Offbeatdride: How to turn marketing fails into awesome human moments

March 15 | offbeatbride
Oops
By: Matthew RutledgeCC BY 2.0

I spent over ten years in the trenches of corporate marketing, so I have a lot of fist-bumping love for the creatives who find themselves paying the bills with public relations, marketing, and other sales work. That said, maybe having worked in marketing makes me even less patient with marketing mistakes. I'm like a former waiter, who's both prone to tipping 40% because I remember so clearly the challenges of doing that work… but who's also extra critical because, look: I know what it's like, and it's not that hard.

One of my favorite common marketing mistakes is when someone sends me a promotional email, but forgets to edit their template. Then sometimes the sender realizes what they've done, and desperately sends the same template again, but with the correct information dropped into place.

A couple examples…

First we got this email:

Hey Ruffled Blog,

We are huge fans of your site! We wanted to see if we could team up some how for a blog feature? Would you be interested in doing a blog write up/ story?

…and then this one, 30 seconds later:

Hey Offbeat Bride,

We are huge fans of your site! We wanted to see if we could team up some how for a blog feature? Would you be interested in doing a blog write up/ story?

Or a message that included this lovely template, clearly intended for some editing:

To help promote our product we'd love to be able to giveaway on your [website].

And then this two minutes later, because the only thing more embarrassing than forgetting to fill out your template is making a glaring typo in the company's name:

To help promote our product we'd love to be able to giveaway on your Offbeatdride.

Again, I've got a lot of sympathy for these folks. You know there's that moment of panic where they've clicked send, and as the page loads, they re-read their message and realize OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT. I know that moment. I've HAD that moment. And you know what the best response to that moment is?

Acknowledging it.

Instead of immediately re-sending the same templated message with the error corrected, ignoring that you just fucked up and revealed just how impersonal your message is… what if you actually just got human for a second and sent a non-templated message recognizing what just happened?

Ultimately, truly effective marketing (like any communication) is about connection and relationships. Real people make real mistakes. When you acknowledge it, you're actually taking a second to have a really human moment. Yeah, mistakes are generally bad for business… but humanizing your business by acknowledging those mistakes can be powerful tool for establishing a real human connection.

  1. Couldn't agree more, and it's not just marketing ether. I have seen so many problems that could have been handled with a company just saying "I'm sorry, we made a mistake." I know the customer isn't always right, but it shouldn't be company policy to make him or her feel guilty. I've actually told customer service representatives, "What I really just want is an apology," only to get a snide, scripted, "well, we're sorry you feel this has inconvenienced you." I don't feel it's an inconvenience, I know I've been inconvenienced .

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  2. So true. I've done it myself when sending something multiple times that has to be slightly personalized but that I can't just run from a database because it doesn't warrant that. I've been the one sending that follow up "Oops, my apologies, I meant to ask you about this thing." Never had issues when I politely apologize. Sometimes I admit I'd rather stick my head in the sand because I feel like an idiot, but I'm trying to overcome that and be a better communicator.

    As the Community Manager of the Offbeat Bride Tribe, I can we have a lot of base templates. Trust me, I usually know when I'm reading a template. And that's cool in a lot of circumstances. I get that mass mailing is a thing and that in marketing you may need to send a whole lot of emails to get a bite. The thing that gets me most are the times when a template is used, correctly or not, when it SHOULDN'T be. If you're asking for a favour or expecting me to put in work, you want to get away from that template. Sure, use it as a starting point, but personalize it. Because if you want my time, I should be worth yours.

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  3. This is so relevant at this moment. Nothing at all like using a marketing automation program that is supposed make my life easier, and instead of plugging in the contact's name as a greeting, it plugs in MY name.

  4. Aughhhh having worked at a PR firm I did this once or twice- but my boss told me NOT to send a acknowledgement, and move on. :/ I felt that I should… I suppose I was right then? (We were sending to the managers of certain magazines, so it was Dear Mr/Ms/Mrs… company… etc).

    Good to hear from the business's side!

    • I'm not sure if there's a right/wrong here… it's just an issue of strategy. My PR/marketing strategies have always run towards the more human & conversational. So much so, in fact, that when I did PR for Microsoft writing stuff like this, people accused me of "astroturfing" (intentionally trying to pass of PR as non-PR). This suggests that for a large international brand, my methods weren't quite a fit. Again, there's no right or wrong… just what works the way you intend it to, in any given situation.

      That said, if you're doing PR for a smaller business, I think the more human style of communications is a winning strategy.

  5. Talk about that oh shit moment when you realize what you've done. I once sent a (non-template) email to about 150 of my best customers apologizing for a delay. My spelling is so bad that the auto-correct changed "sorry for the incovinince" to "sorry for the incontinence". I was horrified! I'm still not even sure how it happened, but it actually opened up quite a hilarious conversation which I counted as a plus for additional customer contact.

    1 agrees

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