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Whether it’s an in-house FTE (full-time equivalent) or a digital marketing agency you’re talking to, the general impression people have is that email marketing is easy. Basically, it’s a digital version of direct mail. Well, we have a saying here at Trendline Interactive: “Email marketing is hard.”
This is the biggest challenge we face with any client. Whether it’s getting the data you need from internal systems to make sure you can act on it, or ensuring that the automated feeds are clean and don’t have any stray characters, which can throw off imports or break reporting. We spend a lot of time working with data throughout the lifetime of a client. It is an aspect of the system that requires constant vigilance.
When it’s crunch time, and an email HAS to go out the door NOW, the most overlooked thing is quality-assurance (QA). We allow 48 hours for our QA process to be completed. But we’re not just talking about spelling errors and missing images. We check everything: the list setup (or queries, if need be), the send-date and time, all of the content (including links, images, spelling, and grammar), and how the email will render on different devices and screen sizes. We’re proud of our 2016 error-free rate of 99.63% for over 5700 individual email campaigns, and we’re aiming to improve it in 2017.
When I was on the brand side, I was an army of one. There was more to do than I had time for, so some things suffered. QA time certainly did, but lack of resources also impacted my ability to look forward and work on new tests or strategies. I have run into very few brand-side teams that are staffed appropriately, partly due to a lack of understanding of what it really takes to run a complex and successful email marketing program
It’s easy to measure things like the size of a list, open and click-through rates for individual emails. It gets harder to measure actual ROI on an email, especially if you are not driving people to an online conversion metric or sale. And for the brand side especially, getting the right resources lined up to create an accurate attribution model is, to say the least, daunting. This often results in the channel being undervalued, which leads to things like unrealistic staffing and budgeting.
I’ve been attending email marketing conferences for over 8 years, and the content rarely changes. I used to attribute this to turnover in the industry – so many entry-level people pop in and then out that we are always educating a new crop of frontline workers. But I don’t buy that anymore. I now believe it’s because the highest levels of most organizations still see email as a digital form of direct mail. People have a deeper attachment to their inbox than their physical mailbox, however, and we have to be careful about how we approach it. Helping senior management understand the significant difference in results generated by programs that deliver a highly personal experience versus those that simply push out boilerplate brand messaging is the first step in getting appropriate budgets and resources to do successful email marketing programs.
Good agencies or good employees can make email marketing seem easy, that is true. But the five challenges outlined above are just part of what an email marketer faces every day. So the next time you think email marketing must be easy, think again. Email marketing is hard.
Stuck and don’t know what to do next? Email us at Trendline and we can help.