I’m Sorry I Made a Mistake and I Need to Explain

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The title of today’s post was the subject line to an email I sent several months ago after an honest, yet important, mistake.

At the time a number of my readers suggested that I write about the entire affair as a bit of a case study, but I wanted to give it some time in an effort to also give it some perspective. (I do it share below)

Over the last few days I’ve witnessed some highly public stumbles and they’ve reminded me that there’s a right way and wrong way to handle adversity.

The real time publishing world of email and Twitter make it so much easier to make a mistake and so much easier for the world at large to amplify it and draw near to observe how you respond.

I’ve always contended that mistakes are a part of life, it’s how you handle them and what you learn from them that tell the true measure of success.

First, the wrong way to handle mistakes

Few things annoy and infuriate more than lack of ownership. In a recent very public case  a company failed to pay attention to the horrific nature of a trending hashtag and used its popularity only as way to promote. The mistake was enormous and careless. The initial response was to push the blame off on a vendor and this only served to fan the flames of outrage.

One of the keys to quick recovery from a misstep is taking immediate responsibility, saying I’m sorry and going to work on demonstrating why it won’t happen again. People may still be upset, but they will start to move forward.

What makes recovery from an obvious blunder hard for many is that it also requires a history of not making mistakes. When people can point to a total body of work that demonstrates care for truly serving the needs of a market, they can look past or even ignore when you veer of course.

It’s a lot like a bank account. If you make frequent deposits, you’ll have a balance from which to make the occasional withdrawal.

In fact, many mistakes come at the hands of acting in self-serving ways rather than acting on behalf of those you serve. When you constantly consider the best interest of your customers, you’ll have the compass that keeps you out of frequent errors in judgment and allows you to recover more easily when the inevitable occurs.

And now my little case study

First off, know that sharing this isn’t that easy and I do it because I think there is learning to be had.

Over this past Memorial Weekend in the United States I decided to have a product sale and wrapped my email announcing it in fond memories of my youth. In my household Memorial Weekend was the official start of summer and included a huge gathering of family and friends to revel in a day of playing softball, volleyball and basketball between bouts of eating.

Here’s the original email:

I love Memorial Day and because of that I’m giving you a chance to grab our signature business-building program at 50% off, but only until Monday at midnight! Click here to take advantage of this offer.

But first, here’s why I love Memorial Day.

When I was growing up Memorial Day was the weekend where my parents would go to Sears or JC Penny and get us new shorts, shoes, baseball mitts and whatever else it was going to take to get us through the summer.

It was the official start of summer, but for a kid with nine siblings, it was a lot like Christmas. I always remember the sale flyers and catalogs that would come to the house during the weeks leading up to Memorial Day.

It’s a great holiday for small business owners too because it’s a great time to promote the kick off of summer and all the fun and changing needs that come with that.

When I was growing up Memorial Day was also the biggest party of the year for my family. We lived in a farm community with lots of land and we would invite hundreds of people to come eat chicken and watermelon and play softball, basketball, soccer and horseshoes until we dropped.

The entire weekend was one great big celebration.

So, for this entire weekend I want to celebrate all the brave, hardworking, loyal, innovative and creative small business owners out there by running a 50% off the Duct Tape Marketing System Sale that starts right now until Monday at midnight in the Central Time Zone.

I’ve never offered this price for Duct Tape System, complete with 13 lessons including online videos, audios, workbooks, forms and examples and I probably never will again!

Take advantage of this Memorial Day Sale today and grab a little time to yourself this weekend to dig in and plan your new marketing strategy and tactical action plan to grow your business.

Click here to purchase the Duct Tape System for 50% off.

In addition to the entire system you’ll also get:
• 30 days of email support
• Monthly Q&A calls with me
• 30 minute consulting session
• Full money back guarantee (even during the sale)
• Learn more about the Duct Tape System here

I’ve worked with small business owners for many years now and I love seeing what they can do once they understand the power of a marketing system.

Go check out the details and get on your way to ramping up your sales and taking control of your marketing – at ½ price until Monday night!

Have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

John Jantsch
Duct Tape Marketing

Shortly after I sent this email out a couple responses trickled back in suggesting that I had made a mistake by ignoring the true meaning of this holiday as a somber memorial to those who had given their lives in service of our country.

In the online world readers will frequently express their opinions so I don’t react to every bit of feedback, but this one bothered me. After I received six or seven I felt horrible. Obviously, I had made a mistake and I wanted to acknowledge what many more must have been feeling and apologize to any that had taken offense to my omission.

This email was hard to send, as I noted in the text, because it did serve to highlight the mistake and even infuriated a handful more. My opt outs for this day were the highest I had ever experienced, but something almost magical started to occur as well.

Here’s the follow-up email:

I sent out an email earlier today announcing a Memorial Day sale, but I made a significant mistake unintentionally.

I hesitate to send a follow-up message like this because in a way it simply highlights the mistake and perhaps irritates more readers.

The mistake was not a broken link or typo but one of intention.

Memorial Weekend is obviously a time set aside in the US to remember those that have fallen in service of our country. The fact is, that aspect of the Holiday has not directly touched my family and the Holiday has always had more of a celebration aspect to it for me.

In my email I focused on that aspect in an attempt to have a light and fun tone for what I thought was a great offer.

I did not make any mention of the real purpose of this Holiday and for that I was wrong and simply mistaken. I apologize to anyone that I offended as I know this Holiday for many is very much a sacred time of remembrance.

I hope those of you that have subscribed to my newsletter or read my blog for any amount of time will consider the total body of my work and passion for helping small business and see my last email for what it was – an unthoughtful oversight.

Thanks for listening.


PS – I have a niece and nephew returning home from Afghanistan this weekend and do intend to celebrate their safe return!

By the time the day was over I received over 300 emails from readers thanking me for taking such quick action, forgiving any misstep based on years of giving and many humbling responses of pure support.

Here are a few snippets:

Your explanation, which serves as a reminder to all of us about the true meaning of Memorial day, is a genuine touch of class. I admire you all the more now.
Susan E

Vancouver, WA

You did the right thing to say you are sorry. The honesty of your email is very refreshing. The celebration of our lost loved ones is important too. I lost my beloved brother in The Vietnam War. He would have been 76 on June 6th. Thank you for your help.
Lynne S
Richardson TX


Anyone who knows you, and especially those of us combat veterans that know you, would never think you were being unthoughtful.


I have no idea what would have happened had I not sent the second email, but I think the key to handling mistakes comes not from considering what will or won’t happen, but considering how to repair or rebuild the trust essential to a healthy relationship – whether that’s with one person or an army of readers.

All in all this mistake served as a great teaching moment for me and I share it only with the notion that it serve as such for others.

Key learnings:

  • Keep your customers best interest in mind in all decisions
  • When you make a mistake own it and apologize authentically
  • Know that people can look past mistakes, but only if ask them to
  • Have faith in your tribe, they’ll come to your support if you’ve built trust
  • Mistakes can have a tremendously positive outcome when you take the right action

One final thought and I went back and forth as whether I should put this out there due to the fact that some will misinterpret, but I think it’s a key learning that has to be part of this story.

That weekend sale turned out the be by far the single greatest product sale I’ve ever experienced in ten years of selling products and services online. I believe the bit of controversy and reaction from the community to the response served to greatly highlight what was already a very good promotion.

Now, I’m not suggesting for one minute that any part of a promotion could involve a calculated mistake. The only reason I share this is to suggest that you shouldn’t fear owning up to a mistake and sincerely going to work on repairing any damage without consideration of time or cost, because sometimes the way you handle a mistake or fix a problem can make clients more loyal than simple day to day satisfaction.


Mistakes happen

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