B2B inbound marketing and lead generation services.

How to Recover from a “Marketing Malfunction”


How to Recover from a “Marketing Malfunction”

On October 31, I blogged about how one marketer dropped an f-bomb on his mailing list and paid the price with lost subscribers and customers.

It was more of a “what not to do” post.

Now I’d like to explore how you can recover from a blunder like this, the marketing equivalent of a “wardrobe malfunction.”

More cynical people might assume spin doctoring is in order, but the simplest solution usually requires little more than eating a jumbo slice of humble pie. Be honest with your subscribers and customers and admit you screwed up.

Let’s take a look again at our WordPress consultant’s marketing malfunction, when he dropped the f-bomb in an email subject line, not once, but twice.

Subject: BYOB Live – How to Fix a WordPress Website that is Totally F**ked Up!

Karl — Yes, I know that the f-bomb is entirely inappropriate for professional communication. But sometimes a site gets so messed up that polite language simply can’t capture the agony of owning it. Sometimes something happens that screws up a site so much that it makes you despair for your humanity. One of our members has such a site.

In my previous post I discussed how his blunder cost him customers and subscribers, but let’s explore how he should have responded.

First, he should have apologized immediately on the same day or no later than the next. This wouldn’t bring back the people who had already unsubscribed, but it might have given him a chance to make good with those on the fence. Maybe even recovered a few paying customers.

Here’s one possibility for an apology email:

 Subject: BYOB Live – I am So Sorry!

Karl – I owe you an apology for my earlier email. It was entirely inappropriate and I’m sorry if I offended you.

I wanted to get your attention for what I truly believe is a critical issue for WordPress site owners. But I went too far. I promise it won’t happen again.

I still would like you to attend this important webinar and I assure you that I will conduct this webinar in a professional manner with family-friendly language.

Again, you have my sincerest apology. Here are the details for your webinar:

The goal is to keep it simple—a sincere apology followed by a renewed invitation for the free webinar.

Of course, he could have quietly taken his lumps and pretended it never happened. That’s what many businesses do, but I don’t recommend it—especially if you received a number of complaints.

Yes, it’s damage control (not a bad thing if you’re sincere), but it’s also important for maintaining the relationship between your business and your customers/prospects. As an inbound marketer, your greatest asset is your relationship with your customers and prospects. It’s your job to repair any damage you do.

Most businesses typically face problems other than profanity in their marketing communications. It’s often a technical glitch or a problem related to order processing, quality control, or customer service. But your response should be the same: Acknowledge your blunder and offer to make good on the problem.

If it wasn’t your fault (like a major storm delayed product deliveries), then tell your customers that you understand their anger, concern, or inconvenience and are sorry they had to experience it. Acknowledging your customers’ pain or frustration goes a long way toward solving the prolem. Sometimes, people just want to know that they’ve been heard. And always be sincere in your response, not patronizing.

But, if the screw up truly is yours, then respond according to the severity and your customers’ reactions. Always fix the problem. Then, if you feel that fixing the problem isn’t enough, offer them something of value, like a discount, an extension to a subscription, or a gift. Sure, it’s a bribe, but it’s also a good investment in retaining your customers.

What stories do you have about marketing blunders and their resolution? Please share them below.


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