These "children" are divisions, salesmen, distributors, franchisees, etc., (which for the purposes of this article, I will refer to as field organizations) that send email campaigns with little control or input from the parent organization. While most of the email events are well-intentioned, the end results may often: misuse corporate brands or logos, contain typos or bad grammar, look sophomoric -- or worse, violate CAN-SPAM or other regulatory mandates.
Technology has made it easy for anyone to send out an email campaign. Some of these campaigns are sent from employees' Outlook accounts, others may use low-end Email Service Providers that may be well-suited for a local mom and pop retailer, but lack the ability to support a sophisticated organizational initiative.
If you are part of an organization that falls into any of the above categories how do you deal with the issue of these field organizations that may be running in different directions? How do you empower them to market while mitigating the collateral damage they can cause?
The starting place is to get a good understanding of what is truly happening in the field, and the best way to know is to ask. Let field organizations know your objective is not to shut them down, but to understand what is working, to facilitate implementation of best email practices across the organization, and perhaps even to provide some tools to make doing the job easier.
Second, you want to audit their list practices. In some cases, the lists field organizations have built are far superior to anything a corporate entity can do because of their proximity to the customer. In other cases, it could be a CAN-SPAM nightmare waiting to happen. This is especially true if they are operating without an effective opt-out process, or worse yet, with no opt-out process at all.
Next, determine if you can facilitate the email process. The key word here is facilitate, not control. If a field organization feels that you are trying to control them, they will start trying to figure out all the ways to work around you. However, if you make it easier for them to do something that they have already found is effective, you may find that you have a large fan base.
You can easily provide an email marketing toolkit with details of best practices, and/or an Intranet site for the field organizations to share experiences, content or ideas. You might provide suggested layouts for messages, detailing proper use of corporate branding, or corporately created articles that they can insert into their messages.
In order to provide the greatest support, you can provide the field organization with an integrated email solution. If you want to allow them to use an Email Service Provider, perhaps you can work out a corporate arrangement. Each ESP offers different features -- like giving organizations the ability to a "command and control center" where they can share content and designs with their field organizations. This capability provides the organization the ability to truly brand globally but e-market locally. It also allows the sponsoring organization the ability to monitor effectiveness via roll-up reports across the field organizations.
The key to success with a field program is knowing what it is up to, so that you can make sure your "children" are delivering an email message that is on-point, on-brand, and adds to your company's success.