Step 1: Admit that your program is headed down an undesirable and unmanageable path. Are response rates dropping? Do you have to pump more and more money into email acquisition just to keep revenue at its current level? If your days are still spent simply getting email out the door, it may be time to admit defeat. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of managing an email program and lose sight of the big picture. If you think there may be a problem, your subscribers already know there is one.
Step 2: Believe that your email program can be restored to sanity. Everyone believes their program could be better, but improving segmentation or customizing messages can sound daunting - though such tasks not need mean more work in the long run. Many companies improve relevance while cutting the day-to-day maintenance required to run their programs. Remember: "Work smarter, not harder."
Step 3: Make a decision to get help. We are often too close to our own programs. We need an external perspective. Consultants can provide that, pointing out holes in the current, or proposed, program that you wouldn't normally consider. Moreover, if organizational challenges are impeding progress, a good consultant will be able to play the "bad cop" role in proposing the new plan to stakeholders.
Step 4: Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of your program. This step involves a deep dive into the issues. Look in depth at every aspect of your program, starting with the value proposition and goals. What's working? Why? What isn't working? Why?
Step 5: Admit the exact nature of the ills of your email program. Now is the time to air it all out. Without defensive posturing, simply lay all the issues on the table and discuss them openly. Listen to the input others offer and seriously consider if their questions uncover holes in your analysis. If so, make the changes and move forward.
Step 6: Prepare to make the changes necessary. Transitioning from an existing program to a new one requires additional resources and long hours. In addition to keeping the existing program running, setting up a new program generally requires additional resources to create new content, integrate systems, set up and test messages, etc. Make sure you have the resources lined up to assist with these activities.
Step 7: Let go of any sacred cows. At this point, you will likely find that there are some things you are currently doing that simply aren't beneficial to the program, but continue to take time and energy. Commit to dropping these distractions and focusing on the things that impact your bottom line.
Step 8: Document your plan and get buy-in to implement it. You've already gathered all the input you need to create a strong plan and address the needs of your stakeholders. Now is the time to put it all down on paper and get the plan approved. Inevitably, there will be new things added to the wish list at this point. Go back through steps 4 through 7 if necessary to revise the plan. If you run into significant pushback, call on your "bad cop" to help.
Step 9: Implement the plan.
Step 10: Continue to take inventory of your program. When something goes awry, promptly address it. The heavy lifting is done and now it is time to watch this new program run like clockwork, right? Sorry. The good news is that you will be way ahead of where you were before, so these changes shouldn't be drastic. The goal is constant and never-ending improvement.
Step 11: Set regular time aside for self-education and brainstorming. One-to-one communications are moving quickly. Stay on top of the trends and continue trying new ideas as they present themselves.
Step 12: Go help someone else do the same thing. Once you have gone through the process yourself, offer to help someone else. By teaching them what you've learned, you are sure to learn even more.