Many people believe that decisions can be made in groups. I believe that groups can form a consensus, but one person must own the final decision. Email is essential to our businesses and lives and thrives in many departments of an organization -- think sales and marketing functions, customer service and fulfillment tools. Yet managing the email channel itself inside an organization is a process that's gotten increasingly complex. Governance is usually only managed at an opt-out level. I've seen so many organizations try to share governance, and while best practices can educate, they don't accomplish governance by any means.
So you have systems messages being triggered from your site -- e-commerce or customer service systems. You have call center managers sending email; you have the marketing team sending email through third-party delivery systems.
The industry is changing; it's running functional messages and marketing messages through separate domains, different IP addresses, and different systems. An organization's "reputation" for delivery will be much harder to manage if it's disparate in its delivery practice. And your own reputation will ultimately be rolled up to your domain, not individual IP addresses. Deliverability aside, you risk the customer experience by not governing communications in some form. Yet, few organizations today are equipped to manage this internally.
So, who needs to be making this decision? What delivery systems should you use? To what extent do you need deliverability experts to help? One person or group should own this, but so many groups have competing priorities that it's difficult to assign the task.
The industry talked about governance when CAN SPAM arose in 2004. But few took a hard look across their organizations and instituted contact governance.
So who owns the customers, and what is the voice of your organization? With so many departments and many different needs to communicate, who will make the decision on how many emails you receive?
I know one company that struggles with this. Staffers don't know how many emails their most valuable customers get, but they guess that the top 5% of their customers could get as many as 45 emails per month between compliance, fulfillment and marketing messages.
We must acknowledge that consumers are savvier than they used to be. We must also recognize that an organization has a responsibility to regulate the frequency and type of email communications sent. Otherwise, you'll create your own numbing effect and degrade the channel.
Here's another way of looking at it: suppose you give every team in your organization the phone number of your most valuable customer. The customer gets a call from a salesperson thanking him for an order. Two minutes later, he get a call to tell him his order was received, then a call the next day stating that the order was shipped. Simultaneously, he gets a call from a salesperson from another department trying to up-sell.
Is your head spinning? I think this demonstrates the importance of corporate governance. Just because email is considered a silent delivery vehicle doesn't mean that the same caution and governance shouldn't be applied.
I've used this analogy for years when talking about how convoluted communications can get when there isn't some control. Imagine the first word processor you had and the first document you produced. You probably tried every typographic treatment: colors, underlines, even strike-outs. Your first document probably looked like a ransom note.
I liken this to giving unlimited freedom to this channel. It is far too easy to lose your voice. Many organizations have put email muzzles on sales groups so they don't mass-communicate in a one-to-few fashion, but there is a trend. Many organizations find that 25% to 50% of their online advertising inventory sits in triggered messaging or system-driven communications. To optimize these with a common voice across a purchasing relationship is most often a scattered approach.
The best advice I can give you is to treat all email communications as advertising inventory. They have value just like banners on third-party sites, yet they can be much more contextual, relevant and targeted. By viewing all outbound communications as marketing inventory, you can have a more centralized view of maintaining your corporate "voice."