Oh, No—What to Do When Your Email Campaign Epically Fails

June 22, 2020
Written by
Jesse Sumrak
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Oh, No—What to Do When Your Email Campaign Epically Fails

Oops. We've all been there. When you've spent hours creating a brilliant email campaign that no one opens, delivers little-to-no results, or starts a violent tweetstorm on Twitter. 

It's unfortunate, but it happens.

If you create, design, plan, or send emails, you've likely made at least one tragic mistake. And if you haven't yet, you will—and that's okay. We're all human, and while perfection would be nice, it's just not possible.

Fortunately, a failed email campaign isn't the end of the world (though, it might feel like it in the moment). With the right strategic approach, you can bounce back and keep your positive momentum going.

Don't wait to read this until after you've had an epic fail—get ahead of the game and have a plan for what you'll do when your email campaign flops. 

Because, eventually, it will happen.

What makes your email campaign an epic fail?

First, determine what made your email campaign an epic fail. Failure is relative, so you'll need to identify exactly what the problem is:
  • Low open rates
  • Poor engagement
  • Brand damage
  • High unsubscribes
  • Increased spam reports
  • False information
  • Broken links
  • Subpar delivery rates
  • Typos
Some fails are easy to spot, like when a leading photo-printing site sent a mass email congratulating people on their "new arrivals" when most of the recipients didn't recently give birth, weren't expecting, or were men. Or when a famous sportswear brand accidentally sent an inappropriate subject line following the Boston Marathon. 

Other mistakes are not so easy to spot, like broken product links, false information, or downright boring subject lines.

Regardless of the error, mistakes happen—but it's important you recognize what went wrong. Once you know the what, it's easier to find the why.

Identify why the campaign failed

Why a campaign failed is just as important as what went wrong. If you experienced any of the fails listed above, you'll need to identify why it happened: You can only learn from your mistakes and remedy the issue by finding the why. Look through your analytics, get a second pair of eyes, and double-click to dig deep and uncover the reasons.

Once you know the what and the why, you're ready to apply the right remedy.

4 tactics to remedy failed campaigns

Remedy a failed campaign

The remedial tactic you should use depends on the situation. In some circumstances, you'll need to send a follow-up correction email, but in others, that would only add fuel to the fire. We'll share a few email fail fixes, but it's up to you to apply them appropriately.
  1. Send a correction email: If your original email contained false information, it's sometimes appropriate to immediately send a follow-up correction email. Be careful of email fatigue, though—too many emails in a short period of time can be just as damaging as a mistake.
  2. Change the subject line: Your subject line is one of the most important factors in getting your email opened. If you have a high-priority campaign with low open rates, experiment with changing the subject line and resending it to those who didn't open the first email.
  3. A/B test different elements: It's not always easy to identify what went wrong and why. Try A/B testing different variables to find what works best. Remember, only A/B test one element at a time so that you know what's responsible for the change in results.
  4. Let it go: Sometimes you just have to let it go—you can't fix everything. Learn from your mistakes and restructure your processes to ensure it doesn't happen again. 

How to prevent future campaign flops

Once an email is sent, there's not a whole lot you can do—that message is going, going, gone to your entire email list. Unlike a social media post, article, or even YouTube video, you can't edit or delete it. That's why it's critical you do everything you can to prevent campaign fails

While there's no tried-and-true way to make every email 100% perfect, there are a few tactics you can implement to mitigate errors:
  • Test your emails: Testing your emails goes beyond sending a test version to your inbox to doublecheck for typos and misplaced commas. Take your testing to the next level with spam testing, link validation, and image and format rendering. Read our Email Testing Walkthrough and Examples post to learn more about creating error-free emails.
  • A/B test: If you're using a tool like Twilio SendGrid Email Marketing, then you can send multiple versions of the same email and make sure the bulk of your recipients receive the best variant.
  • Proofread: It seems simple enough, but marketers sometimes forget to take a second or third glance at their content. Your first draft is rarely your best draft—give your email a few readthroughs before hitting the send button.
  • Get a second pair of eyes: It's hard to catch simple mistakes when you've been staring at the same document for hours. Ask for help and get another pair of eyes to look over your work.

Send with confidence

Mistakes will happen from time to time, but don't let that keep you from creating and sending stellar email campaigns. Follow the tips we've provided to diagnose your failure and prevent it from happening again.

Remember, email success is complicated. Fortunately, we have experts who can help. Partner with our email specialists to get topnotch advice and solutions from the folks here who eat, sleep, and breathe email. Our email pros can help you set up your program for success, diagnose and solve your deliverability issues, and provide the ongoing consulting you need to send with confidence. Learn more about how you can level up your email program with expert services.

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