It’s the email marketing equivalent of a crash diet. Every year, we work with clients who are experiencing the repercussions of mistakes made during the all-important holiday shopping season. They’re coming to terms with the telltale signs and accepting that the damage has been done: rising complaints, decreasing inbox placement and declining engagement. After the email blasting binge comes the inevitable purge and a panicked attempt to offset the irrational, hedonistic, instant gratification-seeking practices used during the holiday season. Or, what we in the business of optimizing email program performance call “January.”
This year, I’m going to attempt to embody the Ghost of Christmas Past in the hopes that I can prevent your 2014 email metrics going the way of Santa Claus down a long, dark chimney. Or at least, make you stop and think before you start on the path to sacrificing long-term health for a short-term sugar plum rush. My spectral advice, based on working with numerous clients who have suffered through declining revenue and ROI in the New Year and beyond, is simple: don’t let the holidays be an excuse for going on a bad-practice-bender. Ultimately, there are three consequences: increased complaints, decreased engagement and diminished list quality.
I can see the devil on your shoulder wearing a Santa hat saying, “Oh, is that all?” The answer is, yes, actually, that’s everything. A healthy email program has a strategy in place to avoid all three of these potential outcomes because they are foundational benchmarks of email marketing success. It’s also no coincidence that complaints, engagement and list quality are the primary drivers of inbox placement. Before you decide to be naughty instead of nice and implement questionable tactics, ask yourself if doing so will negatively impact any of those three things. If the answer is yes, don’t do it. If you have “no choice” because your boss is telling you to do it anyway, make sure you have the data and analysis you need at your disposal to make a compelling case for why you shouldn’t be taking such ill-advised risks next year (or ever again). At the very least, show them this!
I’m going to go out on a spindly green pine tree branch and assume that you are often faced with a decision to execute on varying degrees of bad practices because doing so will help you make your quarterly numbers, appease your boss and executives, or you lack the data that will allow you to connect the dots between today’s questionable actions and tomorrow’s consequences when it comes to reputation, inbox placement and the long-term health of your email program. To help in your holiday decision-making, I’d like to provide a short list of the worst offenders: the bad practices that will sink your metrics faster than a stocking stuffed with coal.
In very particular order, they are:
The holidays are often a time of excess, but the aftermath of implementing bad practices and the effort it takes to undo them can create huge headaches into the New Year. Instead of spending time on strategy or optimization, you’ll be fighting fires and playing catch-up while your competitors get ahead. Avoid the temptations of empty email calories that do more harm than good and stick to a healthy plan that will ensure you’re set up for success into 2014 and beyond.