Every time I am tapped to write a column, I go through this checklist in my head: what have I covered previously, what is hot and topical in the space, do I offer a different perspective on a common topic -- and finally, have we as an industry said all there is to say? I am pretty sure that much of the best practices ranging from disciplines in strategy to deliverability and everywhere in between have been touched on, made current and published, but for some reason, we can't "get there" as an industry.
For some reason, we can't seem to do cohesively what's right by our subscribers (at least not all of us), and I suppose there will always be someone out there pushing the envelope. But it is those marketers who know better but aren't allowed to do better that make me take pause.
So today, I'm doing something I have not done before. I'm sharing with you the confessions of email marketers that I have had the pleasure to work with over the course of the last 8+ years, and the implications of those confessions on our industry. Don't worry, friends -- names and identities have been concealed to protect the innocent.
"My bonus rests solely on how many email addresses I have in the database, and I get an accelerator bonus if I grow it by more than 50% year-over-year."
If you are incentivizing your staff with personal financial gain for growing your email marketing database, then your email marketing programs will suffer. The motivator here is not quality, it's quantity. Who cares how many email addresses you have in your database -- if they are bad, unengaged and/or complainers, then you are doing yourself a great disservice long-term. Your email program and your brand will suffer the effects of being an email address glutton (which, don't forget, is one of the seven deadly sins).
"Look, I know that our email needs to be more relevant, but quite frankly I don't have the time to even figure it out -- regardless of what the bottom-line impact could be."
This is a clear case of "actions speak louder than words." It doesn't much matter to your email subscribers that you *know* you should be doing a better job of engaging with them. As a matter of fact, it's worse that you know it and aren't doing anything about it. We are all busy -- and as the economy has reduced already overworked organizations, probably becoming busier. Let's face facts, though: if you don't find a way to do your job the best you can, you won't have it long. Email marketing managers don't have the same expectations of accuracy as say, your local weatherman. You need to be right and accurate in your approach 90% of the time (or more), not the other way around.
"I've given up the good fight. I have told all the powers that be the implications of their email directives, and it just isn't getting through. I don't have it in me to fight it anymore, so I just do what they ask me to do."
This is a confession I have heard on more than one occasion, from many email marketing managers who span the verticals, and it always makes me sad. Email is something I am passionate about (weird to my friends and family, for sure), but when you lose the passion for what you do, it becomes mundane -- and that translates to the quality of work product. The difficult part about this confession is that it's often the most passionate and well-intentioned who end up here. They *want* to do a good job, they *want* to have a leading email program, they *want* to continue the fight for what is right; but after running into that wall repeatedly for months (or even years) they've given up. This isn't only bad for him/her personally -- it is detrimental to the industry as a whole. This is an industry that has thrived on passion, and we need all the passionate souls we can get!
What's my confession? I love what I do and am constantly inspired by the attitudes and approaches of the amazing marketers I have the pleasure of working with. I hope that by sharing these confessions, I am inspiring you to fight the good fight, make your organization understand the implications of its actions and ultimately give your subscribers the best darn email program you can -- because when that happens, I can consider early retirement!