Big, Hairy, Audacious E-Mail Goals

If you’re like most, you probably can’t find that scrap of paper on which, just 12 months ago, you transcribed your vows for ’04. Recalling past resolutions can be depressing in the acknowledgement of failure: I didn’t lose the weight; I should have exercised more, learned to play the piano, devoted more time to my family and community, and so on.

Despite “failures,” hope springs eternal. We find ourselves in a mad crunch before the ball drops in Times Square to again commit ourselves to some noble quests for the coming year. The New Year signifies new beginnings and a chance to revive our belief and passion that nothing’s impossible.

As I visit with company leaders, I charge them with making bold resolutions and goals for the new year, what Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great” and “Built to Last,” calls “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAGs).

BHAGs are ambitious, to say the least, but not impossible. They are an essential tool to ensure focus across a team or organization. They help reduce the “noise,” or unimportant distractions we’re so often confronted with in our daily business dealings and personal lives. BHAGs also instill a sense of excitement and passion, essential in enjoying the journey just as much as, if not more than, attaining the actual goal. They’re an essential part of the fabric of great companies, which often set the bar high and don’t choose “either/or,” but instead “and” when it’s essential to the corporate purpose and future success.

I’m reminded of several email BHAGs of the last few years.

We were at the initial stages of a relationship with a major financial services company back in 2001 when it boldly stated email was a key strategic imperative for the organization and central to overall customer relationship goals. At the time, this organization had email addresses for less than 5 percent of its customers. A goal, or BHAG, was to obtain permission-based email addresses for 100 percent (tens of millions of addresses) in 10 years and to use those email addresses to facilitate better customer service, satisfaction, and loyalty through relevant dialogues.

Three years later, the organization is quickly approaching 40 percent. All consumer touch points are acutely aware of not only of the goal of obtaining email addresses but, perhaps more important, of also presenting the value and benefits to consumers to encourage them to give their email addresses to the company.

Training, individual goals, and incentives are essential components to drive the success of this program. Communicating how email fits within the company promise to create great customer relationships will ultimately seal the program’s success.

Another rather successful Fortune 2000 brand we work with launched plans to reinvent the email experience several years back. Though most companies set standard goals, such as increasing revenue from email by customer (often meaning increasing the number of campaigns per customer), this company had what I then found an admirable goal for the coming years: Increase the number of electronic interactions between the brand and the customer and increase the average response rate for each initiative year over year.

I’m happy to report this brand has done just that in a year. And, it is intent on continuing the commitment in the coming years by implementing a comprehensive email marketing strategy that has data, relevance, interests/preferences, testing, and value at its core.

Whether you wish to double or triple your revenue and improve customer satisfaction, or retire in 10 years and move to Australia, BHAGs should be consistent with a purpose. They’re also one of the best ways to encourage creativity, innovation, hard work, and progress, which ultimately improve chances for long-term prosperity, happiness, and, yes, greatness. For those of you planning your email BHAG for ’05, remember these three critical elements:

  • Make sure your goal is big, with a long-term timeframe.
  • Keep it simple, clear, and compelling.
  • Build a BHAG that’s consistent with your company’s values and purpose.

I’m reminded of the ultimate BHAG story from “Built to Last.” Wal-Mart’s ongoing commitment to the BHAG started with founder Sam Walton. If all goes as it has in the past, Wal-Mart will achieve its BHAG of being the first trillion-dollar company. Imagine: From shopkeeper to 1.4 million employees with over 4,600 stores across 44 countries in a little over 42 years.

Now that email is an essential part of the overall marketing mix, what’s your company’s email BHAG?

Happy holidays!

Till next time,

Al D.

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