What are you doing this year to improve your email-marketing program? If you need some direction, check my list below, which provides 10 suggestions.
1. Find your email fulcrum. Many marketing departments are so focused on individual challenges they fail to see the big picture: the one critical role for email that would address their companies' strategic initiatives or competition challenges.
I've written about this before, but want to re-emphasize that finding your fulcrum -- the email or point in your customer's lifecycle or relationship that drives future revenue, repeat purchases, engagement and loyalty -- can drive everything from content decisions to a year-long strategic plan.
2. Increase your net active database. Leverage all your customer touchpoints, online across your digital channels as well as offline -- but don't stop there. Analyze your database continually to determine whether you're attracting the right subscribers: the ones who are or will become high-value, loyal customers.
Tackle churn. Assess inactivity and bad addresses. Develop an early-warning system that can detect and head off inactivity before an address goes dark, not just after.
3. Use more "white space" emails to build engagement. A steady stream of only "buy this" emails might lead to higher-than-acceptable inactivity, unsubscribing and even spam complaints. Offer a refreshing break with emails focused on user tips and advice, video demos, customer-generated comments and stories, blog content and other supplemental information that provides increased value for subscribers.
4. Mobilize 1: Address the design challenge. B-to-C mobile email readership reached 50% more than a year ago. Mobile browsing actually beat desktop on Thanksgiving Day, while mobile browsing and buying made major gains versus desktop shopping throughout the holiday season.
Can readers view and act on your email content successfully on mobile? If not, make the case for a redesign project on your most significant messages. You really can't let this go another year.
5. Mobilize 2: Map the mobile customer journey. Beyond redesign, look for ways to make browsing, buying and other mobile interactions easier and less failure-prone, such as one-click payment or click-to-call support. Mobile app and Web push notifications keep you in front of your subscribers; be sure your team owns this process, because you're the best equipped to use it productively.
6. Automate 1: Embrace technology. Broadcast email marketing remains the channel's workhorse for most brands, but it's labor-intensive and takes you only so far on your journey with customers. Smart marketers supplement broadcast and segmented emails and generate significant revenue with dozens of automated programs that use behavior and other data to enhance the customer journey.
7. Automate 2: Get integrated. You can't move to real-time marketing automation until you can integrate multiple technologies and databases, most using APIs or custom integrations.
Lay the groundwork by identifying the data sources that will drive the highest-ROI automated programs. That buttresses your budget request. Also, become best friends with your IT peers. You'll need their help and support to make automation happen.
8. Assess your team's skills. Sophisticated email marketing takes more than creative genius. Your team needs process-oriented and left-brain thinkers, plus numbers people who can run sophisticated analytics for accurate attribution, ROI, budgeting, program effectiveness, database manipulation, etc.
9. Invest in team growth. Maybe you can't add people with needed skills, but you can invest in more education. Free or low-cost resources are everywhere on the Internet, from your technology vendors to LinkedIn and membership groups.
Also, send team members to at least two industry conferences, such as your email technology provider's user conference or workshops, MediaPost's Email Insider Summits, or the Email Experience Council's annual conference.
10. Solidify your ROI/budget/project-approval process. Almost everything on this list will need extra budget and human resources. Having a formal, management-endorsed process can elicit a "yes" instead of "no" or "maybe next year."
What resonates most with key execs who hold approval/veto power: saving or making money, improving efficiency, or maximizing existing technology investments? They might also be persuaded to approve a phased-in process that awards additional resources based on tests and proof points, instead of placing a one-time bet.
And now, back to my original question: What are you doing this year to take your email program up a notch (or more) this year?