‘test this workflow’ function, but you should also ‘test’ them simply by running them past other members of your organisation and asking for their feedback. Just like any proofing exercise, colleagues may uncover errors or missing details. The same is true with templates. Run them past your team and ensure they’re clear, consistent and free of mistakes.

Already slipped up? Here’s what to do

If you’ve accidentally made an embarrassing email mistake, stay calm. These tips can help you recover:

  • SEE IF YOU CAN CONTROL THE PROBLEM – Has the newsletter already been sent to everyone? Can you easily repair whatever isn’t displaying correctly? The moment you realise you’ve stuffed up, it’s best to do everything you can to keep the issue small.
  • SAY SORRY – If the blunder was big, reach out to the affected audience with a well crafted, personalised follow-up email. Bear in mind that the tone and style of your apology email should match the offense. If you’ve simply sent a broken link, for example, there’s no need to beg for forgiveness. A quick ‘oops, sorry about that – here it is’ will suffice.
  • COME CLEAN – Trying to hide an email oops from your boss will only backfire. Instead, own up and tell whoever you need to what’s been done. Not only will they likely understand, but they may even have a suggested solution or be willing to step in and handle the problem themselves.

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Natalie Fortier About the author