Email marketing optimization in 2023
Furious! We made it to 2023! As we neared the end of the year in December, the finish line seemed awfully far away. Many marketers have told me they are busier than ever.
I myself took calls for strategy help, worked on deals and managed the chaos until Christmas Eve. something that rarely happens in my 20+ year career.
Look back and celebrate, then move on
The first task for 2023 will be to step back, clear your head and take stock of all the great things you accomplished in 2022 against all odds (e.g. overcoming COVID, transitioning into a recovery and the second round of COVID, the transition to the supply situation). (Chain bottlenecks and other issues, in the face of a potential recession) and how these impacted the work you’ve done to ensure your success.
And now it’s 2023. I hope your budget request has been approved and you are ready to move on with a clean slate and new KPIs to achieve. You’re probably wondering, “What can I do now to expand my program?”
3 changes in direction to expand your email program
Of course, every marketer’s goals are unique. We have different target groups, challenges, resources and goals. But I’m focusing on three major shifts in direction with my clients this year. Which of these could help you succeed this year?
1. Stop sending so many emails
Yes I know. That sounds strange coming from someone who believes 100% in email and its power to build your business. But even I have my limits!
Emails during this recent holiday shopping season have been crazy. In my 20+ years in the email industry, I can’t remember my inbox ever being this full, even during the COVID-19 lockdown days.
I’m not the only one who noticed. Their customers also noticed that their inboxes were blown up to the North Pole. And they complained about it, as reported by the Washington Post (“Retailers are sending more emails than ever to get you to shop“).
I didn’t run numbers to measure loudness, isolate cadences, or track frequency curves. But every time I turned around, I saw emails pouring into my inbox.
My advice to everyone on the subject of frequency: if you have been on the gas on vacation, now is the time to be on the gas again.
This should be a regularly scheduled move. However, it’s important for your executives to understand that higher email frequency, volume, and cadence is not the new email norm.
If you commit to this larger schedule, you will drive yourself insane and drive your audience to other brands or social media.
What did increasing the cadence do for you? You may have reached your numbers, but consider the long-term costs:
- More opt-outs.
- More spam complaints.
- Deliverability issues.
- Lower revenue per email.
Use what you’ve learned from your holiday rhythm to figure out if it’s a viable strategy or just a “break the glass in an emergency” measure.
My advice? Slow it down. Return to your normal volume, frequency, and cadence. Think of your customers and their reactions to 60 days of email deluge.
2. Stop spamming
In the Washington Post article I mentioned earlier, I found it encouraging that it cited one of my email problems—visiting websites and then receiving emails without first asking permission.
I could have given the post a salty quote about my SafeOpt and predatory email experiences (“Business stress is no excuse for spam“) for visitors to its customers’ websites.
Successful email marketers believe in the sanctity of permission. This permission-based practice is what you want to be involved with. Buying a list means you are not hiring a company to sell you a list, whether it’s a data broker or a technology provider like SafeOpt.
Spamming people doesn’t work in the long run. Sure, I’ve heard stories from people saying they use purchased lists or companies like SafeOpt and make money off of it. But that’s a unique take on the implications.
Email is the only marketing channel where you can get it wrong and still make money. But does it do it right?
The problem with the “it made us money” argument is that there is no way out after that. Do you measure how many customers you’ve lost because you spammed them, or how badly your sender’s reputation has suffered as a result?
You may achieve a short-term goal but lose the long-term battle. If you become known as an unreliable sender, you risk losing access to your customers’ inboxes.
Permissions violation aside, sending an email to a visitor after they leave your website is a wasted effort for three reasons:
- A visit is not the same as an intention. They don’t know why they landed on your website. Maybe they accidentally entered your URL or immediately realized that your brand wasn’t what they wanted. Chasing them with emails won’t bring them back.
- They don’t measure interest. Have they visited multiple pages or looked at your “About” or FAQ pages? As with intent, just landing on one side doesn’t signal interest.
- They didn’t give you their email address. If they had interest or intention, they would want to associate with your brand. No email address, no permission.
Good email practice dictates that email performs best when it’s permissions based. Most ESPs and ISPs work on this principle, as do many email laws and regulations.
But even in the US, where opt-out emails are still legal, just because someone landed on your site doesn’t mean you should send an email without permission.
3. Do a new thing
Many email marketers start the year with a list of 15 things they want to do in the next two months. I’m attempting to curb those over-the-top visions by focusing on achievable goals with this question:
“What could you do this year that could significantly improve the success of your email program?”
When I took a position as chief strategy officer at Acxiom, I wanted to come up with a long list of goals to impress my new boss. I showed it to my mentor, the amazing David Baker, and he said, “Can you guarantee that you can do all these things and not just do them, but get them out of the park?”
“That’s why you don’t set yourself so many goals,” he said. “Go in with just one. When that’s done, think of the next thing. Then do another. If you propose five projects, your boss assumes that you will complete five projects. If you don’t, it just means you didn’t make it.”
That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received and I’m passing it on to you.
Think of a goal, project, or change that will drive your program forward. Take it to your boss and say, “I’ll do that this year.”
To find that one project, look at your MarTech, then read MarTech’s 6 Most Popular Articles of 2022 for expert advice.
You’ll find plenty of ideas and tips to help you nail your big idea to drive growth and succeed. But be realistic. You don’t know what events could impact your operations.
Power your email program in 2023
The new year has only just begun, but I’m finding it a little difficult to motivate myself for what is shaping up to be a very special year. You too?
I enjoyed my free time over the holidays. I’ve played golf with my dad and his buddies, ate great food, and taken the time to step back and appreciate the phenomenal people I work with and our amazing industry.
What finally gets me going? I turn to my team, my friends and you. A lot of my motivation comes from fellow marketers – what you need, what you’re worried about, and what I can do to help you succeed.
As you sit on the battle bus with me, get some motivation from your colleagues and teammates so that in 12 months we can come together and toast each other that we’ve gotten through another year.
It’s time to put on your marketing helmet and give the go-ahead. Here’s to another great year together. Let’s do the work!
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily those of MarTech. Staff authors are listed Here.