How to Send an Apology Email

When you spill the proverbial milk all over a marketing email, it can be tempting to hold your breath, cross your fingers and hope no one notices.

And since your audience is behind computer screens elsewhere, you probably won’t see many reactions (especially if they’re not on Twitter).

They’ll certainly notice some things; they may not notice (or care about) others. When do you play it safe and apologize? And when do you leave it alone?

Incorrect Info

This one’s a given. If you send out incorrect information, you’re going to have to set the record straight with an email like this one from Wawa:

Though you can certainly give your readers a way to respond by linking back to your site, your emphasis should be squarely on the correction. Since your original message has people operating under false information, corrections are best sent out as soon as possible.

Details Left Behind

It’s difficult to catch every little detail before sending out an email. Sometimes, missing one little detail can mean subscribers get a hugely different message from what you intended.

So it’s important that you fill in the blanks as soon as possible, like Shoo Foo does here:

Now, depending on how long your error went without being corrected and how deep of a discount you’re offering, you may want to consider adjusting the sale to run the way you advertised it.

If that’s not possible, make sure to communicate to subscribers how truly sorry you are for the inconvenience.

Tiny Typos

If you accidentally send a typo, it can be tempting to tell your readers that you caught it, like Shopify‘s first paragraph here. Not only does this help you recoup some dignity, it shows transparency, which can build trust in your company – your readers know you’re always giving them the straight story.

But there can be such a thing as too much transparency. No one needs to know every breath your business takes. If a mistake’s tiny enough that readers, if they noticed, wouldn’t care, it’s probably not worth wasting their time by calling it out.

Jokes Gone Wrong

April Fools Day can inspire all kinds of business-to-customer fun. Which, unfortunately, can result in all kinds of customer-to-business panic. Depending on the size of the uproar, you may want to quiet it with an email, like Dreamhost did.

Notice how their apology was tucked among other content in their newsletter? It’s likely that anyone extremely worried about the situation had already sought out the straight story. So this response isn’t urgent, but it does answer any lingering questions.

One more thing – in the case of a misunderstood joke, it’s important not to make anyone feel…less than intelligent. Dreamhost used silly humor; whatever approach you take should be just as gentle.

A Serious Slip-Up

Occasionally, you might really mess up and offer readers something they can’t actually get. Along with your regrets, you may want to send them something to make up for their disappointment, like Dot Perkins does here.

A word of caution, though: it’s poor taste to use apology emails to push an offer. If you’re including a discount or coupon in the message, make sure it’s significant enough to be appreciated. Otherwise, it may look like a poorly masked attempt to make sales.

So When Should You Send That Apology?

Ask yourself these two questions:

  • Would subscribers be inconvenienced if I didn’t send an apology?
  • Was it a bad enough mistake that I truly do owe them a heartfelt message of regret?

If you respond with a “yes” to either questions, then you’ve got your answer.

What Are You Sorry For?

Of course, we’re hoping you have nothing to be sorry for.

But we do all make mistakes. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to apologize to your subscribers? How did you handle it? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Need a reliable email marketing platform from which to send those emails? Learn more about AWeber today!

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  1. Tim

    7/11/2011 10:31 am

    It seems like some email marketers purposely make a mistake in the first e-mail – so that they have a reason to then send another email later with an “important correction”. That way they can send twice as many emails, without it seeming as “spammy”. This seems like a sleazy practice, but it probably works.

  2. Salvatore

    7/12/2011 11:22 am

    @Tim – I have noticed that too. I’m not sure it works, but it is probably worth testing 😉

  3. Dean

    7/13/2011 5:25 pm

    Nice collection, thanks for the post, Amanda.

    I do agree with Tim, something like this could be done with purpose and probably work well.

    Company I was working for made mistake once and we sent out email targeted to female customer to male segment. But we’ll straight away send another, saying – “sorry, but at least now you know what girls are up to” and what to buy for your partner… we got few very positive replies, guys liked our approach.

  4. Craig Marshall

    7/18/2011 2:50 pm

    I love the way the cute girl is apologizing. This is the best way to apologize. You should keep in mind why and when you are apologized to whom.

  5. Kevin Gianni

    7/27/2011 6:10 pm

    LOL, there’s a grammatical error in the shopify apology. 🙂 Should be “personalize” not “personalized.” Maybe they should send out another one…

  6. Eduard Hiebert

    8/18/2011 2:48 pm

    Thanks Amanda for your cautionary notes on changing the from line. Also much appreciated your p’s and q’s regarding apologies, thanks!

    For your information, I review a lot of material “off-line” and when I turned your “apology” info off-line, it went AWOL on me. Connecting and refreshing, only the sub-page I was reading came back, all the rest before and after were missing! Only when I went back to the original email and re-clicked could I re-access the full piece.