How I Screwed Up (and What I Learned From It)

I messed up. I admit it.

Last week, I hosted a webinar with my friend and colleague, Nancy Juetten. I was responsible for sending out several emails to my email list, and asking my subscribers to sign up for the webinar so Nancy could give them advice on how to make their About Pages and social media profiles better.

When the time came to send the emails, I struggled. I had been sick for almost three weeks at that point, and had zero motivation to craft an email campaign that was convincing and persuasive. All I really wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and go back to bed.

So I rushed it. I threw together a quick email and send it to my list.

If you’re on my mailing list, you probably received the note, so you might know exactly what I’m talking about. You might even have some opinions about the note, and where I went wrong.

The email subject line was “You Need to Spice Things Up a Little,” and it basically said, “Your bio is boring. You need to change it.”

It ended with a pitch for the webinar, and information on how to sign up.

The note was sort of…obnoxious. But even worse – there were things I said in the email that made it sound personal, and some of my subscribers didn’t realized it was a mass email and got offended.

Some wrote to me and said, “Look, I don’t think my bio is THAT bad.” Others asked me how I even found their bios online.

Others were just flat-out offended by the tone of the note. They thought it was offensive.

I spend the next three days putting out fires, apologizing, and watching a massive number of “unsubscribe” messages flooding into my inbox. It was not fun.

I felt awful that I had offended my loyal readers – some of whom had been with me for quite a while. I did my best to explain myself to the people who wrote to me to complain, but all the folks who unsubscribed from my list are just gone forever – they’re not coming back.

It was not my best work, to say the least.

Before I tell you what I learned from this little disaster, I will say this – if any of you read my note and were offended, I apologize profusively. I didn’t mean to offend you. Please know that the note wasn’t meant to be personally criticial of you.

Okay, now that I’ve apologized, let me tell you what I’ve learned from this debacle:

  1. Do not send email messages to your subscriber list when you are sick, tired, hungry or otherwise compromised. If possible, put off sending a broadcast until you feel better.
  2. If you absolutely must send an email when you’re impaired, have an editor, friend or colleague read the note before you send it out.
  3. Your subscribers are sacred. If there’s a possibility you’re going to offend your list by sending something to them, don’t send it. Try a different strategy or rewrite the campaign. Rein in the desire to be cute or witty, and be straightforward instead. Your subscribers will thank you for it.
  4. Respect for your list should come before cleverness, before wit, and before following copywriting principles. If you write a clever and pithy email campaign, but you lose half your list because of it, you haven’t succeeded.
  5. Listen to the little voice in your head. When I was creating this failed email campaign, my intuition (just a tiny little voice at the time) was asking, “Are you sure this strikes the right tone? Are you sure this is what you want to send?” I ignored that little voice, and I paid for it dearly. Your intuition knows things you may not consciously know – so if it puts up a red flag, take note!

Have you ever sent a note to your list that you later regretted? What did you learn from it? Tell me about it in the comments of this blog post.

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