Commentary

The Top-Five Things Email Marketers Should be Thankful for This Holiday Season

Like many of you, I gorged myself on Thanksgiving Dinner yesterday -- only to be left sleepy and desperately not wanting to attack the mound of dishes that lay ahead.  As most of the family retired to the couch for some football, I picked up my Android for a quiet moment of Angry Birds before heading to the kitchen to scrub, quickly checked my email first (of course) and was compelled to reflect on what I am most thankful for: my husband, my happy, healthy children, my family and, given the economy, my job.

This reflection quickly translated in my mind to the article you have before you: "The Top 5 Things Email Marketers Should be Thankful for This Holiday Season" -- so here you go.

1.     Clean customer data. If you don’t have clean data, you know just how painful it can be. The data is the backbone of your email program and drives the relevance, validity and targeting of your email messages. If your information is incorrect, your message is, too. Recently someone said to me, “It is not acceptable for me to walk up to someone I know and call them by the wrong name, yet email marketers seem to make this mistake frequently without the least bit of embarrassment about the error.  It’s like asking a woman when she is ‘due,’ and she isn’t even pregnant! They should turn red!” And you know what, she is right. We chalk it up to data issues, but when we speak to someone thinking they are someone else… there are likely some issues.

2.     A solid team. Your email marketing program is not only dependent upon a great strategy. Without a diligent and mindful team to bring it all together and execute it appropriately… it ain’t gonna work! Be sure to recognize their efforts, ask them for their input and opinions about how the programs are performing, and how they think they could be more effective. Your email team is more than a bunch of order-takers; they are likely more intimately aware of the email program than anyone else in the organization. Don’t take them for granted.

3.     Testing, testing, 1, 2,3. Look, we have been talking about testing email for more than a decade now, and I am not embarrassed to say it again and again and again, primarily because a lot of brands are still not doing it at all. Email is the easiest marketing communication channel to test in – and we should be grateful to have this ability so easily at our fingertips. We, as a community, need to stop relying so much on learning from others around us (like our competitors or other industry successes) and really define what works for our audience, our customer, our brand -- via testing. Enough said.

4.     Willing participants. Email is one of the few marketing channels that need permission or some expression of interest from the customer to receive. So, if done properly, we have our customers’ express consent and expectation of receiving the offers that are on the way. Don’t take that allowance into their personal lives for granted. Be sure to deliver on their expectations, provide them content they want (not just things you want to say) -- and show some gratitude, because just as quickly as they provide you permission, they will tell you to, “go pound sand,” likely with a few, choice  expletives to share.

5.     Freedom for your program. While there are some laws that dictate the basics of what we can and cannot do, email is relatively unregulated. But the more we as an industry abuse the channel and the privacy of our customers, the less likely this will remain true. We need to self-censor a little sometimes. Take yourselves out of the shoes of the marketer, place yourself squarely in the customer’s shoes, and then ask yourself if you are doing the right thing. If we aren’t careful, we may find our craft more heavily regulated than telemarketing (eeek!).

As I get back to my family and friends and patiently await Cyber-Monday for all my holiday shopping shenanigans, I would also like to take a quick moment to thank all of you who read my drivelings, seek my opinion and show a general respect for work that I truly love. It means the world to me to have this outlet, and it wouldn’t be possible without all you and the great folks at MediaPost. Happy shopping!

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