Make 2018 a great year for your email program
With the new year underway, we’re seeing new budgets, new goals and new challenges. It brings both a temporal reset and a financial reset, which makes it a great time to take stock of what you have and prioritize what needs to get done.
Similar to a New Year’s resolution, often the answers are simple — the challenge is sticking with them. Here is my view on the most important items for your email program.
Our business-as usual programs tend to have been built over years. When you constantly add to a program, what was already there often remains in place.
It’s wise to assess the situation periodically and clear out the clutter, thus freeing up some time to focus on more important items.
- Ad hoc/recurring emails: Are there emails that don’t generate the outcome or revenue that you expect? Are you sending them just because you have to? Cut them. If you can’t do so unilaterally, work with the business stakeholder to make better business decisions about the emails. That can mean changing segmentation, doing more complete measurement, or even doing a creative overhaul. Shining the light on the facts using data usually gets people where they need to be.
- Automations: Look at your automations and confirm they are working, are what you want and are on brand. For some, automations just run, and nobody looks at them on a regular basis. Examining them from time to time helps you make decisions about what to keep, what to stop and what to upgrade.
- Reports: Do you get a lot of Excel-based reports via email? Is data in separate systems, such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, your ESP (email service provider) or somewhere else? If so, now is a great time to pick a source of truth, design a report or two that will help you make decisions and move on. Often, there are people who are compiling reports, spending several hours doing so, and stakeholders don’t really use them.
Look at the user experience of your email program
Your program always needs new people, and their experience should be evaluated and improved.
- How do people get on the email list? What are the top sources and why?
- What is that experience like? How fast does the confirmation email come? What does it say, and how does it look? How quickly do people get into the regular email cadence?
- What is the signup rate from your website? Could it be better with some minor changes?
The point is that companies spend a lot of money on email acquisition, and opportunities are likely right in front of them on the website to improve organic email address acquisition.
Once you have a person on your list, presumably you are contacting them because you want that person to take an action — sign up for something, make a purchase or visit an article.
What is that experience? How is it on mobile vs. desktop? Are you able to send them to a more appropriate landing page to increase conversions? Do your site/cart abandonment programs work the way you want?
This doesn’t have to take a lot of time, nor does it have to be done by anyone senior. The point is that it needs to be done. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and see what they see, so you can make it better for them.
Update your style
Creative can get tired over time, especially if you’ve embraced templating. Seek to update your emails with an improved style for your brand.
Test results, of course, but do so over time, as a single test may not be enough to get a good read. If the new look works, great. If not, keep trying. Just make sure someone who understands email designs it.
Look hard at the process
Like complex email programs that grow over time, the process to define them, build them and get them out the door can be bloated. Given how many groups need to weigh in and contribute to an email program, this complexity is no surprise.
And add to that complexity the new quality assurance (QA), safeguards and more that have been added to the process because of issues that have occurred in the past. All of this can add time and cost.
I’ve seen great success with marketers who conduct a “LEAN” (lightweight, encrypted, AdChoices-supported and non-invasive) working session with all of the stakeholders in a process, with the goal of reducing effort and improving quality. The stakeholders are all the people involved in a campaign: business stakeholders, marketing, production, creative, legal, database, campaign selection, analytics and so on.
Set aside at least two days with this group to work through it. Next, you’ll need to involve the owners of different tracks for follow-up work.
All of the stakeholders need to be in the room together, and there should be one leader who knows the process. You also will need a scribe.
On the first day, map out the entire process, flow-chart style, from ideation to reporting. Who does what? How long does it take in both effort and duration? Is there a QA step, and is anything ever found in that QA step? At the end, all stakeholders will have gained two things:
- A clear picture of the current state (it’s a great visual).
- An understanding of all the parts of the program. In large companies, many are surprised at how much goes into getting an email out the door.
On day two, you’re going to map out what the process should look like. After people have seen the end-to-end process, they no doubt have ideas on how to make it better or how they can contribute more.
- How the campaign selection team can add some fields to improve reporting.
- How intake can be improved through providing an additional piece of information.
- How creative can learn nuances of email coding constraints, so their designs are easier to code but still generate the impact that is desired.
- How a tagging portal can be created to ensure consistent tagging that eliminates hand-coding and rework in reporting.
Mapping it out is great, but a map doesn’t change anything. Now, you have to implement that process. The action items coming out of day two will lend themselves to workstreams — usually aligned to the department that has the greatest impact on the workstream. Leads need to be assigned for each workstream, and the streams need to be worked and reported on regularly.
We have 11 months to hit our goals. Doing more of the same will likely not get you there unless you’re benefiting from an ever-rising tide of interest in your brand/product/service.
More and more, I see companies — retailers especially — maxed out on their email program. They already send a lot, and often, so more sends isn’t the answer. We must look at what we have, cut what we don’t need and invest time in new activities and programs that will help us grow.