back-to-basics

Focus on the Fundamentals

  |  July 31, 2013   |  Comments

It's essential to get the fundamentals of email right before implementing advanced techniques such as dynamic messaging, responsive design, and behavioral targeting.

Read the website and marketing materials of any email service provider (ESP) or email agency and you'll hear all about dynamic messaging, responsive design, and behavioral targeting. While I'm all in favor of these things and have been talking about dynamic messaging for a decade, I do have one major misgiving.

I believe it's essential to get the fundamentals of email right before implementing advanced techniques such as those listed above. What do I mean by fundamentals? I think there are five key things to ensure you have nailed before you start with the advanced stuff. I also believe that the bar for these essentials has been rising. What was OK a few years ago is sub-standard today.

  1. List growth. Do you have a clear picture of where new addresses are coming from, how they're being collected, and how they're activated?

    If your list isn't growing, it's shrinking. Ensuring that interested subscribers are able to quickly and effectively join your list, that their addresses are effectively validated, and that they receive welcome and on-boarding messages is fundamental to ensuring list growth.

    Today's list growth fundamentals include real-time activation messaging. Ten years ago it was acceptable for there to be a few days delay between signup and welcome message; today it should be immediate and more than just a text message from your web server. It should be a fully branded introduction to your company and your email program.

  2. Content. Are you regularly sending to your entire subscriber base with strong messaging about your products and services?

    Depending on your business this may be a newsletter or it may be sales pieces. It doesn't have to be fancy to be effective but it should be solid and it should be regular. If you aren't communicating regularly with everyone, you're really dropping the ball, and fancy campaigns won't make up for skipping this fundamental.

  3. List hygiene. Do you have your list hygiene, management, and deliverability processes right? Are you CAN-SPAM compliant? Are you correctly removing unsubscribes and bounces in a timely manner?

    List hygiene today also includes authentication and feedback loop support across all your outbound messaging. Failure here can undermine efforts across the board.

  4. Reactivation. Do you have a reactivation process in place to take inactive subscribers and reengage with them or remove them from your database?

    Once an optional extra for an email program, this is a new fundamental. Identifying inactive or never active subscribers and encouraging them to reengage or opt out is important from a list hygiene standpoint, but also an important aspect of understanding who your audience really is.

  5. Testing. Is testing a central part of your email? Do you test your processes and messaging to continually improve and optimize them?

    Continuous testing of subject lines, offers, and creative is fundamental to a well-managed email program, not just an optional extra. It is built into the heart of how the best email marketers run their programs.

    Right now there is another item that is pushing to become a new fundamental, and that's responsive, or mobile-optimized, design. It's not there yet but it won't be long.

To summarize, I'm totally in favor of running cross-channel, automated, behaviorally targeted, dynamic campaigns with sophisticated business rules. But only once the fundamentals are in place.

If you aren't growing and maintaining your database, ensuring your audience is engaged, and receiving good content on a regular basis, then you will be building on sand. Not to mention missing out on the easiest wins in email marketing.

Until next time,

Derek

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Derek Harding

Derek is the managing director of J-Labs, Javelin Marketing Group's technology skunkworks, a role that draws on his 20 years of experience and leadership in the fields of marketing and technology. A British expatriate based in Seattle, Washington, Derek is perhaps better known as the founder and technologist behind Innovyx, one of the first email service providers later acquired by the Omnicom Group. An industry veteran and thought-leader, Derek is a regular expert author, contributor, conference speaker, and takes an active role in a number of industry and trade groups.

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