5 Ways to Sell Your Email Program to the C-Suite

I’m having a lot of interesting conversations with clients and prospective ones excited about being on the verge of something big. It might be a major investment in the program, a new partner, or internal recognition after years of hard work. I think most in the email space have that feeling too – we are onto something bigger than ever before and the timing is right to seize this opportunity.

However, digital marketers often feel they won’t be able to make “the leap” – and not because of execution, customer adoption, or anything related to their core brand and its strategic benefits. What lurks on the other side is more of an internal problem tied to a general fear that someone will not understand the full scope of why and what’s so important. After all, most email programs work pretty well even when poorly planned and executed. So these smart and savvy marketers I have been chatting with want to ensure they pitch their program properly to have it “blessed” by senior management and usually more importantly, not squashed by these same people.

Here are some practical ways to get buy-in from the C-suite:

1. Find the right key performance indicator. Sometimes any business-related goal tied to your email program can be enough, but you might as well go for the right one, not just any metric. Connecting your email program’s impact to a key performance indicator (KPI) like revenue per subscriber or sales per campaign will all of a sudden make your email program stand up strong next to its less measurable digital cousins like social.

2. Have a state of the union meeting. Email often doesn’t get much of a spotlight because it is hard to shine when its leaders are hiding under a rock. Often it is because of the Sisyphean tasks, but other times it is because email managers make false assumptions of what internal teams know about the program or don’t give themselves enough credit in what they have accomplished.

Change this with inviting all of marketing (or in a smaller company, the entire team) to listen to what the email program has achieved and where it is going. You might be shocked at the response you get. Even if you can’t get on people’s schedules, always have this deck ready and be sure to update it monthly.

3. Start communicating differently. Stop forwarding emails with long and hard-to-decipher analysis and spreadsheets of campaign performance. Do you think the CMO reads that? We arm many of our clients with a high-level scorecard that connects the email program to the rest of the business. This is what you report if stuck in the elevator with the CEO and he asks how your program is doing.

4. Creative sells. While creative is one of the many weapons in an email arsenal (sometimes self-destructing in the wrong hands), let’s face it: people like to see and touch things and even more so if it is a pretty picture. Email momentum has slowed many a time when the business rationale failed to have a tangible example of how it is was manifested to the customer. Show killer creative and you’ll help your case in a meaningful way. Throw in a mobile version of some campaigns and you may be perceived as cutting edge.

5. Business cases, not theories, get investment. Ultimately, you want to sell your program not just for a pat on the back or a raise, but to grow the program, try new things, and drive the business forward in a stronger fashion. So besides summarizing what your program does and why subscribers have embraced it, you need to be able to succinctly articulate (think one slide, not 20) what your program is capable of doing with additional support, resources, and/or investment. Meaning don’t go down the path of how a mobile preference center will increase your subscription base by 10 percent due to increased smartphone adoption by a large segment of your best customers. You lost your CFO early in that statement.

Project that “our email program will contribute $2 million more in revenue (or whatever business metric you can estimate) by leveraging new tactics that correlate to changing consumer habits.” A recent study showed 89.6 million Americans used their mobile phone to access email during a three-month period (comScore) and one way we can monetize this is to create ways to interact with these customers where they are spending more time.”

Remember, you often can’t improve on many fronts if your program doesn’t get broader visibility. This is one of the biggest challenges email marketers will face internally and it must be addressed if you have the ambitions to take your program to the next level.

What do you use to make your email marketing program relevant?

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