Strategy is one of the most important, and the most overlooked, elements of a successful e-mail marketing campaign. It's possible to practice e-mail marketing for years without a formal strategy. But there comes a time when you need one to take your efforts to the next level. Here's how.
I'd been creating e-mail strategies for years, but I never gave the develop process a lot of thought until I had to write a chapter about it for my book. That the publisher is giving this chapter away as a sample to sell the book tells me it's good; but it was the most difficult one to write.
E-mail strategy is a lot like teaching someone to ride a bicycle: work directly with an eager student and a bike, and it's a can-do proposition. But ask me (or anyone else, for that matter) to write out directions students can use to teach themselves to ride a bike, well, that's a much greater challenge.
Here are the 10 steps you need to take to develop an effective e-mail strategy:
I'll cover the first two in this column, and we'll tackle the rest in subsequent columns. That gives me adequate space for each step and provides you time to work on your own plan, bit by bit, as we go. If you keep up, you'll have a full plan in eight weeks. Then you can begin to implement it.
Identify Qualitative Goals
This is a just a fancy way of asking what you want an e-mail program to do for your organization. We're not talking numbers here, just simple prose. Things like:
There are a million ways to express qualitative goals. Use language you're comfortable with. That said, all qualitative goals tend to revolve around one of two things:
Your industry may use "clients," "members," "donors," "subscribers," "advertisers," or another term in place of "customers." Whatever you call them, it's all about acquisition and retention.
Analyze the Current Situation
This isn't nearly as involved as it sounds. You probably have most of the information in your head right now. You just need to get it down on paper so you can use it more effectively. Another plus to putting it in writing: it's easier to share with superiors, peers, and subordinates and helps assure that everyone is, literally, on the same page.
This will be an easier and quicker exercise if you focus. Get away from the ringing phone, close your door, or post your "do not disturb" sign on your cubicle. Don't look at e-mail or IM. It's hard to focus when you're being interrupted.
Start with brainstorming and writing down the basics:
Keep looking over what you've written and add to it. Don't worry about organization or structure now, just dive in and keep jotting down the things you know about your current program.
It may be easier to do this in a room with a whiteboard (I love whiteboards!) and a small team of people who are responsible for e-mail. Do whatever it takes to get it all out of your head (or heads) and down on paper for posterity.
Once you've got it all down, look at it. This is where strategy becomes like a puzzle. All the pieces are there in what you've written, you just need to put them together in a logical way that provides a snapshot of your program.
The goal is to identify your current e-mail program's strengths and weaknesses. These should be things under your control, not factors outside your organization's sphere of influence. We'll include these in a strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats (SWOT) analysis later, but don't worry about that right now. You're looking for good things you can further leverage (strengths) as well as shortcomings you have the means to either improve or compensate for (weaknesses).
Strengths might include things like:
Weaknesses might include things like:
Prioritize to identify which items are your biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses. These are the things most likely to help you reach (strengths) keep you from (weaknesses) your qualitative goals.
Keep your list of strengths and weaknesses handy. Look at it every day. Make notes and feel free to add to or review them as necessary. There'll come a time when you no longer feel a strong need to change them. That's when you'll know they're complete.
In the next column, I'll tackle items three and four: complete a competitive analysis, and define the target audience.
Until then, good luck with those qualitative goals and analyses of your current situation. Feel free to contact me if you have questions.
Until next time,
Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.
March 19, 2014