As I'm writing here in Chicago, it's -40 degrees with the wind chill. Schools are closed. My wife's law firm announced with a 4 a.m. robo-call that it would also be closed today. And yet it's now 3:45 in the afternoon, and I just watched the mailman pass by as he completed his appointed rounds. That is hard core.
If email wasn't faster, cheaper, and more effective, we might have a real fight on our hands with the likes of the USPS version of "Ice Road Truckers."
Recognizing that we have to continuously improve our efforts and our ROI, the dawn of the new year means it's time for you to evaluate your email marketing program and make some plans regarding how you will improve the ROI of you program in 2014. So here are six promises you should make to yourself for the rest of the year.
Improve your segmentation and targeting
Too many email marketers continue to rely on the old standbys of using just demographic and geographic data in their segmentation and targeting. You know who else does that? The folks using that freezing postman to deliver the mail. Email marketers have a wide range of options when segmenting their customer lists -- simple things like recency of purchase, prior email interaction, and customer profitability. If you haven't started doing this yet, 2014 seems like a good time to get going.
Centralize you customer data
If you haven't started sharing data across channels like email, display, social, and mobile, you are falling behind the curve. People like me have ranted about the persistence of data silos for years, and yet they still exist in companies large and small -- despite the fact that where companies have done this, marketing ROI always improves. Always. There aren't too many sure things in life -- the delivery of your mail through rain, sleet, and the gloom of night is one of those things. The benefits of centralizing your customer data is another.
Improve your response attribution -- even if just a little
If you have a loyalty program and you aren't yet tracking on-site and offline purchases back to email campaigns, then you are missing a huge opportunity to start learning about the impact of your campaigns on transactions -- if they happen, when they happen, and where they happen. Granted, attribution is more difficult when the transaction isn't so easy to match to an email address, but you don't have that excuse with the members of your loyalty program. And while the main focus of your loyalty program is just that -- customer loyalty -- you can also leverage it to make you smarter regarding your email marketing.
Increase your automated and triggered emails
Purchase and shipping confirmations are widely used today. They are ubiquitous. But there are many more ways that one-to-one emails can be deployed to your customers based on actions taken other than a purchase. Website browsing, call center interactions, email sign-up, birthdays and holidays -- there are literally hundreds of events or actions you could use to send emails to your subscribers. These types of emails tend to have higher open and click rates. That's not surprising. What is surprising is that more marketers aren't expanding their efforts in this area.
Address your human resources needs
The biggest barrier to improving the performance of many email marketing programs is the lack of specific expertise around analytics, multichannel marketing, and testing (to name a few of the big ones). Part of the problem is that as soon as someone on your team gets good at email marketing, that person gets promoted and moved into another channel. There are two ways you can address this -- either by adding headcount to your internal team or sourcing it through your ESP partner. If you choose to go the ESP route, you'll need to be sure your ESP actually has these people on staff. Most of the enterprise ESPs can handle these duties on your behalf. Not all of the remaining ESPs can provide people with expertise in these areas.
Stop settling for a vendor relationship that's "good enough"
Very few people get married with the idea that divorce will follow. And very few marketers onboard a new ESP with the idea that another RFP will follow. Why? Because RFPs are painful -- they are a distraction, they drag on for months, and the benefits are often vague or minimal. But there's a reason RFPs are so painful -- because they are worth it!
I'm not suggesting that you conduct an RFP every two or three years (though your procurement team might have its own ideas). But if you've been with your existing vendor for much longer than that, you might not be aware of platform advances made by other ESPs. ESP relationships are like teeing off in golf: The shot might "feel good," but that doesn't mean it isn't going to hook left into the woods. The same with your current ESP relationship. "Feeling good" shouldn't count for everything.
So there you have it. Six promises you should make yourself as you begin 2014. Tackling any one of the things on this list will bring you immediate results. All six will take your program to a whole new level. And that would make for a really good 2014!
Chris Marriott is the vice president of services and principal consultant at The Relevancy Group.
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