But you need to build the right foundation first in order to push your program to that higher level. Otherwise, you'll make a lot of avoidable mistakes, create endless frustration, take longer than hoped and end up with results that aren't as good as they could have been.
The self-audit below, that incorporates elements of a “people, process, technology and strategy” framework, is a list of questions to ask yourself before you can realistically start planning for bigger things:
1. Does my team have the skills we need to move forward? Yes, you still need a strong creative team, but you also need tech- and data-savvy people who can manage complex projects and integrations, interpret data, map out strategy and tap into resources in other departments across your organization. Do you have budgets and time set allocated for sending team members to professional or vendor conferences, along with subscribing to trade publications and analyst resources?
2. Can our vendors and outside agencies grow along with us? You can't make progress if your outside partnerships don't have the knowledge, technology and willingness to help you as you move to a higher level. Your technology vendors must offer the right features, function and education, while your creative partners need the skills to navigate the new demands of mobile and marketing automation.
3. Do we have a deep understanding of our customers, and are we using the right metrics to analyze and report our performance? Are you drilling down using your data to understand what's really going on with your email program, your customers and your performance on key success metrics such as revenue, customer value, retention, growth, etc.? For example, do you know if your mobile subscribers are converting on their mobile devices, or simply using them to scan and delete your emails?
4. Do we have a content strategy and development process? One of the biggest stumbling blocks to deploying more sophisticated email programs – launching that multi-step cross-sell series with branching emails – is the lack of content to populate emails. Are you working with and leveraging resources and content assets from the Web, direct mail and social marketing teams? What is your process for getting these emails created, along with the daily creative demands?
5. Do we have a scalable data infrastructure and architecture? The promise of significant improvements in marketing results starts with the ability to access and act on customer behavior and profile data across all channels and in real or near real time. Are you able to trigger an email in real time when a user of your mobile app abandons a specific process? Getting this data architecture right is likely the most important foundational element of your program.
6. Are we tapping into technologies and initiatives already operating in other departments at our company? Do an audit of all of the technologies used in other departments that you might integrate into your email program, such as Web analytics, personalization, recommendation and product review software. Leveraging an “already paid for” technology enables more relevant emails and better results, but requires less budget and a reduced need for internal selling.
7. Do we have a process for getting management buy-in and necessary budgets and resources? Is a phased implementation approach, with the sign-off on revenue projections from the VP of ecommerce, your ticket to CFO approval and budget nirvana?
8. Do we have measurable goalsm and an approved roadmap for achieving them? Have you established a specific goal of increasing revenue from email marketing by 20%, for example? Is the goal supported by a plan and roadmap, with costs and projections for each new and existing email program that will deliver the additional revenue?
Granted, this list might look pretty intimidating, and few marketers likely can say yes to each question. But this kind of self-audit will show you how prepared you are to move your email program to a higher level, and what you can expect in the process.
Did I miss any foundational elements required to move to a more sophisticated email program? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time, take it up a notch.