What Grade Is Your Email Program Entering?

So today was the day -- the day that I got my 4-year-old twins registered for kindergarten. My youngest, my babies, were growing up. Where did all the time go? I remember wondering if my husband and I would survive three kids under the age of three when they were born. And now look at them.

I think ahead to August and realize that I will have all three of my tykes in school all day, every day of the week. The house will be quiet, that’s for sure. But it made me glad that I live in and relish every moment and memory with my kids. I have never wished for them to grow up faster, yet their growth and development never ceases to amaze me. And while I admit, those special moments are far more special than the email marketing analogy I am about to draw. Ah, you knew it was coming!

It happens to us all.  In the blink of an eye, time has passed with little recollection of what happened in those moments. Growing email programs are very similar  -- you started with nothing and now you have 4 million subscribers. But has your approach and context around the messaging stayed the same? At a recent Global Privacy Summit, the idea of the Privacy Maturity Model was discussed (no, I wasn’t there --I am certainly no privacy expert -- but a close friend and colleague was) and the milestones discussed really resonate with email.



Kindergarten – Initial
Your program had to start somewhere, right? For many of you, it has been a long time since you have had to think about the early growth of your email program; for others, you are dealing with it right now. Regardless, when starting a program, your audience is small and likely the result of organic acquisition – which can likely translate to an interested and engaged subscriber based on topicality. Often little or no segmentation is done at this stage because you don’t really need to segment. Those who have opted in are often like-minded and would end up in a similar segment anyway.

Middle School – Repeatable
Your program is no longer sporadic. You have found your groove and have regularly scheduled and anticipated communications going out to your subscriber base. You are also, I hope, seeing growth in subscriber numbers due to word-of-mouth and pass-along from initial subscribers, increased site traffic and growing interest in the content you are providing. It’s still not likely necessary to do any significant amount of targeting and segmentation; however, it’s even more important that you create content that remains relevant to the growing customer base. The need to maintain and grow your subscriber content is King (or Queen).

High School – Defined
You know your audience, their expectations, likes and dislikes, and are likely beginning to see trends in engagement. Your growth has continued, but you are also noticing attrition and drop-off (don’t worry -- it can happen to anyone). Clear and obvious segments should be emerging ,and creating targeted and relevant content for each of these segments should be  your goal.

College – Managed
Ahhh (a breathy sigh of relief), your email programs are working like a well-oiled machine. Not only are you sending the right message to the right person, you are leveraging behavior-based triggers and data elements to get that message out at just the right time, with automated lifecycle messaging opportunities that really resonate with the customer and are not at all intrusive. The goal here is to build your programs in a way that recognize significant and notable moments in the customer lifecycle and message to them in those moments – relevantly, of course.

Grad School – Optimize
No, your job is never done. Once your programs are in a managed stage, it is imperative to continue evolving, growing and optimizing your programs to make them smarter and more innovative than the other messages your customers are seeing in their inbox. At this point, your performance metrics are improving in smaller increments, but those increments are valuable. You should have a substantial understanding of the value of your email customers, measuring incremental behavior as your biggest metric of success.

So what milestones have you achieved? What other milestones might be out there? Now the reality of my little ones is hitting me, so -- time to hug my kids and hope they hug me back forever!


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