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May 2013

Turning a Mistake into a Marketing Opportunity!

Turning a Mistake into a Marketing Opportunity! 900 600 Kari Switala

We are all human, right and we know that we are capable of making mistakes. Why is it then, knowing that we’re human and we make mistakes that we are so hesitant to address those mistakes and instead try and sweep them under the rug or avoid them completely? Here’s how I took a mistake and turned it into a marketing opportunity!

When I was the Marketing Director for an accounting/payroll firm I had the opportunity to put together a marketing/sales campaign for a national franchise. The campaign was composed of 5 steps, with the final step being a phone call to the prospect. Each of the steps were well thought out and quite outside-the-box, especially for an accounting/payroll firm (which is a whole other story). The campaign was running well. I completed step #4 and put together the final mailing which would be the last step in the campaign.

I was very excited to drop off that final mailing at the post office and start calling those prospects. You can imagine my horror when a few of the pieces came back with “postage due” stamped in red, on the front of the envelope. I quickly  called the post office (I don’t think my fingers have ever dialed so fast) and spoke with the manager, thinking this must have just happened to a couple of them (an optimist to a fault). Wrong again, the post office sent the final mailing piece to all of my prospects as “postage due!” The funny thing or not so funny thing as it turns out is that the post office weighed the piece for me and gave me the postage amount to put on the pieces. Unfortunately, there was an error on their part, but the envelopes were in the mail and there was nothing I could do about it.

Knowing I was in a pickle and that this mistake might have very well compromised the whole campaign, I thought long and hard about how to handle this mistake. I could certainly follow-up with the prospects the following week and pretend I had no idea what they were talking about OR I could blame it on the post office OR I could simply be upfront. I chose the latter, but before I made those calls I figured out how to turn this into a marketing opportunity.

I knew the postage due amount was roughly 30cents so I went to the bank and got 100 crisp $1 bills. I found a funny cartoon about working with the post office and included it in a letter I drafted explaining the situation and apologizing for any inconvenience. I also took the opportunity to simply state that the post office and I had a misunderstanding and we wanted to make it right, by sending them $1 to reimburse for the postage due. Some of you might be thinking at this point that this action must have crushed my campaign. Well let me tell you the results were actually the opposite. When I made the follow-up calls the following week, I apologized again and asked if they received the $1 bill. It was a great conversation starter and generated a lot of laughs and I learned some new post office jokes too.  I also received many compliments for how I handled the situation, many of the prospects remarked on how refreshing it was. All in all, I decided that this was the BEST thing that happened to this marketing campaign!

When it comes to making a mistake. Take a moment to reflect on it and how you can handle it. You never know…your outside-the-box solution might be your BEST marketing strategy yet!

Kari Switala — Magnetik Marketing Solutions