One of the things that we’ve been working on as a company is doing a better job of client side communications like keeping folks informed about what’s new in the marketplace and areas where we have special insights where we might be able to help them improve. Obviously the idea there is to ensure that our clients know what we can do to help them and take that opportunity to engage us to solve those types of problems. So a part of that is we do a lot more writing and outward facing communications via email then we’ve ever done before. We’ve had a very light editing process which has worked fine since we started doing this and we’ve never had an issue. Well recently we sent out a client facing communication with a misspelling in the subject line. This wasn’t just any misspelling; we actually spelled assess as asses.
While that is attention getting I’m sure and maybe more people will take the time to read it then they otherwise would have, it’s probably not how we want to portray ourselves as a company. Anyways, as soon as we noticed it we had a lot of internal debate over what we should do with regard to the email because clearly some people would notice it and some people wouldn’t. So it was one of those things where the internal debate of what it meant from a marketing standpoint was should we just let this go in hopes that people don’t see it or should we come out and talk to it? Should we essentially own our mistake and know that for some people, the fact that we made that mistake at all was going to be a big negative and was going to reduce our stature in those people’s eyes? On the other hand if we didn’t own up to it some were people were certainly going to still notice it. Where was that going to put us? What kind of opinion would that make for somebody? These were he questions we were trying to answer.
So we talked it back and forth and finally we came to the conclusion that we just had to own up to it. As we were going through the process of coming to that conclusion, I couldn’t help but think of things with my kids. It’s so hard to get them sometimes to admit that they did something wrong or that they made a mistake because they really want you to be proud of them all time. So as we moved through the process of figuring out how to respond to our mistake we learned a lot about how we made the mistake in the first place.
One of the things that we wanted to do was make sure that we didn’t make that mistake again and what I was interested in as we went through that is how many people actually owned the mistake even if they weren’t directly connected to the writing of it. It really hit home for me that each of the people that I talked to, a lot of them were owning up to the mistake themselves without real regard to how big of a role they may have had in the actual mistake itself. There wasn’t a lot of “we did this” or “we did that,” it was just “I.” I thought that was really powerful. It resonated with me and it helped me make what I thought was the right decision, which was to go up to the people you made the mistake to and say, “Hey I made this mistake and this is what I’m going to do to fix this.”
It made me think about how important it is to own up to your mistakes and in the end, it made the decision to go back out and talk to the clients that we’d sent that to a response because I recognized how that made me feel. The difference between how I felt when I talked to somebody who owned the mistake of and said, “I cant believe I missed this” or some variation of that vs. a response of something like “We must not have got that,” is huge. Accepting responsibility and saying, “I made a mistake and I’m going to fix it,” is a much more powerful statement to make and I think is universally acknowledged as such. Now I know I haven’t researched this but I think there’s a lesson in there in general on owning up to your mistakes and what kind of reaction it could have for the people that you’re talking to. Maybe the marketing answer is you wait and see who responds back and address it specifically with them because otherwise you’re bringing it to the attention to people who would have otherwise missed it. I don’t know what the well-researched answer is I just know what made sense for us and what felt right for us. I’d be curious to know what people’s thoughts are that and in particular, I’d love to hear from people who have marketing backgrounds on if we did the right thing from a business perspective?
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