Monday, May 19, 2014

crafting your email marketing strategy - part 5: meet with your stakeholders

by kirk r gray

we've looked at nurture, exhausted content, adaptive design, and personalization... so what's next? it's time to look at development and execution refinement.

we know what we want to say to our customers about our product - the elevator pitch - and have even looked at how to customize that content and experience, but have you sat down and really looked at fleshing everything out? have you met with stakeholders? what about content specialists? what about your front line people? these are all things that need to be done to make your program successful, especially if you didn't do those things in the kick-off of your program.

what happens after you kick off your program?
i'm sure you are thinking that this blog post comes a bit out order from the others, but often with marketing and especially the automation part of email marketing our campaigns run in the background. this has always scared me about marketing-automation - forgetting to look at them again. i'm blogging about this now to not only warn you of this possibility, but because i recently met with the stakeholders of our nurture series and while the experience wasn't exactly an epiphany - there were some good takeaways from that meeting. as marketers, we often get caught up in the ultimate goal - to convert someone. we know our products, we think we know our customers. but when it comes down to it, we might not know all we think we know. we've based our communications on certain behaviors and on what we think we need to give them but generally speaking marketers aren't plugged into everything - especially front-line people or sales. in most organizations marketing and sales are frenemies.

when sales starts to complain, that is your indication that it is time to push the keyboard aside and pull out the markers and butcher-paper, and literally draw out your process. as daunting as this process sounds, it is actually really fun to get all those people in a room and mindmap. you get to be creative, you get to "get dirty", and you get to work on those relationships. so roll up your sleeves and do it.

where to start?
take the emails you're sending and look at the content and the cadence. people are visual learners, so do what we did: tape a timeline to the wall and lay it all out. be transparent with stakeholders. from there look at the typical buying cycle and where conversions are the highest - we found our timing and number of emails was right, but the content needed to be refined. how do you determine that?
  • ask your stakeholder for feedback: what are they hearing when they pick up the phones? what are the major questions that are asked? and when do people call in - after the first email, the third, the last?
  • survey your customers after they convert. ask them did we send too much information, did we send it too often? did we not send enough? did we send the right information to help you make an informed buying decision?
  • ask your stakeholders what they want to see in the series, and most importantly, what are they sending between your communications and when. the when part can help with reducing inbox overload.
our results: we sent the right number of emails; needed to improve the content; and that our highest conversion rates came when we got the prospect on the phone.

our action items: improve the content; and in addition to the major call to action in our emails, include a secondary call-to-action - "call now" since our best converted customers come through phone calls. using a prominent call now cta is especially important for mobile readers, while most mobile clients already hyperlink the phone number in your emails by default how many of us use that to our advantage? we bury the phone number at the bottom of the email...move it up and make it a button.

this meeting pulled in a lot of players - staff from marketing (email, landing pages, social, ppc), front line people, and even a few execs. we got a lot of work done, and educated a lot of people about our process and the challenges with email marketing, and it happened at the right time. i am a firm believer that like everything else, nurture and welcome campaigns have an expiration date. you need to evaluate the effectiveness of the content and process not only on going through stats but with team meetings.

next steps?
after these meetings you need to do a few things:
  • establish a timeline to "fix" what's broken
  • low hanging fruit
  • build out the new strategy and creative
but don't sacrifice the success that you currently have. meaning don't tear it all down let the current campaigns run...no leads is worse than what you might be getting already.

timelines: this is probably the hardest thing to get everyone to agree on. sales wants it yesterday, especially if they are commissioned based. make sure both sides of the table know the challenges, and who else has to be involved to get this done correctly the first time.

low hanging fruit: identify at least one thing that can be done within the week. these are quick low effort/high return changes, not only will it provide lift and a quasi-a/b test, but it lets people know you were listening. in our case we're adding the click to call option to all emails.

new strategy creative: it might mean thinking outside of the box and challenging everyone on your team to deliver...and i assure you there will be grumbling. no one likes to deliver an experience knowing it's a test and might not work at all. but remember this: all outcomes are successes, regardless if they are wins or losses. a failed test is a success, because it makes you successful in developing a test, developing the next one, and how to deal with those failure and analyze them. how many times have we all looked at an a/b test and identified the winner only to say why did the test fail? have you ever looked at a test and said why did it win? analyze both sides, refine and test again.

we are on the right path to clean up an low-performing campaign, because we met with stakeholders and started to tear down the silos. the next entry in this series is going to help you to develop your testing strategy - stop doing them on the fly.

Other posts in this series you might be interested in:
part 1: nurture campaigns
part 2: customer or exhausted content
part 3: technology in strategy
part 4: personalization

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