Resources: The Email Marketer’s Guide to Addressing Time, Resource and Funding Challenges

Written by Kathleen Waldvogel, VP Client Services, BlueHornet

This article was originally published by eMarketing and Commerce (eM+C) on March 14, 2012. You can read the full article on eMC’s website here.

What’s the biggest challenge facing today’s email marketers? There’s no shortage of opinions, ranging from growing and retaining your subscriber list to sending clear and relevant messages to managing deliverability. While there are things that every email marketer needs to accomplish, the real question is how do you get them done?

Many email marketers say a lack of time, resources and funding affect their ability to address tactical challenges, but let’s take a realistic look.

  • Time: This is a fixed variable for email marketers. There never seems to be enough of it and you can’t manufacture more. Therefore, you have to make the most of the time you have.
  • Resources: Adding personnel to your team never happens as quickly as it’s needed, mostly because of the time it takes to interview and hire new employees. While you look for the next great email superstar, you again work with what you have.
  • Funding: Money shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem for email marketers. Since email’s ability to drive revenue is easy to track, identifying the right key performance indicators and focusing on program optimization should yield positive returns.

If time, resource and funding constraints simply “are what they are,” then the biggest challenge you face is prioritizing how to best use your limited time and resources to drive the revenue required to ensure your email marketing program thrives.

Just about every email program has something that needs fixing, so figuring out what’s not working is the first step in prioritizing program initiatives. Compare key metrics with industry standards to identify whether problems exist in one or more areas. If you work with an email service provider (ESP), your account team should track these metrics, offer proactive insight and make corrections when needed. If you’re a do-it-yourself shop, delivery, open and clickthrough rates are good indicators if something is broken.

Getting your message into the inbox is a precursor to any successful email program. If your messages are being filtered or blocked by large internet service providers (ISPs), this must be your top focus. Poor deliverability can be caused by a number of factors, including lack of subscriber engagement (i.e., poor open and clickthrough rates) and other factors that vary by individual ISPs. If you don’t have experts on your team who understand the current and ever-changing deliverability landscape, or if you lack deep relationships with ISPs, engage your ESP or hire a deliverability consultant. It’s a solid investment.

Let’s look at some numbers to see what improving your deliverability rate can do: Let’s say your delivery rate is 92 percent, below the industry average. Also assume a lower-than-average open rate of 12 percent and a clickthrough rate of 4 percent. If you send 10 million emails a month, these metrics deliver 88,320 shoppers to your website. If your site conversion rate is 2 percent and your average sale is $100, a 5 percent improvement in your delivery rate equates to an additional $4,400 a month in site revenue. A monthly fee for deliverability consulting is easy to justify.

Once your emails are in your subscribers’ inboxes, they need to get opened. A 5 percent improvement to your open and clickthrough rates in the previous example would increase site revenue by another $9,500 a month. Factors including subject line, message frequency, segmentation and relevance can affect open rates. A good place to start is by testing subject lines to see what moves the needle, beginning with general audience testing and moving to more targeted segment testing.

Also look at subscriber inactivity and opt-out logs to identify a common point at which users stop engaging with your emails. If you can identify a trend like this, you’re well positioned to deploy a campaign that targets the time just prior to when subscribers jump ship.

Simple changes to your email marketing program that are aligned with top priorities can help address seemingly daunting shortages of time, resources and funding. Keep in mind that what starts simply can quickly grow more complex, so be open to leveraging the services your ESP can offer. As they say in the auto industry, “actual mileage may vary.” However, prioritization should help you generate a measurable lift in revenue, which in turn can offer opportunities to invest in more program improvements, people and next-level strategies.