Email is an increasingly specialized form of marketing -- now treat it as such.
Hopefully, you now see email marketing as part of a bigger digital beast. But wait, it's really its own animal. Or is it?
The email marketing landscape seems to change just as fast as email offers can pile up in your inbox. How do you keep up with these changing best practices, consumer preferences, CAN-SPAM provisions, and the 82 daily tips you can find from helpful writers, bloggers, and executives?
This speaks to a larger organizational issue for most companies in terms of where email programs and teams live within the organization. We can't expect email to succeed in the long term when most of us can't properly address what role email plays in the big picture, or what email wants to be when it grows up. All good email marketers have to keep their eyes on the ball, which can be hard if you are given a minuscule budget, insufficient team, and vague goals. So how do you redefine your email marketing role and program? Start here:
- Create a mission statement and strategic brief for your vision of your email marketing program.
- Create a set of goals and a scorecard for your email marketing success measurements.
- Document what you do on a day-to-day basis and at a broader strategic level.
- Share this information with your broader organization and related stakeholders.
- Draw up what you would need (in terms of budget, resources, partners, and anything else under the sun) to accomplish your goals and the company's goals, assuming there were no barriers in these areas.
- Revaluate your partners based on where you are, where you want to be, and where you need to be.
- Set up debriefing meetings to continually update others on how your email program is doing in terms of success.
- Define success in business terms -- not clicks, opens, and bounces.
Where I want email marketing to go is a passionate topic for me, and I have a lot of opinions -- enough that I could write a book on the topic. (Oh, wait, I did.)
Ask yourself a few more questions with regard to your email program: Does email marketing really still deserve a miniscule percentage of your overall marketing budget in this economic crunch? If email marketing is the workhorse of your marketing platforms and generating much of the revenue, do you penalize it because of its high ROI? Why not devote more to it and generate more sales, get more leads, and speak directly with your most attractive audience?
Also, think about where the majority of your budget goes: Is it in sending the email or in making the campaign better? Does most of your email marketing budget go directly to the technology infrastructure or to areas that can be optimized to improve the results and stretch your dollar and impact? If, for example, more than half of your email marketing budget goes to your ESP, you are limiting the results of what you can do with the hand you have been dealt. Most ESPs have great distribution platforms but limited services and abilities to improve your ROI. In fact, they make their money on volume, so you probably won't be told you are sending too many emails even if you helped achieve the new email volume record over the 2008 holidays. (This is a dubious accomplishment, in case you were wondering.)
So take your budget to where you can make an impact and raise the level of your specialized program through added strategic expertise. Testing, new creative, strategic assessments, and optimizing other areas of your program (like transactional emails) deserve more of your budget than the commodity-driven send button.
Every January, I return from the holidays to find hope, inspiration, and great people with excellent ideas -- all within this little email marketing community in which we live and work. We need to raise it up a notch, and now is our opportunity. If anything, test some of these ideas (or your own creative solutions). The email marketing world is far from perfect, but we can advance it one message at a time with the right approach.
G. Simms Jenkins is founder and CEO of BrightWave Marketing.