Planning Against an Email Strategy


How can email marketers actually plan against the successful implementation of channel strategies?

Over the course of many years, I have had the opportunity to build strategies for brands, as well as execute against those strategies as a client and a service provider. The one thing that has always been consistent is the ability to dive into the deep abyss of the execution rabbit hole. This is typically where forward progress just stops. The halt in progress isn’t due to lack of interest or desire, but more often because it is an overwhelming task to undertake (in addition to everything else on one’s plate). While organizational goals (or channel needs) are outlined as team efforts, it is usually the effort of one, or a few, to ultimately make it happen. So how do you actually plan against successful implementation of channel strategies?

Think Big

Starting this effort right requires you to think wide and vast. The goal here is to capture all of your wild ideas that align with organizational goals and objectives. Remove guardrails from the conversation and focus on what you can do as an organization instead of what you cannot do. Thinking big and wide will allow you strive for something amazing for your email program without the constraints of reality holding you back. At this phase in the process, document what can be done with the channel as a whole. While normalizing against reality is still really important – you may find that your wild dreams aren’t terribly difficult to implement.

Apply a “Real Life” Filter

Once you have identified what would be ideal to implement, you need to apply a conservative filter to determine what is realistic. Think very narrowly here about what you can take on given your organizational, technological, and logistical constraints for executing. It can cause a bit of an emotional roller coaster as you come down from the high of the fresh, new ideas you just outlined. But don’t let it bring you down. In the previous step you defined your stretch goal and in this exercise you are determining the floor of your efforts. At this stage you are identifying what can realistically happen if nothing were to change. It is critical to be realistic here – don’t over-sell or under-sell it.

Everything in Between

The fun part, at least for me, is defining and qualifying every stage in between the ceiling and floor. During this phase you get to play the “if-then-else” game with your teams. Conversations get meaty here as you can clearly state that “if” you are able to take a specific action (hire a person, acquire a technology, gain access to a data subset, etc.), “then” you could accomplish a specific goal (turn programs out faster, automate critical email series, drive greater relevant, etc.). The game continues with the “else” statement, which should bring you back to your floor as discussed above. For example, “if I cannot bring on new headcount this year we will have limited capacity to implement the new re-engagement program.” Everyone needs to know what is being sacrificed – but don’t forget to share the upside as well. Highlight the fringe benefits of taking the action.

Taking this approach to planning can really help set expectations inside your organization and with your team. Instead of putting an unattainable goal in front of everyone, you have now defined a roadmap to reaching that goal – and each stop along the way is a milestone that needs to be celebrated.