Signs Your Email Program Is Behind The Curve

Email marketing's high return on investment often breeds complacency -- and is often pointed to as both a blessing and curse. After all, why invest more in analytics, segmentation, and testing when the profits are already rolling in quite nicely?


Meanwhile, some companies realize that there's much more to be had from their email programs. They recognize the effect that a strong email program can have on other channels and on their brand reputation. They make smart investments in new capabilities and are constantly optimizing their processes, messaging and email designs. They're way ahead of the curve, leaving complacent competitors in the dust.

Here are a few signs that despite "good" results, your email program is getting lapped:

1. You rarely, if ever, A/B test anything.Why sweat the details? Different subject lines, calls-to-action, messaging, layout and send times can sometimes boost the performance of an email by double digits, while uncovering tactics that you can operationalize and build upon further. To me, a culture of testing is the surest sign that your email results are market-leading.



2. You don't review performance metrics.Money keeps coming in, so why bother with analyzing open, click, unsubscribe and complaint rates? If you're flying blind, you have little hope of making improvements to your program.

3. You don't segment.All of our subscribers are interested in everything we offer. Unless you only sell one or two products, this is surely not true. Mining past purchases and click behavior in your emails and on your Web site, plus asking subscribers for their preferences, will reveal lots of opportunities to send the right offers to the right subscribers. One-size-fits-all programs are losing their effectiveness as email volume rises and consumers gravitate toward email programs that respect their time. People know that they can just Google discount codes when they want them. They don't need to sign up for your emails to get broadcast discount codes and other non-targeted, non-individualized content.

4. Transactional messages are the only triggered emails that you send.We don't have to send other triggered messages to be successful. Lifecycle messaging such as welcome, birthday, anniversary, browse, and shopping cart abandonment emails deliver revenue per email that's multifold what's generated by broadcast emails. Plus, trigger email programs tend to return the money you invest in them within a matter of months and don't require much upkeep thereafter. 

5. You haven't updated your sign-up form, opt-in confirmation page or any other such pages since launching them.They work pretty well for us, so we're focused on other things. These pages are not fire-and-forget. Logos change, brand messaging changes, email program benefits change. These elements should be reviewed annually, at a minimum.

6. You don't make it easy for customers to sign up for your emails.Our Web site department is hard to work with and won't give us space for a sign-up link on our homepage or anywhere else. If customers can't easily opt in, your list growth will be perpetually stunted. Weak organic growth may also drive you to try to acquire subscribers through riskier means, jeopardizing your sender reputation.      

7. You're totally preoccupied with the day-to-day of getting emails out the door.We've hired strategic consultants before, but we never have time to implement any big changes. If you're mired in the trenches of email production and not devoting a substantial chunk of your hours to strategic initiatives, your program is basically static, making it easy for your competitors to pass you by. Look for ways to streamline production processes through better coordination with other departments, faster production tools, more flexible email templates and other means, so you can spend time building the future, not just your next email.

It's my hope that 2010 is the year that CMOs and CEOs wake up to the massive investment gap in their email program. In the not-too-distant future, they may find that gap has grown so large that they're unable to close it.

2 comments about "Signs Your Email Program Is Behind The Curve".
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  1. Lisa Foote from MixMobi, January 19, 2010 at 12:39 p.m.

    I would add:
    8. You haven't tested your emails on mobile.

    Great post!

  2. Liz Lynch from Demandware, January 19, 2010 at 1:54 p.m.

    Lisa, I agree-all great points.

    I would add #9-You don't make it easy to unsubscribe.
    It's all about consumer control. If you make it hard to unsubscribe, they are likely to just use the spam button, and no one wants that.

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