What Are Your Email Marketing 3-Point Plays?

Now that we're deep into the NBA playoffs (that's basketball, for non-fans), it's time to roll out an idea I've been bouncing around.

Data geeks and analytics have become as important to basketball strategy as instinct and deep understanding of the game and players. It's the same "Moneyball"-style phenomenon that reshaped baseball strategy, and it can guide your email marketing decision-making.

Rockets Used Data to Bet on the 3-Point Shot

Teams like the Golden State Warriors -- and, most prominently, the Houston Rockets -- rely on data and analytics to drive key game-playing strategies. Houston's analytics-driven strategy focuses mainly on shot percentages.

The Harvard Business School article "Daryl Morey and The Houston Rockets: Building and Deploying Human Capital Through Digital Analysis" shows how the team’s analysis identified the most efficient shots:"Using deep analysis to identify that the three most efficient shots were three-pointers (specifically from the corner), layups (near the basket), and free throws, Morey has steered his team to only take shots from those areas, and prohibiting 'mid-range' shots (which have the lowest efficiency). Furthermore, Morey has built the team around the unique talents of James Harden, whose natural style fits Morey’s strategy perfectly."



Shooting from outside the 3-point line, a few feet farther from the basket, nets a 50% improvement in scores: 3 points instead of 2.So, Houston implemented this strategy.

Did it pay off? In the 2016-17 season, the Rockets smashed the NBA record for number of 3-point shots and had the third-best record in the NBA. Houston was less than 50 total points behind the offensive juggernaut Warriors for the season and 300 points ahead of the third-place team.

Think Like an NBA Coach

Naturally, you need to build your team around solid 3-point shooters to make this risky strategy pay off. But that’s exactly my point:

1. Leverage data and analytics to focus your program efforts.
2. Find out which of your email marketing programs can deliver better results for the same effort.

Whether we're talking baseball, basketball or email marketing, your strategy and resource allocation must be driven by solid data and analytics. Although the players and resources you have dictate what you can do, the “moneyball” approach should enable you to start transitioning your email marketing program for higher performance.

Many basketball teams focus on 3-point shots because they get a higher reward for just a little more skill and effort. You can do the same with email marketing. Which of your programs could you build up with roughly the same effort?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Resend emails: Resending emails, perhaps with a different subject line, perhaps a day or two later, requires little extra work and often can produce substantial additional revenue.
  • Adding an additional triggered message to a series: Cart abandonment emails have become a staple in ecommerce programs, but adding an additional email to a one- or two-email series will convert more abandoners.
  • Testing: Implementing A/B or multivariate tests in all or most of your email programs can produce incremental lifts. Once you nail a testing process, it won’t require significant additional effort.
  • Other techniques: Incorporate simple personalization with dynamic content. Use techniques such as send time optimization. Use machine learning to optimize subject lines and content.
Getting to this point, however, requires that you know which aspects of your program pull more than their own weight, and which email programs and tactics consistently deliver on your goals.
These will factor into your allocation decisions when you have limited staff, budget or IT help. Cart-abandonment emails are the highest-performing messages. But, from a pure revenue perspective, resending a broadcast campaign might produce the most revenue.
You must know the numbers so that you always know which levers to pull and what team skills and resources you need to build around for the future. Creating a process by which you easily deploy resend messages -- perhaps your version of the 3-point play -- is critical for helping you win the email-marketing game.
Until next time, take it up a notch.
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