Simplify Your E-mail Marketing Programs

For today, I'm here to help simplify your life. (Well, at least your e-mail program.) And most importantly, by doing this, I'm here to help you achieve something much more significant: making your customers' lives simpler. As consumers in an increasingly interactive world, we're all faced with the challenge of wading through a rising flood of messages from a growing number of marketers across a range of both digital as well as physical channels. E-mail is just one.

Faced with these ever-expanding choices and a general overload of information, consumers see tremendous value in brands that can simplify the seemingly complex. But as marketers, we're unlikely to make our customer propositions and messaging more straightforward if we can't first make sense of the equally overwhelming number of options that help drive and measure both our overall marketing programs--not to mention our e-mail programs.

You're probably familiar with the latest and greatest e-mail trends like segmentation, triggered e-mail, dynamic content, and response-based marketing--but do you really know what these are doing for your program in practice? For many of you, the bottom line is that your e-mail programs have become far too complex in terms of design, segmentation, and timing.



Because we've all got much more to do and less time and resources to do it (in fact, I'm lucky if you've read this far!), many of you have patched together teams of multiple vendors: one for the business brief, another for the creative brief, an agency to build the e-mail, and then a provider to deliver your precious cargo. As a result, many programs suffer from the complexity of being hand-offs between so many moving parts, leaving no time for applied learning.

I recommend getting back to basics. Forget dynamic content and triggered e-mail for now. The truth is, the simpler the program, the easier it is to truly understand the value of the channel to your customers and your business.

Here are five key guidelines to help you (and your e-mail program) keep it simple:

1. Be clear about your goals. Keep objectives to a maximum of two to three per campaign. Any more and your program will become muddled. Be sure to differentiate between a goal and an objective; they do have different uses.

2. If there isn't a measurable value on an action, question it. Every step is measurable, including the partnerships needed to help get the work done.

3. Only test what you are able to act upon. Why measure today what you can't change tomorrow? Be realistic and don't test just for the sake of adding activity; do it with an "end" in mind.

4. Quantify response--both in cost to attain and cost to manage. If you don't interpret this, it will be an empty open rate or click-through rate.

5. Stick to a six-word return on investment. If you can't state the return on your program in six words, it's too complex.

By building upon the above foundations, you will be able to construct manageable, comprehensible programs. Success in e-mail is essentially a function of applied learning and reality. As Forrester noted in a report about business intelligence a few months back, success in the future is not about mass customization or sophistication, it rests in our ability to act on what we learn.

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