Execution Without Strategy Is Hurting Your Email Program

Strategy execution is a serious challenge in business, regardless of the functional area. You can put visionary goals into place, but then those strategies are often difficult or impossible to implement.

In email marketing, I’d argue that the problem is the opposite.  Execution happens without being informed by strategy. Sure, marketers set revenue goals and line up tactics to try to achieve those goals, but that approach is too narrow. Marketers will never find new opportunities for putting consumers first and delivering longer-term value if they don’t make the time (and business case) for strategy.

The Strategy Execution Conundrum

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tzu, "Art of War"

In today’s world of discerning and connected consumers — especially millennials — defeat will come for brands that don’t incorporate a truly visionary plan.



It’s not that email marketers aren’t putting strategies in place. Email marketers are some of the most brilliant minds in marketing.  The issue is that the strategies we put into practice often fall within the guard rails of what’s acceptable in corporate cultures, leaving us to keep doing what has always been done, and focusing more on the area we can control: the execution.  

How did we get here? Planning processes tend to focus on looking at what has driven revenue in the past and then planning how to do that again in the future.  It’s a very myopic and short-term view.

One of the main contributors to this problem is the fact that insights about customers are often held in disparate systems, making it difficult (or impossible) for marketers to gain a truly customer-centered view of opportunities that have never been attempted.  There are opportunities for every brand that not only haven’t been realized, they aren’t even on the radar.

Marketers could search for new opportunities through customer data visualization, but are hampered by resource constraints and data being housed in hard-to-use systems. Sometimes, the problem lies with the data being managed by another team working from its own action list of requests, leaving little time to hunt for innovative data-driven opportunities.  Because of all this, email marketers often fall victim to rinsing and repeating the same tactics, which creates blind spots to new opportunities. Of course, there are always exceptions like Amazon and Walmart, which have mastered the art of driving engagement through customer insights.

What You Need to Do

I’ve spoken with countless email marketers over the years who hate the rinse and repeat approach, but they just don’t know how (or aren’t empowered) to push for a change in direction.

The phrase “growth only happens outside of your comfort zone” has become rather popular — because putting that theory into practice can be quite powerful.

You have to be committed to be a change-maker. Leverage the power of persuasion to create a business case for pursuing innovation and creating a test budget, as this is often an acceptable practice within companies.  If you can get buy-in for that, you’ve put innovation’s foot in the door, ready to fling it wide open once the value is proven.

What are some ways you have pushed to bring more strategy and innovation to your program?  Did you have to fight resistance?  Change your process? Let me know in the comments.

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