Work In Your Swim Lane: An Email Plan For What You Can Control

We are in the midst of the holiday season, which is arguably the most intense time for email marketers. While many of you have your plans for the season well defined, very few brands I have spoken with have any wiggle room in their crazy schedules to even think about what happens after Dec. 31.

Planning for your 2015 email program is an important exercise that requires uninterrupted attention, a luxury few of us ever have. But how will you measure your success at the end of next year if you haven’t defined what success is and how you plan to achieve it? The short answer is that you can’t. 

Planning that far out can be daunting for email marketers, especially since other company departments may have more scope in the overall marketing plan, but you should plan for what you can control. A plan’s focus may be content, audience and creative -- but these elements are often outside the control of the email marketing team. Still, there are still steps you can take on your own. So, once the holidays are behind you and you have had a chance to breathe, here are a few things to consider:



Define your latitude. Some email marketing teams get to actively participate in their company’s marketing planning each year, while others do not. So it’s important to understand where you have latitude to effect change inside the organization. For example, you may not have the ability to augment processes outside of your team, but you can certainly implement efficiencies within your organization or on your team.

Once the latitude is defined, make sure your team understands this, too. There is nothing worse than a team of people feeling as if they have no control over what happens in their day-to-day work lives. Soliciting their feedback on opportunities for improvement can result in very innovative ideas as well as a sense of contribution.

Augment what you can. Once you know your latitude, do what you can within your swim lanes. I frequently hear from email teams that they aren’t “allowed” to target, test, etc. But I would argue that this is not always true. While some teams may not be able to suggest a new offer, or insist on test creative, I have worked with a number of clients on scenarios that allow them to test without upsetting the apple cart, giving them the chance to really learn something meaningful.

For example, you see that your organization is constantly sending the same email content to active and inactive email subscribers, and you believe that money is being left on the table because the communication to the inactives is not resonating. What do you do? Test it! Even though you haven’t received this direction from the C-suite, you can still set up a split that will allow you to see how active and inactive audiences are responding to the same content.

Collect and present the data. Marketers and advertisers used to combine the data they had available on a program’s performance with some sense of logic and historical learning to make decisions. Today, marketers are so completely data-driven that if the response data doesn’t support a decision, then there is no reason to continue.

Embrace this data-driven culture. Define the data that you believe should be looked at, define success for various programs, and share your findings. One client had only measured revenue per email (RPE) as the metric for success. But as we started digging in to the email portfolio, we very quickly realized that only a fraction of email was actually set up to drive revenue. Which led to a series of exercises, some to identify opportunities to increase revenue contribution from programs not historically developed to do so, and others to recalculate success measurements.

It’s important to remember that just because you may not control the editorial calendar, or even the offers that are being shared with your email subscribers, doesn’t mean you can't make a meaningful impact on your program. Roll up your sleeves after 12/31 and start effecting change, one small step at a time.

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