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I spend a lot of time speaking at conferences and events, which gives me the opportunity to talk with email marketers across the country. While the cities may change, I often hear a similar refrain: I’m understaffed and undervalued. People in my organization give very little attention to the email program. Every year I am continually tasked with growing lists and the program while budgets remain flat and patience amongst stakeholders wears thin.
Email has been around for so long that there’s a perception that it’s easy — that it just chugs along without much oversight. The reality is that email marketing is the offensive line and without it other parts of the marketing department don’t shine. Whether it’s 5,000, 5 million or 50 million people, email has a huge influence on your brand. So how do you get people to understand that without a stellar offensive line, the quarterback can’t pass, the running back can’t run and the wide receiver can’t get open? In some cases, the programs run so smoothly that people in the organization may not even see the work that goes into them. How do you get them to understand the complexities of what you do to get more attention, and respect, but more importantly more investment in a channel that is proven to deliver?
Here are four things I’ve done over the years that will help you do just that.
What’s the first step in getting people to understand what you do? You tell them. Create a charter—a purpose. Write a statement about exactly why the email program exists. This may sound fluffy but it’s not; establishing your purpose is key. Here is value that program brings both internally and externally to our subscribers. . This is why the program exists. Take some time with this and define your value. It’s not just “I blast emails out and get revenue.” That’s easy. I’m talking about the value that you bring to the person on the other end of the email.
Once you create your charter — share, share, share. Pin it up on your desk. Make it the first slide in each deck or set of reports you send. You have to promote it, evangelize it, and market it internally over and over to let it sink in across the organization. Believe it or not, every person in the company has an opinion about the email program, and what it is you do (or don’t do.) Once you have your purpose defined — your charter — you can have it at the ready to hand out and say: This is what I’m responsible for. Here is the value I try to bring to the organization as well as how email contributes to the overall business objectives of the company… Remember, being an email marketer means you are always trying to sell the value of the program and your role to each and every stakeholder – including the C-Suite.
By groundswell, I mean garnering a favorable opinion and understanding of what you do throughout the organization and what email is capable of doing for the business. I’ve found one of the best ways to do this is through lunch and learns. My lunch and learns always began with — you guessed it — my charter. Remember that your goal is to educate people on email, so you want to break it down to brass tacks. Why does email exist? What’s the purpose of our program? Here’s what it takes to get an email out the door. When I began doing lunch and learns at Groupon, it started off small. I’d buy pizza, share my charter, answer lots and lots of questions. Then the sessions started filling up to 20, 50, and sometimes 70 people would show up to watch me put on a clinic on email. You might want to think about creating sessions specific to job levels because someone who’s a salesperson is going to have a different set of questions than someone who’s a product manager or a digital marketing manager. Think about the stakeholder vs. the director vs other channels. Try breaking these lunches and learns out by expertise — Email 101, Email 201. You want everyone in your organization to understand what it is you do and its value, even C-Level executives. When that happens, a light goes off and you’ll see they have a newfound appreciation, understanding and respect. But you have to be proactive. You are the expert and you have to be ready to drive this in order to be successful. Plus…free pizza is always a good draw.
This one is key — know your numbers — and I’m not just talking about click-through rates in a particular campaign. In order to communicate your value within the organization, you have to be able to interpret your numbers in ways that will expand a conversation beyond open or click rates. You have to be creative on this — and be a little bit scrappy so you can go beyond the usual metrics. If you have the ability to create dashboards and publish them to the web, by all means do it. I know some people may not be able to do that, but you can still mine your numbers for substantive insights that can redirect a conversation. Above all, you have to be prepared. You have to deliver the numbers before you’re asked for them.
Say you discover that a cohort of people that came from your website doesn’t engage in your email program very well. You’re spending $5 million dollars a year and over a period of time you’ve noticed the amount of money you’re spending isn’t necessarily converting and bringing in the ROI. This information opens up the conversation to deeper questions: How can I work better with the SEO department? How can I engage with other channels in the department to get better results?
Knowing your numbers, showing them in advance, and looking at things outside traditional metrics prompts questions— and that’s really what you’re after. But you need to be able to articulate how your numbers influence the rest of the organization. This gives you the ability to then go back and make a pitch for more resources, more budget, or the ability to pull in an agency like Trendline who can come in and help grow, optimize and make a positive impact on the business.
Showing initiative and insight with your numbers — and being proactive — is a great way to get attention. But all this attention won’t amount to a hill of beans unless you can create time.
The bottom line is that you have to find a way to become more efficient in the things that you do. I talked about this at recent Future of Email events in both Indianapolis and Washington D.C. There are ways to drive efficiency in email and one of them is by shoring up the operational process. Do you have master email templates in place that enable you to draw in content so you don’t have to spend time with all the other things happening in email? At Trendline, we have case studies showing when we’ve done this for our clients we’ve been able to shave off 65% of the time it takes to get an email out the door. Once you’ve regained this time, what are you going to do with it? You reinvest it into projects that are going to make you more money or advance innovation.
One of our core values at Trendline is Continuous Improvement. There’s always a better way to do something so we’re always looking at new ways to be faster or more efficient. It’s a delicate balance, but in the efficiencies lie real opportunities so it’s important to be open to new possibilities that will get you results.
So there you have it. Create a charter. Create groundswell. Know your numbers. Create time. Now go forth and get the attention, support and buy-in your email program so rightly deserves.
Andrew is an avid blogger, frequent speaker and thought leader in the email marketing community. He has been quoted in and contributed to several books on email marketing as well as numerous white papers and publications. An advocate for responsible email marketing, Andrew spent more than 10 years running some of the largest and most complex email marketing programs in the world. In 2010 he co-founded Trendline Interactive, a full-service email marketing agency that delivers world class programs for enterprise level organizations.