When human error interrupts marketing automation: our mistakes laid bare

This week, something in one of our marketing automation workflows went wrong. Really wrong. Complaints came flooding through our inbox and social media platforms. The investigation began and a few moments later we realised – with our heads in our hands – that it was human error in a world of automation that was the problem.

So we thought we would share with you what to do when your marketing goes horribly, catastrophically wrong.

Admit you made a mistake

Yes, we pride ourselves on being the UK industry leader in marketing automation, but we’re only human. We make mistakes. Sometimes we’re so focused on the end goal and the next best thing, we don’t dedicate enough time and attention to the here-and-now of our marketing. So when it all went wrong, it was with humble heads we looked at each other and said: “we need to change the way we handle our marketing processes.”

So, first thing is first. Deal with the marketing automation mistake you made.

In our case, what had happened was that we’d built a workflow and forgot to put the appropriate wait times in. It meant that the workflow reacted to the conditions immediately and everyone got all the emails all at once. So we thought, ok can we stop this workflow? Pause it? What can we do to fix the issue?

Solve the initial problem before you go around saying sorry! Apologies mean nothing if the error keeps occurring.

Then come the consequences.

We don’t just mean handling the fallout from prospects and customers. You also have to check that you haven’t damaged your domain or become blacklisted. Email marketing mistakes can cost you more than just angry complaints. Make sure to sort your domain issues after you’ve fixed the initial problem or your other marketing campaigns might fall foul thanks to your first mistake.

Time to suck it up and take complaints on the chin!

Once you’ve made sure to stop the technical issues that are giving your marketing team a headache, a twitch in the right eye and a complex to boot, it’s time to address the complaints head on. Don’t try and cover your tracks or find an excuse. Simply own up to the fact that there was a mistake, that you’ve fixed it and will endeavour to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Don’t do this by sending out a generic apology mass email either. If people have personally gone out of their way to complain to you, you need to personally respond. Listen to what they have to say. No matter how angry or nasty their complaint is, be genuinely sorry when you reply. You know the saying: kill them with kindness.

This extends to your social media platforms too. It’s even more important here to make your apology really clear and genuine. The public platform can affect your brand even more if you don’t handle your complaints in the right way & start a war of words. Remember: hold your hands up, take the angry comments on the chin and reply personally. One human to another.

Want an example? Here is a response email we sent out to one of the complaints. They, in turn, replied, apologised for the harshness of their original email and appreciated our transparency.


I picked up your emails from this evening.

We are so sorry about the amount of emails you received at once and are investigating right away. It is absolutely not something we promote and will be doing everything we can to make sure it is not repeated.

Kind Regards,


No blame throwing, no words that could be misconstrued as sarcasm or defensive. Just an apologetic, humble message to fix the damage already done. Don’t even reassure people that it won’t even happen again, because you’re human and it might. We can only ever try our best to make sure that our marketing is on point moving forwards.

Moving on with your marketing…

The past will only repeat itself if you don’t learn anything from it. Moving forwards we must remember this important marketing automation lesson. Just because your email campaigns are automated doesn’t mean you can just leave them to run and move on to the next thing. Check each aspect of every current email campaign and workflow. Make sure they are working. Analyse and test them. Change the elements that don’t work. Test again. And again. Get it right before moving on to the next thing.

If you are too busy to check that your automation is working as it should be, you need to scale back on the new marketing stuff you want to take on. Focus on what you’ve got first. Otherwise, you’ll end up rushing ahead, making a mistake and making more work for yourself. Slow and steady wins the race.

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