Commentary

The Habits Of Highly Ineffective Email Marketers

Not to be harsh, but you might be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to success if your email program isn't producing the results that you know it should.

After years of working with email marketers, I've compiled a list of 20 work habits or mindsets that stop progress in its tracks. Here are the first 10. Do any feel familiar?

1. Relying on meaningless metrics: "Process" metrics like opens and clicks are easy to measure and have value, but "output" metrics like conversions and revenue per email measure email effectiveness more accurately and resonate with management.

2. Data laziness: Are you drilling deep into the numbers to gain useful insights -- or just scanning the default reports from your email technology? High-level reports and dashboards are great for taking the temperature of your program, but for making decisions and truly understanding your customers, you need to transition to a deeper analytics and business intelligence mindset.

3. Benchmarking bunk: Stop obsessing about the latest benchmark study that claims the average open rate has declined 0.7% over the previous quarter. Hogwash. "Average" is the new bottom. Benchmark yourself against the best performers, like-minded companies, similar email program types -- and, most importantly, against yourself. Then hold yourself accountable for acting on your findings -- otherwise, what’s the point?

4. Underutilizing your technology vendor(s): When you selected your latest ESP, you chose it because of its great APIs, dynamic content, advanced segmentation and program automation features. But, there you are, still stuck in batch-and-blast mode. Take advantage of those great features, and take your program to another level.

5. Overlooking intra-department resources: Could you piggyback on staff resources, databases, software and knowledge in other departments? You're all trying to get revenue from the same customers; find where you can join forces to do it more efficiently and effectively. Audit what marketing technologies your company is already paying for, and figure out how you and your team can leverage them.

6. Underinvesting in staff education: Education is key to enabling growth of your team’s knowledge and skills. Fight -- fight really hard -- for budget and resources that will allow you and your team to attend vendor and industry conferences. If you can’t get the travel budgets, take your team to local seminars, and watch recorded sessions from conferences. Turn free Webinars into group training and discussion sessions.

7. Waiting for consensus on best practices: The email gods aren't going to hand you a single set of best practices on engraved tablets. Educate yourself instead. Use common sense, starting with generally accepted best email practices, and then testing and figuring out what works best for your customers, product and culture.  

8. Institutional ignorance: When was the last time you engaged with your own emails and Web site processes? Gather your team together regularly to audit your entire email program, from pre-opt-in to post-opt-out, on every email reading device. Click every link and test every procedure so you are seeing what your customers see.

Don't forget the Web experience, from preference center, landing pages and account registration to shopping cart. Review every key page or function, even if your department doesn't own it. If it doesn't work properly, your email-marketing program suffers.

9. Settling for status quo: In a lot of companies, email marketing is hot again, having survived the faddish social media threat. Use this heightened awareness and your knowledge of email's power and revenue to become a change agent inside and outside your department. Don't let others dictate email's place in the revenue-generating hierarchy.

10. Ceding control: Did your progress stall because you had to wait for another department to make a decision on something like a new CRM platform? Ask to get in on the discussion, because it affects your email program. Email marketing probably plays a critical role in your company’s CRM initiatives. So, don't sit back and let other departments make key decisions on vendors and initiatives without your significant involvement.

In the next column we'll look at the final 10 bad habits.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

4 comments about "The Habits Of Highly Ineffective Email Marketers ".
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  1. Nancy Arter from Outward Media, August 22, 2013 at 5:33 p.m.

    Excellent article! I particularly agree on putting too much weight or decision making on open and click through rates. These are important metrics to look at, what what really matters are the conversion rates. Are your campaigns moving the customer or prospect forward in the sales cycle, are they creating calls to sales or ending up in sales?

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, August 23, 2013 at 4:45 a.m.

    Excellent post! Agree totally about avoiding meaningless metrics like opens and focusing on conversions and revenue. By coincidence, we published our latest monthly figures yesterday: http://www.triggeredmessaging.com/blog/real-time-marketing-report-for-august-2013

  3. Al DiGuido from Optimus Publishing, August 23, 2013 at 7:41 a.m.

    Loren...I really believe that Silverpop along with the other ESPs ( and I was CEO of 3 of them , Bigfoot, Epsilon & Zeta) need to continuously pound the message that marketers need to establish ROI metrics for their email efforts. Bottom line thinking will drive top line experimentation, segmentation, dynamic content and optimization. We can't be afraid to ask marketers up front what their goals for a campaign are. I find that most marketers have had ALL of these tools and tactics for years and are just too plain lazy and/or stuck in the old mindset...They would rather blame the medium...ie..email than the fact that they aren't utilizing it correctly. ESP's can be proactive in making customers aware of this flaw by looking at opens and clicks on transactional links in emails ( if present) and proposing a range of assumptions on conversion and ROI. Such work would be incredibly helpful in drilling the idea in the heads of marketers that they MUST be measuring effectiveness from a bottom line standpoint.

  4. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, August 23, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.

    Nancy, Pete, Al - thanks for the comments. Interesting that you all focused on the "meaningless metrics" aspect. Al, completely agree with your points - and this is why I've been hammering this message for years - like my "Why the open rate must die" column, and yes in a way us ESPs are culpable in that we make these basic reports so easy to focus on ... but, and I can't share anything, but stay tuned for some cool things coming from Silverpop in the"more meaningful" reporting area ...Great to hear your voice in the marketplace. Cheers!

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