Sent an email by mistake? Here’s what you need to do.

Ever felt that sinking feeling just as you hit send on a marketing email? No matter how diligent you are about proofreading and double-checking, email errors slip through the cracks sometimes. Whether it’s a minor typo or a major mistake, it’s what you do next that really matters.

The good news? There are ways to recover from an email disaster – from good old unsend, to recalling, to minimising the impact with a follow-up email.

Here’s what you need to know:

Unsend or recall.

The best-case scenario? You realise you’ve made a mistake immediately, so you can unsend or recall your email before your customers see it. Gmail and Outlook both let you unsend an email for a short period after you send. Outlook also has a ‘recall’ features that lets you delete messages that have yet to be opened. Get familiar with the process before you need it.

Unsend in Gmail.

Gmail has an automatic feature that lets you undo shortly after you hit send on an email. When you send an email, a message window will pop up in the bottom left of your screen with an ‘undo’ option. Click this and breathe a sigh of relief.

You can also choose to change the window of time you have to unsend a message.

Here’s how:

  1. Click the settings icon (the cog) in the top right corner of the screen.
  2. Select ‘see all settings’.
  3. Find ‘undo send’ and select a cancellation period – 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds.
  4. Select ‘save changes’.

Unsend in Outlook.

If you use Outlook, you can choose to turn on the ‘undo send’ feature, which delays sending emails for a set period.

Here’s how:

  1. Click the settings icon (the cog) at the top of the page, then select ‘View all Outlook settings’.
  2. Click ‘Mail’ then ‘Compose and reply’.
  3. Select ‘Undo send’ then pick a delay period of either 5 or 10 seconds.
  4. Select ‘save’.

Once you have the undo send feature switched on, you’ll see an ‘undo send’ prompt pop up when you see an email. With just five or ten seconds to undo, you need to act fast!

Recall in Outlook.

While unsending an email essentially deletes it before it’s sent, recall pulls it back from the recipient’s inbox. This feature is available in Outlook, but this usually only works if the person you’re emailing is in your organisation and is using the same email client. This means, unfortunately, that it’s useful for internal emails gone wrong – but not for customer-facing messages.

Here’s how to use recall:

  1. Navigate to your ‘sent’ folder and open the email you want to recall.
  2. Click ‘File > Info > Message Resend and recall > Recall this message.
  3. Choose from ‘Delete unread copies of this message’ and ‘Delete unread copies and replace with a new message’.
  4. Select ‘Tell me if recall succeeds or fails’ to get a rundown of who has already opened the message.
  5. Click ‘OK’

Damage control.

Unfortunately, you won’t always catch errors quickly enough to unsend or recall. If this happens, you need to minimise the impact as much as you can. Your business should have a plan in place for these scenarios so everyone knows what to do.

1. Assess the damage.

How bad was the mistake? If you’re dealing with a tiny typo, you can probably let it slide. If you’ve promoted an event with the wrong date or used unintentionally offensive language, you need to follow up with customers as soon as you can.

2. Write a correction.

While you want to send a correction quickly, don’t panic and make the problem worse. Make sure to double- and triple-check the wording on your follow-up email. Have at least one other person check it over before you send. Include an acknowledgement of the error, a sincere apology and a promise to look into your email processes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

3. Send ASAP.

When you’re sending an apology or correction, speed is crucial. Get your follow-up email out quickly enough and it will appear above your previous email in the customer’s inbox, which could mean they don’t even see the mistake.

4. Be consistent.

If you’ve made a truly egregious email error – for example, making an offensive joke or an outright false claim – you may need to apologise on social media and other platforms as well. Make sure your language is consistent and your customer-facing staff are briefed on in-person apologies as well.

RELATED: How to create a successful eDM marketing strategy.

Avoid future email fails. 

While there’s no way to completely eliminate email errors, you can do your best to avoid future mistakes. Planning can reduce time pressures that contribute to errors. Learn about planning your email campaigns in our article here. The most effective strategy: create an email approvals checklist and make sure your marketing team knows how to use it.

Sample checklist:

  • Never use placeholder text or Lorem Ipsum in draft emails
  • Use spell check and/or AI proofreading tools like Grammarly
  • Proofread emails at least three times and get another person to check for you
  • Test links and attachments before you send
  • Members of the marketing team should have ‘unsend’ features set up and know how to use them
  • Have a correction template ready to go so you can write a follow-up promptly.

Email mistakes may be embarrassing for your business but they’re not the end of the world. With a solid recovery plan in place, you should be able to minimise the impact and keep your reputation intact.

Want to know more about email marketing for SMBs? You’ll find lots of useful info on our Business Hub. 

Looking for expert digital marketing advice? Get in touch with Yellow Pages today.

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