'So Where Do We Start?'

That's what a client asked a colleague and me during a recent meeting, where we had discussed several different kinds of email messages they could add to their existing program to generate additional revenue and engagement. 

Three of the message types we discussed included upgrading their welcome email to a series, a birthday program and abandoned-cart reminders. The client staff nodded continually, agreeing on their value as we walked through these and other programs. But the real question was, "Which should we focus on first?"   

There's a shift going on in the email marketing community. The question I hear most often nowadays is "So where do I start?" instead of "Why should I deploy cart abandonment, welcome series or other programs?"

I understand that feeling. It's like being a child in a candy store again, with a quarter to spend and box after box of penny candy to choose from. 

As with so many marketing questions, the answer varies for each company. To help provide a better answer than "It depends," I'll outline a potential framework you can use to decide which of the really sweet email programs you should start with. 



LOE versus ROI

You can start to address the "Where do I start?" question by comparing the required level of effort (LOE) to the expected return on investment (ROI).

For example, a cart-abandonment program is often the highest ROI email program for ecommerce companies. However, it typically also requires integration with Web analytics or ecommerce systems, possibly additional API costs, IT involvement, complex business rules and more.

A "Happy Birthday" email program is comparatively simpler, assuming you've captured subscribers' birth dates. While typically generating a great ROI, it usually delivers less than a cart abandonment program.  

However, even this comparison can be quite complex and might be missing a larger perspective. 

Step 1: Start With An Audit

Sure, a successful cart-abandonment program might make you the ROI hero, but your success depends on mastering the foundational elements of your program.

Start with an audit of your existing program and resources. These are some basic questions:


  • Are you capturing the data you need?
  • Do you have deliverability challenges? (Are 20% of your emails never making it to the inbox?)
  • Do you have the right IT integrations? (Does your CRM or ecommerce system talk to your email platform?)
  • Do you have adequate budget and resources?
  • Does your team include or have access to design, coding and content people who truly understand email?
  • Do you have the political capital to make things happen? (Will management support your efforts to take transactional messages from IT's domain or move the email opt-in field from below the fold on the home page to the top?)
  • Can your existing email platform handle more sophisticated triggering, automation, integrations with third parties, etc?


Step 2: Prioritize Your Goals

Is doubling annual revenue your top email goal? Or is it reducing print costs, increasing customer retention or generating brand awareness around a new product or service?

Perhaps your company's top goal is driving more traffic to your brick-and-mortar stores. A birthday program that drives people to your stores and launches a coupon program might gain better internal support than launching a cart abandonment program.

Step 3: Gap Analysis

Now that you understand objectively where you are and what management has said is most important, you can do a gap analysis to see where your program and resources are misaligned.

For example, perhaps recapturing potential lost revenue from abandoned carts is high on the priority list for your VP of Ecommerce, but your current email platform is not integrated with your Web analytics provider, and your main IT resource just left the company.

Here, implementing a birthday program or welcome series might become your obvious choice.

Step 4: Develop Your ROI Story and Plan

Whatever program you decide to move forward wotj first will likely require some additional resources, budget or effort. Management will probably require realistic projections using industry or peer benchmarks or, at minimum, conservative ballpark numbers, rather than a "trust me on this" promise.

One marketing department sold management on switching to a more sophisticated ESP and additional API integration costs with their Web analytics solution by presenting a realistic but conservative projection of additional revenue from a cart-abandonment program.  

The marketer pitched the switch and changes as part of a larger story: moving to a more sophisticated triggered email approach. However, the cart abandonment ROI projection helped to sell the broader resource requirements.

Think Big, But Start Small

You might be tempted to jump straight to the best-performing program, but your organization simply might not be ready for it. 

Think about a combination of quick wins and getting your foundational elements in order.

Perhaps you not only don't collect subscribers' birth dates (hence no birthday program), but you also lack gender and location data, so you can't do meaningful segmentation and personalization. 

Or, everyone agrees internally that the IT-owned and -produced confirmation email isn't cutting it anymore, and it's time to launch a world-class welcome series.

Moving forward on this type of program can generate quick success and prove to management why your email marketing team should be granted the budget and resources for those more complex and sophisticated programs. 

Please share below successes you've had in your decision-making conundrums and how you've sold management on implementing these new programs. 

Until next time, take it up a notch.

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