What I Learned From an Email Marketing Mistaek, and How it Can Help You

Written by Chad Rubin | Feb 19, 2017 7:00:00 PM

Hey all! My name is Andrew Maffettone, I am the lead marketing guy here at Skubana. I’ve only been with Skubana for a couple of months now but I’ve been helping our CEO Chad Rubin with his other ventures for quite some time.

I’d like to think I do a pretty good job here based on the usual stuff; improved revenue, grew some metrics, that sort of thing. But last week I made a mistake.

Did you notice the typo in this post’s title?

If you didn’t that’s okay, we’re all human. If you did, well, you’ll love this story. (Note: it should be *Mistake)

Background story

Here's what happened: Last week we sent out an email blast to all of our subscribers about when Chad got suspended on Amazon over Christmas.

Even I still remember that day, I was freaking out! Was it something I did? Will we ever get back on? Will I eventually be out of a job? I was at my in-laws so this did not help the already amazing mood I was in (sarcasm).

Luckily we got reinstated and all is well. We didn't go into too many details about our reinstatement because we weren't sure what information was sensitive for the people who helped us out, but we wrote a great blog post about the story and what we learned.

By the way, huge thank you to everyone who helped us!

The two [basic] mistakes I made

One of my specialties is email marketing. I’ve been trying to master it ever since I stepped into the digital marketing industry almost 10 years ago. So, we sent out an email blast with the blog post and a few others. This is where it all went downhill for me.

This email was mainly about Chad and the Amazon suspension, so much so that we led with that blog post in this newsletter. I edited the "from” section to say “Chad Rubin of Skubana” instead of just “Skubana.”

This was my first mistake. I must have skimmed through revisions, or maybe I was distracted by our incredibly good looking employees, but I misspelled our name. Instead of "Skubana," I called our company “Skuabna.” Awesome (sarcasm again).

I can hear readers around the world asking "How could you miss that?" Look, I’m human, these things happen.

I was so upset when I saw the post go live, but I brushed it off with the understanding that it happens to even the best email marketers. I was sure some people would notice, but it wouldn't be the end of the world.

And then I noticed my second mistake. This was my BIG OBVIOUS MISTAKE.

We like to personalize our emails, so I added a merge tag for the first name of the subscriber. Forgetting where to find the damn merge tag button in our email software I threw up a placeholder while I went through the other copy.

The placeholder I used looked like this: <<First Name>>

And the email that went out looked like this;

I use a different mailing software with one of our other companies, and in that other tool that was the correct merge tag. So when I get the test email, I thought everything was good to go.

Once I noticed both of these mistakes I was upset. These were basic mistakes, and they should have never gotten through.

Luckily, our work environment is very fun and Chad's a nice guy (I know that may sound shocking). So everyone picked on me a little, laughed about it, and then moved on.

We got past it, but our subscribers didn't

Our internal team brushed it off, but then the email replies started coming in. That's where things blew up.

Within minutes of this email going out, we received tons of messages some positive, some very negative. I could describe them to you, but it might be better to show you a few verbatim.

Responses from the first 10 hours

Don’t believe me? These are some of the ACTUAL responses we got verbatim within the first 10 hours!

There were a few nice ones...

  • "FYI - your greeting isn't working correctly."
  • "came in as hello seller"
  • "Hello Chad, I think there is a bug with your newsletter editor... Hello First Name sounds pretty bad :)"
  • "…I wanted to mention that there were 2 errors in the last Skubana's email. The FROM email said "Skuabna" (instead of "Skubana") and the "First Name" appeared as a broken tag for Mailchimp." (NOTE: This person was actually nice enough to attach an image with arrows pointing to the errors.)
  • “Hey Chad! Hate to be that guy, but I couldn't help but notice that you spelled the name of your company incorrectly in the "From" section of your email. Also seems like something with the mail merge isn't working right. Hope this helps.
  • "You might want to fix this <<First Name>> thing"
  • "No first name I won’t….. ;)"

And some not so nice ones...

  • "Your email sucks. It didn’t properly pull in my first name. I’d fire your automation marketing person. Stupid mistake and it looks super unprofessional. I’ll be unsubscribing. If you can’t get this part right, I’m concerned about what you are trying to sell me."
  • "cmon man, first rule, make sure your dynamic field is working. Hey <<First Name>>, you won't believe this.”

And this person, who wanted my job...

"You should probably test your email campaigns before sending with many errors;

  1.       You may actually want to have your tool insert my first name instead of sending “<<First Name>>”
  2.       You may want to spell the name of your company correctly to prove you are a legitimate and professional company
  3.       “Chad Rubin of Skuabna”

Or, you could hire me as your web marketing director, because apparently Skubana has not employed the correct personnel to get this done sufficiently.

Good luck, and thanks again!"

And that was just the emails. We also got blog post comments, Tweets, Facebook messages, phone calls, texts, LinkedIn messages, and death threats (that last one was a far). We got well over 150 comments across our many channels.

Learn from my mistakes to benefit yourself

When everything started coming in, I was humiliated. I thought I would get scolded, removed from the email marketing team, or maybe even get picked last at our next company softball game. (We actually don’t do those, it’s about 20 degrees here right now.)

Instead, I learned some pretty interesting things;

  1. There are some very mean people on our newsletter list.
  2. Plenty of people spell perfectly and have never made a mistake in their life, apparently.
  3. I have more competition for my job than I thought.

BUT the biggest thing we learned; mistakes get A TON of responses.

Mistakes get engagement

Our response rate went through the roof. Some of our emails don't get any replies, but this was amazing. We heard from people we thought never even checked their email.

I can't even stress to you how many responses we have gotten from this email. After a couple of days we are well over 150 responses in email alone. All of these responses have given us an opportunity to engage with these leads and talk to them about our software.

Mind-blowing statistics

  • Our open rate was 11% higher than our best open rate EVER!
  • Our click rate was 40% higher than our best click rate EVER!

Yeah. Let that soak in. We’re already skating above the industry average so seeing these numbers was staggering. I thought there was an error.

It’s like people saw the misspelling in the “From” section and thought “Oh man, I have to tell them about this.” Then they see the incorrect merge tag and went “Yes! A chance for me to tell them they messed up! Let me check out this article they got all excited about and screwed up. Haha! I'm superior!" …or something like that.

This blog post is currently our 2nd most visited page in the past 30 days (next to our homepage) and this page has only been up for 2 days!

Open rate improvement, click rate improvement, and traffic to the website all skyrocketed. That’s all amazing of course, but what really has helped us so far is the amazing response rate we got from this.

Turning mistakes into an opportunity

I sat down with Chad to brainstorm about what to do about my mistake and all of these messages we were getting (after I apologized about 20 times and wiped away what was DEFINITELY NOT tears).

We decided to have Chad himself respond to all of the emails, which gave him an opportunity to apologize and open up a conversation with everyone who responded. He was able to chat about how their businesses were going, and get their feedback on Skuabna... I mean Skubaba... I mean Skubana.

It was brilliant! We’re now looking at a well-improved opportunity list and even had some people who wanted to talk about Skubana immediately! (Which is actually an awesome e-commerce tool, by the way.)

It wasn't on purpose...but if it was it'd be genius

In retrospect, I'd like to tell you we did this on purpose because we're innovative and edgy marketing geniuses, but it was a 100% mistake.

I made two very stupid mistakes that I should have caught, but they improved every aspect of that email campaign and even boosted sales.

Don't get me wrong, I’m not about to misspell subject lines and add blank images in newsletters, or accidentally send out an email blast with a picture of me in my pajamas (or will I?!) and say it was a mistake again. But there is a lesson to be learned here.

Marketing 101, you can tell someone to buy something until you’re blue in the face and they may or may not buy it, but give them something to talk about and watch how quickly your brand awareness grows.


Do me a quick favor, comment below and tell me a quick story about a similar story that happened to you. It will make me feel better. I’ll comment and we can laugh/cry together.

By the way, my nickname around the office now is “First Name.”

If you want to know how well our numbers keep growing from this campaign, want to talk marketing, or even just say hi, feel free to contact me.

If you want to see a duck smoking a cigarette, click here.



<<First Name>>