Recently I’ve written Email Insider columns about thinking big and getting things done, and one of the questions I’ve gotten a lot in response is, “Do we have the right technology, resources and creative partners in place to reach our goals and achieve success?”
One key to answering this question is determining how much you’ll need to have your own hands in the marketing mix. The old enterprise email marketing model—where most correspondences were one-off broadcast messages—is being replaced. The “we’ve got five product emails we’ve got to push out this week, let’s toss them over to the agency or creative ESP team, send them off and move on to the next communication” approach isn’t going to work much longer.
In its place is a move toward multifaceted programs and campaigns that are triggered by customer behaviors. That relates directly to one of the biggest trends among savvy email marketers, which I touched on in my most recent Email Insider post: creating more behavior-based and automated programs. These campaigns are much more strategic, requiring a deep knowledge of the business. They need to be designed, tweaked, monitored and continually optimized by someone who understands the intricacies of the company.
In addition, transitioning from batch-and-blast emails to more behavior-based automated programs typically requires working closely with your IT team as you’re pulling data from multiple sources (CRM, ecommerce, business intelligence and more). Much of this work is frontloaded as your email strategy changes, but it’s also critical that you have internal control over these relationships so you can make changes quickly.
For these reasons, sophisticated campaigns are more difficult to fully outsource. Think of email marketers as NASCAR drivers behind the wheel of a high-tech race car. They may get some assistance from team members in the pit, but during the actual race the driver is the one in there with their hands on the wheel maneuvering the vehicle. And just as a race car driver has to adjust on the fly to track conditions, vehicle performance and other drivers, an email marketer must juggle many different messaging tracks and data points simultaneously, requiring quick mid-course adjustments to keep a few laps ahead of the competition.
So while a full-service model may make sense for some of those “throw-it-over-the-wall” companies, many will want to focus on improving efficiency and performance by maintaining greater control of their integrated email marketing efforts. That’s because YOU know your audience best and will benefit from a solution that puts the power in your hands so you can, for example, modify post-purchase email campaigns that drive revenue on the fly.
How does that translate in terms of making sure you have the right tools, team and resources in place? In my experience, it’s difficult for a vendor to be both a best-in-class software provider and a world-class agency. So if you need both top-tier technology and agency services, you may want to consider going with the best of breed from each discipline.
The good news from a technology perspective is that the best marketing technology solutions today are both sophisticated and easy to use, enabling you to improve efficiency by reducing the need for external campaign and deployment services. My advice is to dig beyond analyst reports and get demos of the marketing technology platforms you’re considering to see how they stack up in terms of ease of use, data collection options, behavior-driven features and integration of mobile, social, local and email. (See our infographic on how companies today are integrating “mocial” channels.)
So how do you know if you have the right elements in place to reach your goals and achieve success? That’s a tough one to answer, since one size doesn’t fit all and different companies use email with different goals in mind. But if you’re looking to think big in 2012 and increasingly employ the types of behavior-based, automated emails that can often boost revenue to exponentially higher levels, keep in mind that it’s easier to win the race if you’re actually driving the car.