Why your Email strategy needs themes

Is your email strategy is a week-to-week collection of offers, interspersed with some content? Or a soup of weekly content with little correlation? You’ll probably find that your open rate is massively variable or just really low (Eloqua has some great details on average industry open rates). More importantly you won’t be able to respond, because figuring out what your users are actually responding to is difficult.

There’s plenty of articles about creating interesting and meaningful content, not to mention how and why it helps, but creating links and themes between your email content is just as important.

Costume Fiesta

For my email campaigns I create monthly themes (for about 3 months), and then  chalk out weekly content ideas. I try to get each idea to sojourn into the next, and have some linkage to past content (for reinforcement). Ideally speaking they’ll have some connection to real world activities that we’re conducting. This sounds tedious but doesn’t actually take very long.

If you’ve got decent email software (and aren’t sending everything by bcc), you’ll quickly be able to get an idea as to what content is working and what isn’t. Trends will be easier to spot because you’ll have more than one reference point for a topic.

If you’ve got fancy Hubspot-esque software that does user-profile building, then creating theme’s is going to be even more advantageous. As your theme’s will help you create more realistic pictures about your visitors than just a single “I-read-this-article” reference point would.

Of course if you know what your users interests are, selling to them becomes easier – but you didn’t need me to tell you that did you? What strategies are you using when planning out your content?

Marketing vendors, who you gonna call?

I’ve never been part of a marketing team that didn’t have to create literature, usually design through to print. It still amazes me how many Marketing Teams don’t have all their vendors in place though. Sure you’ve got that guy that you usually go to for your printing. But what about when the timelines are really short? (Like last minute events or stunts) Or when your in-house team is overloaded and you need to send work out to a contractor?

I’ve built relationships with a set of vendors, so that just in case everything’s in a mess, I’ve got a list of go to people (with contract rates) ready to hand. It’s something I’d strongly recommend you create. You can get updated pricing every couple of months, which is a great opportunity for you to keep in touch with them – even if you’re not sending any work their way at the moment.

Here’s a few of the different marketing vendors that I try to keep relationships with:

  1. Copywriters; we have our in-house writer and use an external agency (Godot) when there’s excessive load
  2. Graphic designers ; we have internal designers, and have contract rates with 3 freelance graphic designers that we use for specific projects
  3. Video creators; this is new for us, previously we used to create videos internally, but we’re increasingly relying on external vendors given the volume of time taken (and resource used) to finish video projects
  4. Printers (regular); everyone needs to have a regular printer, nothing special here
  5. Printers (last minute); this is where we go when things are getting tight. They charge a premium but can get things done overnight and work really well under time pressure
  6. Web designers; we have an agency on contract that we use for majority of our work, but there are 2 freelancers that support us when we need custom pages & quick project work

Even if you’ve got in-house teams to cover these, it’s always good to keep your fall-backs ready. If you’ve got the budget, it can be worthwhile to send work out to them on occasion instead of in-sourcing it. It’ll give you practical experience of working with your vendors, so you’ll understand their process and their idiosyncrasies when crunch time comes.

Having a few good marketing vendors on tap has saved projects for me in the past.

Why you need a good Marketing Dashboard

It’s not uncommon to hear about the woes between marketing & sales, but it’s more worrying when there’s no problems between the two. Sales usually have a short term vision, compared to the traditionally mid-long term marketing focus on branding, positioning & lead generation. So if there’s no problems between the two, either the sales team is accustom to working on long lead time clients, or marketing is just acting as a lead generation extension of sales.

Brand Value

If terms like brand value, thought leadership, and added value are important to your company, then marketing shouldn’t just be about lead gen and sales. It’ll be tough to develop brand value without a mid-long term vision (and investment) into the verticals that don’t directly result in leads/sales. Those are usually verticals that have no real effect on your brand value. It’s not made any easier when you have to report (defend) against ROI orientated metrics – and what metrics shouldn’t be ROI orientated? There’s a strong incentive to keep pushing for the short term gains.

Which is why it’s so refreshing to see a Marketing Dashboard that has branding as a component of the key metrics. This is a sample Marketing Dashboard that I’ve compiled based on a few that I’ve used – it includes short term lead-gen goals as well as longer term elements, and is designed to be modified to suit your needs:

[download id=”682″]

(There are a few more guides available on the Marketing Resources page)

If your marketing department is functioning as an extended sales arm, be prepared for a long internal change management process. It’s not about changing a spreadsheet, rather than it is about changing the management perspective on what marketing can do for the company. As well as getting some distance from the sales team, which is going to be hard given their enormous vested interested in having the extra hands (and leads).

The questions to ask are, why does the market leader in your industry command a premium? What can we do to achieve that market position? What can we do to justify charging a similar premium? The metrics are important, but conveying them in a meaningful manner to your stakeholders, so they understand the value you’re bringing to the team is more important. Without regular effective communication, your marketing budget will be no more than a slush fund for sales activities & your marketing team will just be an extension of sales.