Getting Email Marketing Done: Lessons From The Sustainability Revolution

"We're strong on the destination, but we're weak on getting there."

That quote is from Auden Schendler's “Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution.” He's talking about his experiences in greening up the ski resort industry, but his quote also describes many marketers' efforts to reach their email marketing goals.

Schendler's book lays out the cold realities for businesses trying to address climate change within their own organizations. Much of his material comes from the trenches of the Aspen Skiing Co., where he is vice president of sustainability and spearheaded many green initiatives.

As I read the book, I kept switching between two modes: my personal and growing "save the planet" focus and my eternal "save email marketing" quest. Budget constraints, unsupportive management and approaches that don't square with a company's culture, brand or customer service philosophy -- all these challenges Schendler faced are also part of the typical marketing director's daily diary.



My six takeaways from “Getting Green Done”:

1. Find your fulcrum. I thought I had coined that phrase, but Schendler had used it in his book four years earlier to urge sustainability-minded executives to focus on the opportunity that will deliver the greatest reward. His example: A car company should focus on making its cars more fuel-efficient instead of just greening a few office buildings.

Several of my recent Email Insider columns have urged you to find your company's fulcrum (the tipping point in your email program that drives the greatest revenue or conversions). While tweaking things like subject lines provide incremental gains, they don't move the needle dramatically.

2. Learn the internal ROI hurdle rate. You must understand the processes and politics of getting projects funded in order to pass a key test with your company's finance people.

Find out what ROI your money people expect in order to fund projects. Here's where the fulcrum approach pays off. A project that promises a big leap in ROI is more likely to get funded than one with the potential for only an incremental increase.

Also important: Find a way to present the project budget request so Finance take part of the credit if successful.

3. Be ready for rejection. Even if you clear the ROI hurdle, your company simply might not have the funds to OK your project. So look for opportunities to rearrange your own budget. Could you tackle one key aspect of your project now and use your initial results to make your case for full funding later? Use this time to find a way to prove your project's value.

4. Build internal credibility. This is a key step to get money for a project that many stakeholders don't support or, as I noted above, when resources are tight:

  • Get peers from other departments to buy in and support your cause because your initiative also helps them meet their goals.
  • Act incrementally. If you can't get budget for a full suite of triggered emails, try to reallocate your present budget to do one, such as a birthday email, that will show management how you can generate measurable ROI with limited resources.

5. Expect mistakes. Schendler quotes Oscar Wilde: "Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." You'll never get a program up and running if you try to iron out all the wrinkles before you launch.

A multiple-email series birthday email program complete with reminders and optimized copy and delivery dates is nice, but you can launch sooner with a single basic message sent on the first day of the month and then build on it.

6. Embrace self-promotion. You don't have to brag, but you do have to make sure influential people hear about your successes and understand that you know what you're talking about. A few strategies:

  • Share with management how your company performs in key benchmark studies, like my company's recent survey of email metrics.
  • Apply for industry awards.
  • Offer to showcase your successes in case studies with key vendors or tech partners, such as your ESP.
  • Take speaking opportunities at industry events to show management which aspects of your email program are on target and on track.

You don't have to drive a Tesla electric car or install solar panels on your roof to get value from Schendler's book. "Getting Green Done" is an effective handbook, whether you want to green up the environment or just your email marketing programs.

Until next time, take it up a notch!


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