Setting Objectives for Dynamic E-Mail Campaigns

Once you establish that you have a platform capable of delivering a dynamic campaign, you must define your objectives.

As I said in my dynamic messaging survival guide, dynamic programs require much more preparation and upfront quality control than traditional campaigns. Dynamic messaging opens up a whole new world of opportunity in which the possibilities are virtually endless. It’s easy to get carried away. Yet marketing campaigns must meet and support business objectives. If they don’t, they have no value. Clear objectives must be defined and kept in sight throughout the development process. They’re a vital sounding board for determining what is and isn’t worth implementing. They’re the ultimate sanity check that keeps the project on track.

In addition to greater complexity, dynamic campaigns typically last longer than their traditional counterparts. There’s a longer lead time and higher setup costs. So though the process for defining objectives for a dynamic program is fairly standard, it’s worth spending more time to clearly and concisely define objectives. Time spent now will be rewarded later. Vague objectives can easily lead to a project that gets out of control. As they say, no one plans to fail, they just fail to plan.

I recommend using the commonly accepted “SMART” criteria for objective setting:

  • Specific. Be precise and detailed about the campaign objectives. Who are you trying to reach? Why are you trying to reach them? What do you expect to gain? Remember, email is a consensual medium. Maintain focus on the value proposition to the recipient as well as to the sender.

  • Measurable. Define your metrics for success at the outset, including how those metrics will be measured and calculated. Many dynamic campaigns are longer term. Define measurement milestones and plan for regular reevaluations and course corrections.

    Though open and click-through rates have been the staple measurements, it may be worth implementing methods to measure true ROI (define) with tracking through to purchase. As well as hard metrics such as ROI, you may wish to measure soft values, such as perception and propensity to buy.

  • Acceptable. Ensure the objectives and timeframes are acceptable to key stakeholders. With greater setup costs and longer lead time than normal, it’s essential to make stakeholders confident of the value of your dynamic program so they’ll see it through to completion.
  • Realistic. Give particular consideration to feasibility, budget, timescale, and complexity. Once messaging goes dynamic, the content quantity, as well as the cost and complexity of managing that content, rise rapidly. It’s extremely easy to underestimate the costs, both financial and temporal, of managing that complexity. It’s far easier to add complexity than it is to remove it. You’re better off starting simple and ramping up than biting off more than you can chew.

    Remember, dynamic messaging is no silver bullet. It can be an extremely valuable tool, but it’s unlikely to turn a stinker of a product into a top seller. Managing expectations can be critical to a successful outcome.

  • Time-bound Set achievable timelines. All too often, I see marketers stumble from one “must be done this week” campaign to the next. Dynamic campaigns require more preparation, so they take longer. Everyone must be prepared for this.

A common marketing objective might be to increase repeat purchases. A SMART objective might be to increase repeat purchases among first time $100-plus purchasers by 15 percent within three months through the use of targeted cross-sell opportunities and limited discount offers.

I realize this may read like Project Management 101, but the complexity associated with dynamic campaigns requires this type of approach. The single biggest cause of failure I’ve seen is underestimating, and failing to manage, the dynamic messaging’s complexity. As the project progresses and issues become more complex, a lack of clear objectives can leave different people working in different directions. The result is spiraling costs, missed deadlines, and, often, failure.

Adding more of the rigorous preparation and planning to a media campaign — the type required by an engineering or software project — will pay dividends in the long run.

Until next time,


Please take the time to participate in ClickZ’s short reader survey, which will be live until March 3. To thank you for your participation, ClickZ will make a donation to charity on your behalf for every survey completed. Details of the charities you can nominate are provided at the end of the questionnaire.

Related reading