Making Mistakes into Marketing Moments

The most successful marketing email ever sent by any of my companies or projects was an apology email.

At Praxis, we accidentally sent the wrong thing to the wrong list. I can’t even remember exactly what it was, but it was a big embarrassing mistake. The kind a lot of people get pissed about.

We immediately sent a short “We screwed up” email to everyone – even those who probably never received the original. We owned it, asked for mercy, and offered something to make up for it.

And people loved it!

The open rate was off the charts. So was the click-through. So were the replies.

We couldn’t plan or predict that. The scientific side of marketing – A/B testing subject lines, formal vs informal, length, time of day sent, etc. – can get you stuck in a robotic way of connecting to customers and prospective customers. When you screw up – when you’re human – and you respond in a human way without the optimization, sometimes it’s a breakthrough.

Yesterday, I suffered a few embarrassing errors. The process of figuring out what to do about it reminded me of the Praxis apology email. It was a good reminder to be human, be humble, and own mistakes instead of stressing about how to hide them. Hell, amplify them!

We’re all learning here.