There are all kinds of e-mail marketers. You probably know some yourself. I speak with 50-plus digital marketers a month between client work, speaking at events, Twitter, and LinkedIn. While this is by no means scientific, here are my five categories of e-mail marketers. Which type are you?
The willing newbie: New to the profession and eager to learn, the "willing newbie" is already starting to feel overwhelmed. As she peels back the onion on the task ahead of her - to increase e-mail revenue (on the same budget as last year) - she realizes that e-mail marketing is a heck of a lot more complicated and matrixed than just pressing "send." The "newbie" is probably very talented, but needs some guidance. Just how successful she will be, and how much she contributes to our industry, will be a direct result of the level and type of guidance she gets (much of it by making an effort to learn on her own) - and what type of e-mail marketer her boss is!
The master delegator: Delegating all the decisions to an agency or ESP account director, the "master delegator" isn't paying much attention to the e-mail marketing program. She usually has other jobs - maybe some combination of ecommerce, online marketing, demand generation, or sales support. So, if e-mail marketing isn't "on fire" today, she can't give it any attention. This can be a fine solution if the vendor team knows the business and acts in the interest of all stakeholders, but what usually gets lost in this situation is the voice of the subscriber. The "master delegator" doesn't have time to read the reports or gather and listen to subscriber feedback. She is not synthesizing the response and behavioral data and cannot make good decisions about how to create amazing subscriber experiences. Truly, she doesn't think she needs to. Her team blasts out messages; they get some revenue. That counts as victory in her busy world. The result: a batch-and-blast approach that misses revenue opportunity, churns the file, and diminishes the value of the channel.
The blissful delusional: Thinking, "That only happens to the other guy," the "blissful delusional" misses clues for optimization, inbox deliverability, and higher revenue. The other guy is the one who gets spam complaints - we have permission. The other guy has to worry about churn - our subscribers don't bother to unsubscribe. The other guy struggles with list growth - we pre-check the box. The other guy gets blocked or filtered from the inbox - we get a report that says our e-mail is "delivered" (which usually only means, "not bounced"). The other guy has to optimize content and contact strategy - we earn some revenue with every send, although we really don't know from whom or why. With her head in the sand, the "blissful delusional" is a bane for every e-mail marketer who tries to do right by subscribers.
The frenzied fatigued: This smart e-mail marketer has been fighting the good fight for years, aiming to create valuable subscriber experiences. Yet, every time the "frenzied fatigued" tries to implement a new segmentation scheme or test a triggered message, she gets shot down by internal powers that claim to know better. Ringing in her ears as she rests her weary head in her hands are frequently heard phrases, "We need revenue/attendees, just send an e-mail!" "Why can't you get this out tomorrow? It's just an e-mail?" "Everyone wants to hear about our sale. Just send it. It's cheap!" If you know a "frenzied fatigued," please be supportive. It may be time for an intervention! (Or a new job.)
The buoyant advocate: This is the happiest and most successful of all e-mail marketers. She is clever about using data, makes decisions that are good for both subscribers and the bottom line, and knows her readers and her brand so well that she is an expert at matching offers, timing, and cadence for higher satisfaction, response, and revenue. She has the support of her boss and the C-suite, and, because she really knows the data and her subscribers, she has a seat at the table when it comes to budgets and integrated marketing strategy. She collaborates with the social, acquisition, and other digital channels to use e-mail strategically throughout the customer lifecycle. She's also the rarest type. If you are one, or know one, please celebrate! And, for all you "buoyant advocates" do to make the inbox a satisfying and trusted environment for subscribers: thank you!
It's not easy being an amazing e-mail marketer. There are a lot of balls to juggle and a lot of internal convincing to do. A group of us at the DMA/Email Experience Council did a "Career Matrix" project last year where we attempted to come up with a way to document how much talent, skill, and personal charm is required to be successful at e-mail marketing. We discovered that there are no fewer than 15 key functional areas that a great e-mail marketing program requires (not all from the same person), including strategy, design, HTML production, privacy/compliance, brand advocacy, copywriting, analysis, database management, code writing, and message handling and deliverability. (If you'd like a copy, just ping me.)
So, go ahead. Rate yourself. Perhaps you fall in several categories. Meanwhile, what can we all be doing to help everyone - from "willing newbies" to the "frenzied fatigued" - reincarnate as "buoyant advocates"? First and foremost: put the subscriber at the center of your strategy. Please leave your comments and ideas below!
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.