Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce and Detroit Tiger’s pitcher Armando Galarraga both know that, no matter how sincere, an apology only goes so far.
Maybe that was on the mind of Neil Berman when he wrote about “Our Love Affair With Apology Emails” for a November Email Insider post.
Emailers are forgetting attachments, posting the wrong links, fudging numbers and statistics, sending to the “wrong Nancy,” delaying their response, suffering “server” issues, and generally embarrassing themselves. The preferred solution appears to be sending a blushing follow-up that only serves to draw unwanted attention to the initial error.
Loren McDonald addressed the apologetic trend back in April when she posted an article on Keys To An Effective Email Correction Process. “Mistake emails are simply a fact of life for digital marketers,” Loren said. “The question isn't if, but when, how often, how severe, and ‘How will you respond?’”
I’ve no doubt that “I’m sorry” are two effective header words, particularly when delivered instantly, for free. I mean, who isn’t going to open an email full of slobbering servility. Still, I couldn’t help wondering how long a snail mail marketer would survive a similar trail of error. That’s when I realized that – unlike email – direct mail almost never has occasion to apologize.
1. A Barrier To Junk Entry. Mail that doesn’t work costs the sender dearly in dollars wasted, so mistakes can lead to termination (and I don’t mean that in a good way).
2. Quality-control Infusion. While direct mail goofs and typos can creep in (some of them quite deadly), direct mail materials pass through many hands and many stages of proofreading. (Note, the pressman himself is often proofreading.)
3. People Plus Machines. Direct mail insertions (“attachments,” in email parlance) are mechanized by regularly calibrated machines. If the direct mail package calls for lift notes, response cards, brochures, or BREs, chances are high that the attachments will be “in there.” On the other hand, email appears to eat its attachments (and often).
4. A Multi-Staged Dance. Direct mail campaigns encompass a series of steps, each requiring considerable finesse: planning, offer development, budgeting, approval, scheduling, targeting, creative, list analysis and procurement, production, mailing, testing, retesting, fulfillment, etc. Each sequence weeds out the unfit. Note: In all fairness – though not yet there -- email marketing is moving to the same sort of complex, integrated online campaign. Yea!
Admittedly, the direct mail “oops!” is not unheard of. Dan Kennedy, writing for Glazer-Kennedy’s Insiders Circle, disclosed a couple of very interesting direct mail boos-boos. In both situations, direct mailers turned a sorry situation into hot returns, proving, once again, that results are the measure.