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As a lifelong skier, I’ve learned to watch for unmarked hazards and to respect the warning signs I come across on trails or headwalls. I use the same wariness whenever I work with Trendline clients who want to integrate new tools into their email platforms.
The English language has many scary words and phrases. For someone like me, the phrase that keeps me up at night is this: “It just works.”
That’s what vendors and partners often tell us when we sit down to start talking about integrating new tools. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t “just work.”
Many factors affect how your integrations work together and whether or not you’ll get the results you want (and pay for). They’re like the hazards you encounter on a ski or hiking trail. When you know these factors and plan for them, your integration efforts will go more smoothly and you’ll get better results.
Here are 8 hazards to watch for on the trail to integration.
Most people talk about email acquisition as something that happens when you’re talking about paid search or paid acquisition. But we lose sight of the fact that building a business is not like building the ballpark in “Field of Dreams.” Just because you build it doesn’t mean people will come on their own.
Acquisition includes both paid and organic sources of new leads, customers, subscribers or visitors. You can acquire email addresses from a lightbox on your webpage that invites new visitors to opt in, or you could put your opt-in invitation on your shopping-cart form.
Depending on your brand and your business structure, you could acquire new names and contact information from point-of-sale or event sources like self-service kiosks and forms, or from data entered directly by sales or event/field marketing associates.
These sources may have two potential problems that you will need to address:
If you outsource your technology or acquisition sources, they’ll do a nice job of collecting addresses and sending them on to you. But if you go that route, you’ll need to think about the IT resources needed to collect that information from your third-party source.
One particular client who used an outside acquisition service was told by its IT team that they would not be able to add those third-party addresses to the database for at least six weeks. How else could they collect addresses during that period? That’s a long time to let those addresses and potential leads go without contact.
At many ski resorts, the local ski patrol sets off snow slides early in the morning, before skiers hit the slopes. This helps avoid skier-triggered avalanches later in the day.
New addresses that come in without verification can cause a similar kind of avalanche in your database, one that could get you blacklisted or otherwise bring down your ability to reach customers in the inbox. Even if it’s just a temporary blockage, can you afford to be out of touch with your customers?
Verification and list hygiene services can take that information and validate that the email is active and genuine, with no potential risks, before it goes into your database. We have a few vendors we work with in this area.
Let’s say you want to add real-time testing or send-time optimization to your email program. They’re both great tools, but how will these tools affect your project workflow? How much time will they add, not only to the creative process, but the overall production process including reporting and analytics? Who else needs to get involved in integrating those tools and what additional resources are required?
Both tools can help you get better results from your email campaigns. But, before you sign up for them, you need to answer these questions so that you and anyone else who’s part of the process can understand what will happen and what will change in your creative, testing, approvals and evaluation processes.
Email developers have been busy creating enhancements like animation and real-time devices like countdown timers, inventory indicators and geo-located maps. Now, I love a good countdown timer, but you need to know what impact it will have on your email. Will your subscribers be able to see and use it, or will it blow up the message right in the inbox? Is it even the best use of the technology for that campaign and those users?
One of our clients used an enhancement tool but discovered that Outlook showed the code instead of the content that was supposed to be there. That’s no good.
Be sure you know how these new technologies will affect the email as your users see it in their inboxes.
These great tools also collect a mountain of data for you. At Trendline Interactive, we have tackled this aggressively. Our Chief Technology Officer Derek Harding has done a great job of consolidating the data we receive from ESPs and putting it into a data warehouse.
It sounds complicated, and it can be. What’s good is that you have many great reporting tools to choose from to help you climb that data mountain and make sense of it.
How should you do that? First, know what you want to report on. What information do you want to display in your dashboard? What information do you need to have to make decisions? Plan with those considerations in mind, and you can build a useful dashboard of reporting tools.
In one way, your ability to find and choose marketing-technology vendors has become much more complicated.
Here’s what the mar-tech landscape looked like in 2011:
Here it is in 2018:
Not only do you have more vendors, but you have more categories of automatons that didn’t exist 7 years ago. How do you get started?
The best place to begin is by thinking about what your own business goals are.
(Tip: Always think goals and strategy before shopping for technology.)
What’s the low-hanging fruit that would be easy to automate and drive immediate benefits?
At many companies, technology that will drive more ecommerce sales will be the obvious choice. So, you can zoom right to the relevant category (Commerce & Sales, color-coded green) and check out the “Sales Automation, Enablement or Intelligence” section. Boom!
Or, suppose your goal is to become more efficient. The Management column (last one on the right, color-coded black) has a “Projects & Workflows” section. When you know your goals, you’ll be in a better position to find the technology that helps you reach them and not get distracted by new-and-cool tech that doesn’t address your real needs.
I shot this photo of a starry sky because I thought it was a beautiful sight, but there’s a lesson for marketers here, too.
Your project needs probably look like this sky full of stars. You can’t get to all of them at once. So, you need to decide which ones make the most sense to work on first.
How do you make those decisions? How do you prioritize your time, your team’s time and that of allied departments with whom you work, such as IT, customer service or sales?
As with the marketing-technology section above, you can go with the projects that will deliver results fastest and are tied to your company’s goals and objectives, whether it’s something that will add more revenue or reduce costs.
You can also look for projects that allow you to start small, with a minimum investment of time, money, and involvement from outside departments. You can achieve one result and then build on it from there. This way, you can ask for additional investment with results that back up your requests.
It’s easy to get enamored by shiny objects – cool-looking tools that make you (or your CEO) think, “I gotta get me one of those!” They could be in-email shopping carts, real-time counters, or geo-locators, even tools that increase the number of triggered emails you could send.
But, without a plan to implement and build on them, you could end up spending time and money on a tool that won’t pay off as quickly or as well as something else.
Both large and small companies are often politically charged environments, with departments jockeying against each other for management’s attention and investments. The easiest way to get past the politics is to show results: how your campaign revision drove additional growth in raw dollars, response rates and other key metrics that are most meaningful to management.
We’ve seen how this dedicated focus on tying effort to goals has paid off. One of our clients built a solid email-optimization program that has generated significant gains on company goals. He has essentially been given carte blanche with email because he has earned his management’s trust.
Feedback is your friend: Be aware of your company climate. Even if management gives you a green light to proceed, don’t be turned off by or become defensive because of the feedback people bring you during your project. Talk with them, find out what their concerns are and respond honestly.
Everyone answers to somebody else. Be sure you let your key stakeholders understand how your work will make them successful and look good to their bosses.
I know what you’re thinking. “Thanks, Chester! This was fascinating! Now, what kind of technology integration should I start looking for?”
No problem. You know what you need to think about and plan for before you begin the work of identifying tools and vendors and incorporating them into your work process.
Now, you can identify the integrations that cover the lowest-hanging fruit – the projects that will be the most cost-effective and easiest to implement and which will drive the fastest and most useful results.
Depending on your business, a Movable Ink I implementation can be intriguing for creating a sense of urgency and driving interest. Getting someone to act can be the biggest challenge of all. And, this can be a good place to start because you can see the lift.
Good luck and good skiing! If you’d like to learn more about how to successfully integrate technological innovations, please reach out. We’ll be happy to discuss this topic in detail with you.