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How to jumpstart a stagnant email program

How to jumpstart a stagnant email program Spencer Kollas

This time of year is always one that brings out a combination of excitement and sadness for me. See, it is this time of year that signifies the end of summer and the beginning of school for the kids. While my kids (ages 10 and 8) are excited about their new classes, new teachers, and learning all there is to learn this year, they are still sad to see summer come to an end -- which for them means no more waterskiing, sleeping in late, and just plain hanging out.

As usual you are probably thinking to yourself -- what does this have to do with digital marketing? Well, too often in the digital marketing world we don't take the time to renew programs and "move them to the next grade." While many of your current programs are probably performing very well (if they weren't, you would have hopefully already made the necessary changes to increase your ROI on them), are they performing as well as they possibly could be? Have you reviewed what you are currently sending out in the last six to 12 months to see if there is anything that might have changed over the last year within the industry that might have somehow affected your campaign effectiveness?

So what are you waiting for? Most companies are starting to plan out their holiday campaign schedule and special offers in order to get the most out of the season. But while you are putting these plans together, are you simply rehashing the same programs and offers that you have used for the last few years? Is it time to give your holiday push a refresh and get it out of elementary school and at least into middle school? What steps can you, as a digital marketing expert, take to improve your holiday campaigns (and all campaigns for that matter) now?

Like many schools and teachers, you must work backward and figure out your criteria for success and then determine how you are going to get there. Here are some steps that will move your holiday program (or any campaign) up to the "next grade."

Figure out your grading system
Determine the grading scale against which you are going to test your campaigns and make sure everyone agrees on what is considered a "passing" grade that will allow you to move on to the next test.

Without knowing what kind of grading scale you are working with, it's highly likely that you will test something, it will look good compared to the other tests, but the change will ultimately have little effect on overall campaign ROI. Ensuring that this scale is understood by everyone involved will allow the team to focus on the same thing.

Review the results of your past campaigns and tests
What have you tested in the past, and what did you learn? Many times marketers will perform a test and simply focus on the winner rather than gathering information about the loser and understanding what learnings might be possible.

Take, for example, a client I worked with that ran an A/B split test for the first 20 percent of the mailing, and the winner was sent out to the remaining 80 percent. While this makes perfect sense, this client didn't go back into the result to analyze why the winner actually won, or by how much. On this particular test, the winner won by a 4 percent margin (52 percent to 48 percent). While the one campaign did perform better, it seems that there were many good things about the losing campaign that might be worth incorporating into future campaigns.

Create a syllabus
Before you can look to improve your campaign effectiveness, you need to determine how you are going to get there. What items are you going to be testing, what learnings do you expect to review, and what types of presentations are you going to have to make to get others on board?

Assign homework
While no one likes to get homework assignments, they are important to ensuring the success of your programs. You can't do everything on your own, so you have to gather a team of as many folks as possible and create a plan on how to attack a given project from all sides. Once you have your team, make sure that you use each team members' strengths in order to accomplish your goal as quickly as possible.

Once you have taken these steps, your programs will naturally graduate to the "next grade" and you should start to see the increase in ROI.

Good luck and good sending.

Spencer Kollas is director of delivery services for StrongMail.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Spencer Kollas is a recognized industry leader in email deliverability and subscriber engagement. For more than a decade, Kollas has worked with the world’s foremost email marketers to help them connect with their customers and increase the...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Spencer Broome

2011, August 23

A grading system is a great idea. Setting standards from the beginning is always necessary.