Tips for Email Marketing Success On Any Given Sunday

For those of you who don't know me (which is most of you), I am from Cincinnati, and as a result, I am a Bengals fan.  Being a Bengals fan is not easy. Imagine trying to run an effective email marketing program without a customer database, and you will begin to feel something close to the frustration of Cincinnati Bengals football fans.  Unfortunately, I dragged my son into my obsession; he is 9, from Chicago, and loves the Bengals, poor kid!  Anyway, this past Sunday made up for everything. 

My family and I flew into Cincinnati for the Bears-Bengals game, and Cincinnati scored touchdowns on its first 4 possessions, taking a quick 28-0 lead.  Before the day was over they had rushed for more than 200 yards, thrown 5 touchdown passes and crushed the Bears 45-10.  What a game to be my son's first live Bengals game.  In fact, the game was so inspirational, I was able to draw comparisons between football and email marketing!  As you look at your email marketing program over the next few days, consider how you are filling your "positions" to drive maximum email effectiveness.



The Quarterback, YOU!

In football the quarterback is the field general, sizing up defenses, calling the audible and in general making sure that the offense is executing and moving the ball towards the end zone.  Most successful football teams have what they call "franchise quarterbacks," guys the team has invested millions in to lead them to championships.  If you are running your organization's email program, are you and your company investing in your skills to make sure you are the franchise quarterback? 

Running an effective email program requires expertise in delivery, customer engagement, email strategy, social media, mobile marketing, database management, process automation and a host of other disciplines.  Be sure you are attending events on subjects like these that affect the email space.  The Email Insider Summit is coming up in Park City, Utah, and is an excellent event for sophisticated email marketers.  WOMMA is in November in Vegas and should provide great insight into how word of mouth marketing is impacting online retention and acquisition programs.  Email service providers are constantly hosting webinars sharing the latest case studies and best practices from the most successful companies in our field.  Remember, franchise quarterbacks never stop practicing, and  never miss training camp. As an owner of your company's email marketing strategy, you cannot take a break, either. You are the play caller. All positions look to you for guidance -- are you up to the task? 

The Offense, Innovation

As the saying goes in the NFL, "Any Given Sunday."  Any team can win, anytime, no matter how great the opponent.  In the email space innovation is the great equalizer, creating a level playing field for large and small brands.  As email marketers, your competitors are hard at work trying to take mind share away from your brand and steer it towards theirs.  You need to invest in innovative ways to drive relevance, increased reach and automation into your email programs. Innovation in email marketing is happening in a number of areas all around us. 

Social media has been integrated effectively in a number of programs, enabling email marketers to extend program reach, engaging new customers and influencer purchase decisions. In fact, we are seeing social channels add an acquisition element to email marketing that does not introduce risks to a mailer's reputation nor affect delivery performance.  Rich media has found a home with reliable delivery at AOL via Goodmail's new video token capability.  Mobile, while still commanding a small part of the corporate marketing budget, seems to be driving a significant amount of buzz. 

Meanwhile, Omniture, Coremetrics, BazzarVoice and others are making it easier for marketers to automate communications processes and content creation, creating a seamless experience between the corporate Web, ecommerce sites and email.  As the quarterback for your email program, innovation needs to be top of mind or you risk loosing subscribers and customers to the competition. 

The Defense, the Database

The best quarterback in the world is destined to fail if he is missing possibly the most critical group of guys in football, the defense.  They ensure that the offense is set up to win, that they come on the field with solid field position, and that the opponent never builds an insurmountable lead.   The defense in our business is the database. 

The attributes that your company collects on each of your customers (and your access to that data) is the key to any meaningful email program.  Exceptional email marketers understand the profile of their best customers and apply that knowledge to drive content within email programs.  Since customer attributes change frequently, updates are automatically applied to the data they leverage for email, allowing automation to be leveraged within communication streams.  More importantly, the best email programs often leverage data inputs from multiple sources. recently shared programs that leveraged CRM data, web analytics data and automation to implement an incredibly effective cart abandonment program.  There is no way the quarterback at FootSmart could have put this together without access to data.  Data management and access remains a challenge for many email marketing field generals.  I would take a play from the book of many NFL quarterbacks on this one.  Find the team responsible for database management and access at your company and take them all out to dinner. The investment will pay off, trust me.

As you head onto the email marketing gridiron, make sure to:

  • Continue to invest in yourself; you are the franchise quarterback
  • Focus your organization on innovation.
  • Get your team access to the data that drives email relevance.

Do these things and you will kick your competition's "you-know-what" all over the field!

2 comments about "Tips for Email Marketing Success On Any Given Sunday".
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  1. Chris Munz from Fishbowl, Inc., October 29, 2009 at 10:39 a.m.


    I think you hit the nail on the head in reference to an email marketers defense is the database. The information that marketers have on their members allows for them to setup a strategic game plan around what they know about them. One thing that I think marketers need to think about is that they should always be evaluating what is being collected and is it useful to their email program. A static database becomes old and stale to members, and needs to be refreshed to gain more insight.

  2. Michelle Oglesby, October 29, 2009 at 4:12 p.m.

    Love the analogy and the advice is very sound. Congrats on the Bengals win.

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