Tunneling Out From An Email Emergency

I love the snow. It doesn't come down all the time and whenever it does, I meet it with anticipation and delight. Once in a while it's a bit of an interruption, but that's easily forgiven since it's so darnn entertaining once it's got my attention. Like this snow coming down now - I knew it was coming, and was even wishing for a good snowy winter a few months ago. This is exactly what I wanted.

Um, but this is now a lot of snow. Yeah it's still pretty and fun and everything, but I can't see my mailbox anymore. Or my minivan, for that matter. Did the lights just flicker? What do they mean, "roads won't be plowed for at least 72 hours"? I have to walk how far in 28" of snow to get to the grocery store? Do we have another shovel? No, another another shovel. I already broke that one. Stupid snow. If I never see it again I'll still hold a grudge. Unsubscribe, snow.



Here at headquarters in Bethesda, Md., we're tunneling out from the Blizzard of 2010, a paralyzing storm which dumped about 2.5 feet of snow across the Mid-Atlantic region. Schools, businesses, government offices, roads, even convenience stores are all closed, and probably will be for another couple of days. It's a full-scale emergency, whose only redeeming quality is the email marketing metaphor it affords.

We're all going to face email emergencies of our own. Getting through them, and winning back subscribers afterwards, will be part of our jobs in 2010. Is your emergency response plan ready?

1. Know when to declare a state of emergency. 2.5 feet of snow makes the decision easy. But what metrics are you watching for signs of trouble? Track your unsubscribe rate against your open rate to measure engagement, annoyance and malaise. Keep a monthly count of what percentage of your subscribers haven't clicked on a message in the past three months. Measure new subscribers against attrition to see the rate by which your list is growing or shrinking. Incorporate deliverability and open rate into your emergency watchdog metrics as well, depending on your business objectives and email strategy. The key is to see the storm coming before you're buried and immobile.

2. Pace yourself - digging out is a big job. If your driveway is 50' long, a furious effort beginning at the garage door won't be sustainable, and will leave the job unfinished. Keep this in mind as you build a win-back strategy. You won't get everybody all at once, or with the same message or offer. If subscribers are less responsive to email, better to move them to other channels (social, SMS, even direct mail or fax) where they'll at least remain connected to the organization. Take the long view of your relationship with subscribers. Over time, you can lure them back to email if that's your preferred channel from a trackable ROI perspective.

3. Don't use the biggest shovel you can wield. Sure, moving snow 2 cubic feet at a time can make the job go faster, but it's also more likely to result in an injury. If you're using promotions as part of a win-back strategy, deeper discounts will certainly move the needle. But beware the slippery slope of conditioning your subscribers to expect and wait for deep price drops. An offer that loses money as part of a long-term profit strategy is acceptable. But customers who lose you money with each order aren't worth keeping.

4. Be prepared in advance. The only way to make it through any emergency is to know it's coming and to have a plan. Take some time now to put together a win-back or other emergency communications management program so that when the time comes -- and it will -- you can remain confident and proactive.

4 comments about "Tunneling Out From An Email Emergency".
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  1. Roger Wilson from The Conference Department, Inc., February 10, 2010 at 10:10 a.m.

    When you are losing traction a gentle subtle touch on the throttle and staying off the brakes can keep you on track.

  2. Mike May from Huge, February 10, 2010 at 10:12 a.m.

    Exactly, as long as you keep the wheels pointed straight ahead. Changing direction when you're stuck makes it hard to build up any momentum.

  3. Cynthia Edwards from Razorfish, February 10, 2010 at 11:32 a.m.

    "Unsubscribe, snow." - Love it!

  4. Janet Roberts from Content by Janet Roberts, February 10, 2010 at 11:50 a.m.

    Checking in from Wisconsin, where we know from snow:

    5. Get a snowblower to do the heavy work. Automation makes it easier to plow down your driveway, dig through the big pile the snowplow dumps at the end of your driveway and manage your email program (list hygiene, generating automated welcome messages or sending triggered messages).

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