2012: The Year Of Thinking Big

In my final Email Insider column of the year, I'm not going to list the usual 2011 highlights or 2012 trends for email marketing. No checklists, or top 10 must-do lists or must-not-do lists this time.

Instead, I ask you to do just one thing in 2012: focus on improving the single most critical aspect of your email program in order to drive significantly more revenue or conversions and to exceed, not just meet, your key program goals.

I'm not talking about tweaking the pre-header text or testing subject lines. Certainly, continuous optimization is very important, but you can end up spending resources on incremental improvements at the expense of tackling your largest opportunities for improved ROI.

Think big instead. Look for the fulcrum -- the email or point in your customer’s lifecycle or relationship that tends to drive future revenue, repeat purchases, engagement and loyalty. How can you use and optimize email to drive the biggest increase in your company’s revenue or conversions in 2012?



Case in point: In a recent meeting with a client, we discussed several ideas for improving their email program, including fixing some preference center issues, adding dynamic content, doing real-time image testing for CTA buttons, adding more personality -- and on and on.

But this company's business model hinges on one thing: getting new registrants to make their first purchase. Their current conversion rate off their fulcrum email is 4%. Presto. To me, all of the other things we discussed mattered little. The major focus should be rethinking the existing offer and designing a multi-email series based on subscriber behavior designed to get double or triple that conversion rate.

Control the Conversation

In many meetings with marketers over this last year, I've found that most knew what they needed to do to improve their email programs. But when the time came to act, they let internal roadblocks, such as IT resistance or lack of resources, or the day-to-day push to get out another email campaign, derail them.

Sure, these obstacles are usually real, but you don't have to let them defeat you. Look for ways to take control of the conversation, to say to your boss, "I can deliver more revenue if you give me the resources to make this one change."

A few years ago, a client made the case to management for the need to move to a more sophisticated approach to email using automation and lifecycle messaging. The marketer won over management and got the necessary resources simply by using conservative revenue projections for just one of these programs, a cart-abandonment series.

Big Things First

It's really all about setting priorities and focusing on the most important things. Remember Stephen Covey's time-management anecdote about how best to fill a jar with rocks, pebbles and sand?

If you start with the little, less important tasks (sand and pebbles), then there is no room for the larger, most important activities (the rocks). By tackling the biggest things first, you can fit the smaller, more tactical tasks into your email-marketing schedule.

Unfortunately, many marketers get bogged down in the grind of creating and sending one email campaign after another instead of stopping and focusing on improving key aspects of their program that will deliver a significant rather than incremental increase in results.

One Example: Add Value to a Standing Email Message

Previously, I asked you to identify that fulcrum point in your customer relationships and email program. This could be the onboarding period, post-purchase or other behavioral trigger.

One ecommerce client’s fulcrum email is a triggered email that reminds customers that their recurring monthly orders will be shipped in seven days unless they cancel or revise their orders.

The company conducted significant order-size analysis and added a free-shipping offer to encourage purchases beyond the standing monthly product order. They also added additional product recommendations, top sellers and other information. The changes worked well: This email is now the single largest revenue-generating email in their program, not including revenue from the recurring order.

Your Year of Thinking Big Starts Now

Have you identified that fulcrum email or period in the customer lifecycle where you can double or triple revenue or conversion rates?

While tactics such as optimizing your emails for mobile and touch screen devices will be important in 2012, don’t take your eye off the ball and ignore the biggest ROI opportunity that is sitting at the center of your email program.

In 2012, find and focus on the big rock that could bring your email program up several notches.

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