We all make mistakes; it’s part of being human. Sure, mistakes are embarrassing and they can hurt your reputation, but they don’t have to cause permanent harm. You can recover from most gaffes (unless your gaffe was poor handling of a previous blunder!). Here’s how to recover from an email-marketing mistake with grace.
The first step is to recognize the mistake and take it seriously. Let’s go back to school for a minute and look at the two textbook case studies on this issue: Johnson & Johnson’s 1982 Tylenol poisoning and Exxon’s 1989 Valdez oil spill. Both of these were major crises, but one company turned the crisis into a major piece of brand equity and the other only got past it when a competitor messed up even worse.
When Johnson & Johnson heard that Tylenol was linked to deaths in Chicago, J&J dealt with the crisis by immediately acknowledging the crisis and courageously recalling their bestselling product. Prior to the murders, Tylenol had a 37% market share. That dropped overnight to 7%, but because of how J&J handled the crisis, Tylenol’s market share jumped up to 30% only a year after the crisis.
Exxon on the other hand, responded slowly when their tanker ran aground and begin gushing crude oil into the Alaskan landscape. Exxon continued to deal with the crisis poorly by generally trying to avoid as much of the blame as possible and appearing to not take the crisis seriously. The result was a damaged reputation that never really recovered (it wasn’t until BP screwed up even worse in 2010 with their Deepwater Horizon spill, that people started to forget about—not forgive—Exxon’s transgression).
Obviously, messing up a marketing email isn’t the same as selling a product used by a sociopath to murder people, or being responsible for a major ecological disaster, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn lessons from these crises: Lesson one is that how you handle the mistake is crucial. Don’t ignore and hope no one will notice. Make it right for your customers as far as is possible.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We’re all human and we’ll all make mistakes, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. It’s how you handle your mistakes that makes all the difference.
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