Who's Got The Ball?

I like this game metaphor.  Many people believe that decisions can be made in groups. I believe that groups can form a consensus, but one person must own the final decision.  While e-mail is essential to our businesses, and lives and thrives in many departments of an organization (think sales and marketing functions, customer service and fulfillment tools, and a one-to-one communication vehicle), the e-mail channel itself has gotten increasingly complex in how it should be managed inside an organization.  This is why a new “category” of services is spawning in this space with the likes of Goodmail, Habeas, Bonded Sender and Pivotal Veracity.

With this evolution, though, who should own e-mail marketing? To make this decision, we must consider the conclusion in distinct categories:


So you have systems messages being triggered from your site--e-commerce or customer service systems.  You have call center managers sending e-mail; you have the marketing team sending e-mail through third-party delivery systems.  The industry is changing; it’s running functional messages and marketing messages through separate domains and different IP addresses. This “reputation” for delivery will be much harder to manage for organizations that are disparate in their delivery practice.  And your own reputation will ultimately be rolled up to your domain, not individual IP Addresses.  Yet, few organizations today are equipped to manage this internally.  So, who needs to be making this decision?  What delivery systems should you use? To what extent do you need deliverability experts to help? These are a few questions you should answer, because these are decisions that will impact your ability to get an e-mail through to your audience, unfiltered and with images rendered instead of blocked. 



Contact Governance 

The industry talked about governance when CAN SPAM arose in 2004. But few took a hard look across their organizations and instituted contact governance.  So who owns the customers and what is the voice of your organization?  With so many departments and many different needs to communicate, who will make the decision on how many e-mails you receive?  I know one company that struggles with this; the staff doesn’t know how many e-mails their most valuable customers get, but they guess that the top 5 percent of their customers could get as many as 45 e-mails per month between compliance, fulfillment and marketing messages. We must acknowledge that consumers are savvier than they used to be.  We must also recognize that an organization has a responsibility to regulate the frequency and type of e-mail communications sent; otherwise you’ll create your own numbing effect and degrade the channel. 

Here’s another way of looking at it: suppose you give every team in your organization the phone number of your most valuable customer. The customer gets a call from a salesperson thanking him for an order. Two minutes later, he get a call to tell him his order was received, then a call the next day stating that the order was shipped. Simultaneously, he gets a call from a salesperson from another department trying to upsell. 

Is your head spinning? I think this demonstrates the importance of corporate governance. Just because e-mail is considered a silent delivery vehicle doesn’t mean that the same caution and governance shouldn’t be applied. 

Organizational Voice 

I’ve used this analogy for years when talking about how convoluted communications can get when there isn’t some control. Imagine the first word processor you had and the first document you produced. You probably tried every tool in the software--colors, underlines, even strike-outs. Your first document probably looked like a ransom note.  I liken this to giving unlimited freedom to this channel.  It is far too easy to lose your voice.  Many organizations have put e-mail muzzles on sales groups so they don’t mass-communicate in a one-to-few fashion, but there is a trend.  Many organizations find that 25 to 50 percent of their online advertising inventory sits in triggered messaging or system-driven communications.  In many cases these are written by the IT groups with very little marketing thought about the value of these communications.  But, hey, they have marketing value--just like broadcast campaign messages. The best advice I can give you is to treat all e-mail communications as advertising inventory.  They have value just like banners on third-party sites, yet they can be much more contextual, relevant and targeted. By viewing all outbound communications as marketing inventory, you can have a more centralized view of maintaining your corporate “voice.”

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