R.I.P., My Dear Email -- You Will Be Missed

Don't worry, folks, this is not another one of those "Email is dead" sound bytes, I promise. Or is it? What if your email program died? What would others say about it?

I recently took a 22-hour road trip with my 75-year-old father-in-law (who is now living with my family). You can talk about a lot in 22 hours; some stories were told two or three times, but who's counting? He is dealing with the emergence of some new health issues -- so mortality was at the top of his list of conversation topics.

(Random side note: The level of assimilation some of us email marketers make between real life and email can sometimes be scary. Most recently, DJ Waldow likened it to the birth of his baby girl (a big public congratulations to you, my friend), and then I go and take it to the other extreme. Go figure. But give me a little wiggle room  -- you just may find this exercise fun.)



Reflecting on our lives and accomplishments is something we all do from time to time. But the ultimate goal-setting exercise is to write your own obituary. OK, thinking of Google search rankings, the primary reason is so that you can get the last word -- but eventually it gets to this practice as a goal-setting exercise. I digress, but it got me thinking: why not write an obituary for clients' email programs? That should really get their attention during quarterly program review time! It isn't all that difficult to accomplish, and you may just uncover some areas of your program that you aren't as proud of as you led everyone to believe.

A structured obituary typically includes the following:  name of deceased, photo (optional), cause of death, birth statistics, family statistics, survivors and education/major life experiences. Below I wrote a sample obituary that could be easily applied to any number of the email programs that hit my inbox on a daily basis:

The Daily Alert from XYZ was a fixture in our subscribers' inbox from 2007 until its sudden passing last quarter. It was deemed internally as the workhorse of our email program. It was highly targeted, but also very difficult to produce. It didn't drive the amount of revenue we had initially anticipated when the program was conceived --- but it sure was pretty to look at (when images actually rendered, of course). During the previous quarter, it realized open rates of about 12% and click-through rates of about 1%, which had been declining steadily.

It peaked early in 2008 with a 45% open rate and a 17% CTR -- so we let it go. But boy, did we let it go -- right into the toilet. We knew it needed a shot in the arm, but who has time for that?  There are 30 other programs we run that need our attention too. We always meant to get to it -- but at last, the Daily Alert died -- and it took a good chunk of our database with it. R.I.P., Daily Alert. You will be greatly missed by the marketing team (though our recipients might not even notice). Thanks for all you've done.

So, maybe this obituary is a little melodramatic, but it is fun! Not only does it force you to look at your programs from another perspective, but it may even breathe a little life back into your analytics -- which may just get you the executive attention you need to actually effect programmatic changes!

I challenge you to write your email program obituary -- and post it in the comments if you dare! If for no other reason, than for our general entertainment!

8 comments about "R.I.P., My Dear Email -- You Will Be Missed".
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  1. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., April 29, 2010 at 10:29 a.m.

    I enjoyed your analogy, Kara, and it has me thinking about my own initiatives that died before their prime and of Stephen Covey,s first principle of personal leadership..."Begin with the End in Mind". Given the fact that we regard email as a superlative tool for communication, it certainly needs to be refreshed to keep it working and revisiting goals more frequently will avoid a premature eulogy. Thanks for the reminder of the mortality of our best intentions!

  2. Erin Read from Creating Results, Inc., April 29, 2010 at 10:45 a.m.

    What a fun exercise to evaluate what we're doing - and what we could be doing better - with our email programs. Leaving a strong legacy (for readers, customers, our company/client) should be top of mind for people and marketing programs.

  3. L john Yarusi from Olive LLC, April 29, 2010 at 3:08 p.m.

    Great thoughts -

    Olive LLC

  4. Dj Waldow from Blue Sky Factory, April 29, 2010 at 3:38 p.m.

    Kara -

    Love it. What a great way to really *think* about your email program. Where would you be without it? What if you realize now that it's dying a slow death? Could you "stop the bleeding"? Could you tweak it enough to bring it back to life?

    Very cool exercise ... and thanks for the @BabyWaldow Eva shout out. She's doing just fine, getting cuter by the hour. Hope all is well with your family!

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  5. Jim Dennison from DigitalMediaMeasures, April 29, 2010 at 9:43 p.m.

    It would be nice if every "email program" was in need of an obituary. Who would attend the funeral for SPAM?

  6. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, April 30, 2010 at 2:52 a.m.

    The funeral for spam will be held this Sunday at 2PM at the Church of Our Harddrive in Los Gatos. In lieu of flowers, please donate to... me.

  7. Kara Trivunovic from Epsilon, April 30, 2010 at 2:42 p.m.

    Thanks for all the feeddback from everyone both on and off site. I really do believe this is a great exercise - it really forces you to take a new perspective on your email marketing programs. Still waiting for someone to send me one though :)

  8. Vicki Monti from, May 6, 2010 at 5:04 a.m.

    OK, I'm taking the plunge:

    Old Email Template was recently laid to rest. The emails provided recipes, with a decent amount of editorial, for holidays and seasonal occasions. They had good open (27%) and click-through (27%) rates, but were laborious to create. We suspected that though people were opening and clicking, they weren't really reading every word of our carefully written emails. Our emails did what we wanted them to – drove traffic to our website - but they took a lot of time that we felt could have been better spent elsewhere. Additionally, while we loved our design dearly, we always felt it didn't look as pretty as other emails (though we kept that to ourselves so as to not lower its self-esteem).

    We finally decided to lay that template to rest and create a new template. While we'll never forget our old template, we love our new template already. Each email is quicker to read/scan and is much easier to create on our end. And so far our response rates haven't suffered – 25% open rate and 29% click-through rate.

    We're hoping this trend will continue and that our audience will enjoy the new email format and won't grieve the loss of our old one. We will still retain the old template for when it makes sense – such as emails that provide party tips and tricks in addition to just recipes – but recognize that we had to move on with our regular emails. Thanks for everything, Old Email Template. You've managed to keep our audience engaged for a year and a half, and that's no small feat.

    To pay a visit to our old (and new) campaigns, you can to

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