Lessons From The Olympics

Like just about everyone else, I've been watching the Winter Olympics. I am amazed at what athletes can accomplish on skis, skates, luges, sleighs and snowboards. After the slalom qualifications, my knees and back hurt for days in sympathy.

Watching the Olympics has also given me a greater appreciation for all the coordination that has gone on behind the scenes to make these events a reality. The scope is mind-boggling. The infrastructure and facilities for the nine Olympic venues in the greater Vancouver area and in Whistler cost the city of Vancouver nearly $6 billion.

As I watched the drama unfold at the games, it occurred to me there are several lessons from Vancouver 2010 that can be applied to email marketing.

  • The design of the U.S. snowboarders' "denim and flannel" outfits really make a statement. The snowboarding pants are functional -- they keep athletes warm and dry -- yet sport a stylish, faux-ripped jeans look. Truly an American style. Likewise, email design needs to be functional and follow best practices, while also being pleasing to the eye. The most successful emails are the ones in which both form and function work well together.



  • Figure skating is perhaps the most beautiful sport. So beautiful, in fact, I forget it's a sport. However, when the athletes walk off the ice, they are out of breath and sweating. Just shows you how much effort goes into making routines look effortless. The same is true with email. Regardless how great an email looks, the constant hard work to ensure delivery will bring home the medal. This includes keeping your list clean by making sure you have a process to remove hard bounces, take care of soft bounces, and remove unsubscribes.

  • Vancouver has been unseasonably warm. As a result, Olympic athletes and spectators have been complaining about terrible conditions on the ski runs, the luge and just about every outdoor venue. This just proves the point that you can plan for glitches, but you can't predict everything that can go wrong. The same is true for your email campaign, which is why testing your campaign and making adjustments is so important. At the very minimum, you should test subject lines and split test to ensure your message is on-point.

  • Like the "flying tomato" Shaun White or the flamboyant skater Johnny Weir, everyone wants to stand out and be noticed. Email stands out when it has a good subject line that catches the recipient's attention. Subject lines are especially important for Web-based email clients like Gmail that often display only the sender and subject line. Include subject lines that will intrigue the recipient to open the email, but don't mislead the recipient or your reputation will suffer.

  • If you want to win, set an expectation and live up to it. Likewise, set expectations with your email recipients by asking what kind of information they want to receive and how often they want to hear from you. This can be accomplished through an email profile form. Follow through on these expectations. The result will be a winning email program that will deliver a return on investment -- and recipient loyalty that's worthy of gold.
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