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7 Keys to Reaching Email’s “Tomorrowland”

by: Jay Jhun (@emailrocks)
17 June 2016

The future of email. It’s bright. It’s lucrative. Reading Litmus’ predictions for email marketing in 2020 made me feel like I was touching the magical coin from Tomorrowland and getting glimpses into a world that realizes all the potential of the future.

Be warned, though: There are a few reasons why, in three years, we may be exactly where we are today.

Problem #1: Money

There are a few facets to this challenge. For starters, email marketing budgets are often dwarfed by other budgets, and this lack of funds prevents marketing departments from upgrading tools, enlisting agencies or adding headcount.

Secondly, although email makes plenty of money for brands, few executives know about it. Email marketers are great at designing, coding and deploying emails, but many of us aren’t great yet at reporting what really matters about email: that it drives business success (a.k.a. making money).

The trickiest facet of the money issue is that even the “bad” email of today still makes money. So, business leaders don’t see the need to “fix” email or make the incremental investments required to evolve. They simply aren’t seeing the opportunity cost of not investing.

Problem #2: Planning

The annual ritual of passage of budget planning carries with it both the hope for what could be done next year and the reality that there isn’t that much more that will be done because your budgets remain flat (a.k.a. the money problem). Year-to-year planning without a bigger, multi-year vision isn’t enough to drive real changes forward.

The other issue is that today’s digital marketers are often asked to be Swiss-army knives that single-handedly execute email programs on top of every other digital channel. As a result of being overloaded, the process of writing a campaign brief for any given email gets easily overlooked.

Problem #3: People

(Some) people are (really) stupid. Or maybe they appear to be stupid because of decisions that are made around their email investments. Email marketing drives valuable engagement and/or a handsome ROI, yet people (a.k.a. business leaders) decide not to invest in more resources because “it ain’t broke.”

On top of that, people aren’t being trained to actually help evolve email. You could fit all the people who really know how to code emails on the bleeding edge in the back of my SUV. The number of people who actually understand relational databases within marketing departments is improving, but it’s not enough to get people thinking and working smarter about segmentation.

Neutralizing These Threats

But don’t be discouraged by all of the above, though. You can begin neutralizing these threats and making your way to email’s Tomorrowland, today. Here’s are seven ideas to get you started:

1) Hitch your email program to measurable business goals. If you’re not sure how, ask. Talk with your business leaders about how you want your work to impact the business’ bottom line. Don’t be an enabler of bad decision-making.

2) Plan your budgets with a finish line three to five years down the line. Use each individual year as a milestone with an intentional trajectory.

3) Revamp your production process to require campaign briefs that list explicit goals and intentions for any given campaign. You’ll have little to no chance of evolving your email program unless you’ve proven something other than the fact that you sent an email.

4) Share your success stories with your peers and supervisors. Odds are that your success feeds into others’ successes, so don’t let your email program be a well-kept secret.

5) Cast a vision for what revenue or impact your program could have with the budgets that you really want. Make the business case and see what happens.

6) Invest in getting smarter about email. Whether it’s along the lines of design or data, we need more capable workers. If you‘re responsible for budgets, invest accordingly.

7) Be realistic about (stupid) people. As you apply some of the tips above, the change you hope for will either start happening or may never come to fruition under the current “administration.” To increase your odds of success, try aligning yourself with the most progressive leaders in your company, even if it means looking beyond your immediate superiors.

Tomorrowland doesn’t have to be a fictional place. In fact, most would say that it’s inevitable. But we can do something about how quickly we get there. Take a sober look at your particular situation and use some of these tips to make your email program look noticeably better by 2020.

Get More Email Marketing Tips:

1) Ebook: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue

2) Blog: “4 Strategies That Bring Customers Back to Buy Again and Again

3) Tip Sheet: “Transactional Emails: 10 Tips for Driving Value and Engagement


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