If you've never experienced this, consider yourself lucky. I see it happen all the time. If this doesn't happen at your company, the following may not be as relevant, but it if it does, read on!
Here are three ways to make your marketing programs suck less -- by using the email channel effectively.
1. Suggest an offer test. Email is nothing if not a great channel to do some real testing. If you find yourself in a situation where the marketing organization is handing off a program to run in the email channel that may not be overly compelling for the audience, be proactive and suggest doing some level of testing on the actual offer itself (or even the positioning of the offer that is provided). Given your knowledge and understanding of how programs typically perform (if you don't know, you need to), you are the best resource to make these suggestions and observations.
I understand, however, that sometimes this is easier said than done. You may have legal departments that don't allow revision after it's been baked, lengthy creative processes that would significantly delay the launch of the program, or really stubborn folks that may not put much stock in your expertise . If that is the case, than you need to be creative in how you help them improve their email programs. Which leads us to number two...
2. Test the segmentation. Segmentation testing can be done at the email team level, without the marketer or business owner being any the wiser, so long as you send the email to the entire audience as requested. Here's what I mean. Typically, you will receive a request to distribute an email to a vast audience (many still seem to be in the quantity versus quality mentality, but that's another story for another day) where there are some obvious lines of delineation between sub-segments within that group. So why not test them out? We already know that there are going to be some who respond really well to the offer and others who do not, so put your money where your mouth is and give it a shot.
Create a few sub-segments based on criteria and information you have available -- previous click behavior, length of subscription, most recent order, loyalty program status, geography, whatever you have available that you think may impact performance -- and test it out. This will give you the opportunity to provide some valuable insight back to the organization for consideration the next time out. But sometimes you just need to...
3. Call a spade a spade. I think it was Tony Bombacino (formerly of Restaurants.com) who said it best during the Email Insider Summit: "There is no marketing cure for sucking at what you do." Sometimes you just have to call it like you see it. If the offer stinks, the product/partnership isn't right, or any other possible combination of things you see are wrong, then you need to pipe up. You need to constructively convey why you do not believe the email is going to work, hypothesize the results and provide some direction on what to do differently the next time around. Then you hit the send button and wait for your results. Sometimes you will be right -- and hopefully someone has listened for to your ideas for what to do next time -- and sometimes you will be wrong, which gives you an opportunity to learn more about your email-able audience and how they respond to various offers and content. Either way, the marketing organization as a whole needs to learn something from the effort; otherwise, it is moot.
So while it is true that email cannot fix a bad marketing program, if used right, it can certainly help you improve it for the efforts that come. Maybe email is just what the doctor ordered -- or maybe I should have another eggnog and call it a year!
Happy holidays to all, and have a festive New Year's!