Does Your Email Marketing Program Suffer From Parkinson's Law Of Triviality?

The California drought and email marketing have two things in common: Both are beset by scarce resources, and people often focus more on trivial actions rather than major initiatives to try to fix them.

There's a name for this: "bike-shedding." It's a corollary to Parkinson's Law of Triviality, which claims that organizations, when faced with decision-making for very large and strategic projects, often spend more time on unimportant but easily understood solutions (how to build an employee bike shed) than on difficult or complex ones (how to build a power plant).

In California, agriculture consumes 80% of our increasingly scarce water, but we obsess over the 20% for residential and commercial uses. Marketers try to move the needle on their email marketing programs by laboring over the length of their subject lines or shape of CTA buttons instead of focusing on foundational projects that will transform their email strategy.



Often an administrative attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sets in, or people simply focus on calendar-based emails instead of figuring out ways to achieve strategic goals or solve business challenges. But solving a particular problem often helps your company generate more revenue or achieve its long-term goals. In that case, you have to know:

1. How to prove your boss wrong (and keep your job)

2. Where to find the paybacks that will justify the time and budget spent to upgrade your program.

Prove the Boss Wrong the Right Way

I'm not suggesting that you make your CEO or other executives look bad. It might even be in your interest to take up whatever project he or she has decreed. If it doesn't work, you can show (respectfully) what went wrong and how you could fix it. That, in turn, could inspire management to listen more closely when you present your own request.

Speaking your boss's language and presenting accomplishments in terms the C-suite appreciates are essential parts of this approach. That means quantifying your value with meaningful metrics.

Using "process" metrics, such as open and read rates, to measure success doesn't help you make your case because they mean nothing to the financial decision-markers.

Even click rates, which reveal more about engagement than opens, aren't as valuable as "output” metrics that measure results, such as conversions, sales, revenue per email, average order value, etc.

Find the Big Score

Every marketing program has a fulcrum, the point in the customer journey that turns a browser into a buyer or a buyer into a loyal customer. It could be persuading a casual buyer to join your subscription-purchase club, or bringing a cart-abandoner back to finish the purchase.

This critical juncture is where you want to concentrate your improvement efforts, both what to do and how to pay for it. This is your Point A if you get bogged down in arguments over where to begin.

Integrating your POS, ecommerce and email databases will drive more relevant messaging. Moving from static to responsive design for both email and website will help you close the browse-to-buy gap with mobile customers. Both can boost email-generated revenue and demonstrate your value to the bottom line.

Build the Bike Shed Anyway

It's better than doing nothing. If you can't get the resources and management support to transform your program, launch that single purchase anniversary email that conveys the value of using purchase data and the power and ROI of automated programs.

Meanwhile, you're generating results -- and proof that you can use to rally backing for a quantum leap in your email program, rather than small tweaks around the edges.

You don't even have to play "Show Me the Money." Look around for ways that email can solve big-kahuna problems and make or save money for other departments. That's another way to focus your efforts on game-changing improvements and win the resources you need to build that power plant, which will benefit more people than a bike shed.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

1 comment about "Does Your Email Marketing Program Suffer From Parkinson's Law Of Triviality?".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, April 20, 2015 at 7:47 a.m.

    Thanks for introducing me to "Parkinson's Law of Triviality". Totally explains politics today, 

    The solution in marketing is to take small, cheap steps - each of which is easily understood and quickly achieves a clear positive ROI.

    Never embark on a big monolithic project.

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