The human side of marketing, or, Capitalizing on your mistakes

Published in Marketing on Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine meticulously prepared a newsletter and sent it out to their subscribers. I was one of those subscribers, and imagine my surprise when in my inbox I received an e-mail stating Dear NAME, have you seen our lastest additions?

The mistake

I called him up to mention the error, and he explained to me that he had noticed the error and managed to stop the delivery before too much damage was done. No problem. But hours later, he called me stating that he felt really bad, and wanted to try something.

The recovery

His idea was to send out the newsletter again, but this time with an apology in the subject line and a short, human message at the top of the newsletter:

Sorry I got your name wrong in the last email. I'm having one of those days!

Can we put it down to being so excited about our lastest additions? We'd really like you to see what's on offer too.

Here's the message again in case you missed it last time. I'm going for a coffee :)

Did it work?

With many people noticing the lack of a human touch in a lot of marketing efforts these days, I'm not surprised that this little human touch gained traction.

These newsletters usually get decent click thrus and conversions, but rarely do the recipients reply directly to the e-mail; perhaps this is because they lack this human touch. In this case the reply rate to the newsletter was 1000% the normal rate (one person played the cynic and replied stating that he thought they were faking the whole incident).

In the end it worked; the mistake turned into an opportunity. Forgetting the normal click-thrus and conversions, this person now had begun a conversation with these potential clients who replied to the e-mail, and he probably appeared to those people more human than his competition.

Now the trick will be to convey that same feeling without making a mistake :-)

Comments and Feedback

Yes, you are right, i had a friend of mine, writing our newsletters, and these were just simple text based news on what we had done during the month, but he had this personal touch, where he could make us laugh but still informative.

It was great, by the way have you seen Dreamhost newsletters ? those are great too, and they add the human touch too, i remember where they had one newsletter problem and they blame it on the dog that was overexcited or something, something really cool.

Case in point, being personal, friendly and giving the unique touch to the newsletter its good, its the balence in writing it that is difficult.

I enjoyed this short read. I think that it is increasingly more important to be seen as a human these days on the internet. I recently (by mistake) took down one of my advertisers ads on one of my css websites (, and eventually received an email from them asking why it had been taken down (they also promptly canceled their subscription). It was an honest mistake, but I wrote back and gave them a free month of advertising and also refunded their money for one month of advertising (plus the PayPal transaction fees). At the end of the day, this person will be more likely to place an ad on my site in the future and it likely prevented an angry blog post about "jerks over at CSSElite".

Another touch I have recently been doing is to send out personalized emails to designers who's sites are accepted (and not accepted) into the gallery. I let them know what I really like about the design and why it is being included (or if there is a reason why it is not being included).

While larger sites may not be able to put a personal touch on everything they do, an honest effort at doing so will help break down the "local business" feeling barrier that we face with people looking at us through their computer screens.

When I go an do business with a local shop that has similar competitors, I'm more likely to go back to the one that puts a friendly touch on things and makes me feel wanted/welcome. We need to do the same thing online when possible.

Marco and Todd, thanks for the comments! Some good examples. That's certainly a nice touch of writing to people who are included in the CSS gallery and a great example of handling that advert error.

In essence this parallels what we expect in the real world. It just seems that online, a service gap has developed in places - a human touch that maybe is easy to forget when your "talking" to an e-mail address rather then to a face.

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