Create Your Framework For Email Marketing Automation Programs

The question that companies are asking about automated or triggered email programs is no longer "Should we deploy them?" but rather "Where should we focus our limited resources?"

I've witnessed this shift in conversations with dozens of companies, mainly in retail and ecommerce. My industry colleague David Baker asked a similar intriguing question in a recent Email Insider: "Where do you start?"

One place is with this 11-step program to prioritize, launch and improve your portfolio of automated email marketing programs. View it as an outline or checklist rather than a specific blueprint.

1. Identify what 's possible. This knowledge-gathering phase uncovers what's new, what's possible and what's working for other companies.

Read industry publications, and talk to colleagues at email conferences. Ask your ESP's account manager about the latest know-how. Subscribe to email programs within and outside your industry to see what others are doing.



2. Audit your present email-marketing program against your customer journey. Your department probably isn't the only one sending email. Review all departments (marketing, IT, sales, customer support, etc.) for these kinds of messages:
-- Promotional
-- Transactional
-- Triggered
-- Newsletters

Next, create a customer journey map and compare your messages to critical points on the journey. Finally, review all the resources available to you via existing systems and IT resources.

3. Analyze the gaps your audit and journey map exposed. These gaps could lead to new opportunities for automated email programs. Also, match these opportunities with resources and budget you might need.

4. Identify automation programs with the potential for the biggest returns. Here you move from what's possible to what would deliver the greatest returns (sales, customer pain relief, multi-brand leverage, cost savings). For each potential new program, consider the LOE (level of effort) required, and forecast the ROI.

5. Prioritize the programs you want to recommend for funding. Rank your recommendations from highest to lowest priority and create your best-of-the-best list. Factor in your knowledge of management, key corporate initiatives, past successes and failures. Don't overlook quick wins that you could launch with minimal time and money, even if they aren't your top revenue generators.

6. Get management buy-in and budget support. Take your top recommendations to management and other departments (including IT, support and ecommerce) whose participation, budgets and resources you will need to get your program going. Be able to tie your requests to corporate goals or initiatives, timelines for results, or cross-company benefits.

7. Begin the launch process. Gather together all players, and review the project to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding deadlines, phases and service agreements.

As the project moves forward, resolve cost and timeline issues immediately.  

8. Monitor and benchmark. After your new program launches, start monitoring to make sure everything's working properly, including email delivery, data integrations, dynamic content or technical issues that affect customers. Monitor opens, clicks, conversions and revenue.

Gather benchmark data to determine if the new program is meeting Phase 1 goals and how it compares to industry benchmarks.

9. Document the process, and debrief stakeholders. Keep copious notes in case you or other key people depart. Note what worked and what didn't, where you succeeded or failed, and what you learned that you could apply to other projects and additional phases.

Report to management, department heads and other stakeholders on goals, lessons learned, results and recommendations.

10. Enhance and expand the program. Now it's time to build on success. If you launched a single triggered email, expand it into a series. Add product recommendations; increase personalization; improve to near-real-time message deployment. Monitor and benchmark these improvements.

11. Start all over again. Once you iron out all the kinks, apply what you've learned to another program that can use the same data flows, technology integrations or content sources. Or, apply your project workflow to solve another problem.

As you apply these steps within your own company, you might combine a step or two or rearrange the order to suit your company, its culture and business processes.

Until next time, take it up a notch!
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