Pigskin and E-mail – A Winning Option

College and pro football season has arrived. With the cooler fall weather hitting my part of the map, I am ready for it! The beginning of the season is filled with anticipation, hope, and lots of excitement (and, let’s face it: beer). Let’s look at six rules that all football coaches know and how e-mail marketers can apply these lessons to their digital gridiron efforts (which often feels like an appropriate name for e-mail marketing daily tasks).

Use the week ahead to prepare and test: Anyone who has ever watched HBO’s “Hard Knocks” or closely follows football, realizes coaching is hardly a cushy gig (despite the inflated salaries and requisite perks). In between navigating locker room feuds and team politics, late hours poured over game tape as well as preparing multiple scenarios demonstrate that success is often tied to preparation.

Well, guess what, so is e-mail. Your boss may think your e-mail campaigns can be put together quickly, easily, and virtually for free (e-mail is cheap and easy, right?), but the best campaigns have quietly been testing creative, messaging, subject lines, offer, and virtually every other detail that can impact success. Your e-mails may be sent every week, but just like any NFL or NCAA coach, showing up just on game day without full preparation doesn’t cut it.

Defense wins championships: Offense gets the attention and puts the points on the scoreboard. Promotional e-mails are the offensive juggernaut of any e-mail program. Yep, they deliver revenue and what many of your customers want.

However, just like a solid defense keeps your offense from having to do all the work and provides some well needed rest (ahem, frequency issues anyone?), newsletters and relationship marketing are the equivalent of a solid defense. Not as flashy as the offense/promotional e-mails, but they are what can build long-term success and be part of a combination that doesn’t leave you a one dimensional program.

Block and tackle: The hefty guys in the trenches clear holes for the offense and plug gaps on the defensive side of the house. Without them, you are not going to have a chance in succeeding.

Design, messaging, and coding of your e-mails are the O and D line for your campaigns. Like offensive lineman, there are more rules in what you can’t do than what you can, and e-mail designers have to abide by these protocols as well. Just because you are big doesn’t mean you can block, and verbose copy certainly doesn’t automatically translate to e-mail success (in fact, it usually guarantees failure). Finally, coding an e-mail can often bail you out of image suppression, mobile rendering, and more challenges. If you fail to address this area properly, your e-mail will be sacked for a major loss and that, my digital friends, can be painful.

Go for the deep pass on occasion: E-mail marketers are mostly a conservative bunch. There are some folks more in the guise of Boise State though. While ensuring each campaign advances in a strong but deliberate manner may be the goal of each campaign, every once in a while you should think about sending all of your receivers out for a deep pattern and let it fly. Not on second and 25 but every once in a while to keep your subscribers honest and see what happens.

At halftime – don’t be afraid to revamp the game plan: Sometimes you may be on your way to a blowout victory – initial response rates through the roof and the champagne is on ice. Then, you start to coast and a quarter later you are feeling roughed up and the sideline anger is starting to brew. The boss calls an audible and you make some changes to that plan that seemed destined for greatness.

Does it work? Does it matter? Every digital marketer needs more self examination and the ability to run the option and make that split decision and shift strategy on the fly. This versatility and nimbleness, after all, is a chief advantage of e-mail vs. its offline traditional brethren.

Be prepared to be booed: So after your campaign achieves record ROI and gets attention in the C-suite, will you get praise? Maybe, but probably a brand manager or higher up will claim the victory and get the spoils. If an error occurs in the subject line or personalization goes askew, will you get called out in the huddle? You betcha. Be ready and take the good with the bad.

E-mail marketers – what is in your playbook that you want to share?

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