Mid-year checkup: My 3 words for 2022
I'm not big on making predictions for year-end or new-year stories. The email industry can be unpredictable, as we saw in 2020 when COVID-19 brought email back to well-deserved glory.
But I do like the approach Chris Brogan takes every January. He sums up his intentions for the new year with 3 well-chosen words. I set my own intentions in January 2022 using three important words, which you can read about in my earlier OI column, What are your 3 words for 2022?
As effective as this "Three Words" tactic can be for clarifying your new-year goals, it also gives you a base for checking on your progress after a few months so you can hold yourself accountable.
Why stop and reflect now?
Maybe you followed my advice and created your own three-word plan. Maybe you missed that post and didn't learn about it until now. Or you thought about it for a minute or two and then got distracted by the day-to-day grind of putting email strategy together and getting campaigns out the door.
Doesn't matter. I think this year it's even more important to step back and think about where you are in relation to where you thought you would be. Why now? Because 2022 has been a heck of a year so far, and we still have six months to go.
Are we ‘back to normal’ yet?
Not yet. Some of us are back in the office; many of us aren't. I returned to the in-person email conference circuit in May, attending Email Insiders Summit and the ANA-Email Evolution Conference, and I'll be heading out soon to Only Influencers' annual Email Innovations Summit in Las Vegas (more on that later; use code “ONLYINFLUENCERS” to save 15% on your registration fee) to present the opening keynote.
The two May events reminded me that we're not back to the “normal” as we understood it in 2019. Some people still hesitate to travel and to gather in large groups. Consumers are also split between wanting to shop and travel and hang out together and being cautious as COVID's latest strains continue to spread.
Now that we're getting close to mid-year (and the start of Q3, which sets the stage for the madness of Q4), it's a good time to reflect on what we've achieved so far and assess where we need to go as we gear up for the busy second half of the season.
We need to think about what's coming up, such as the holidays and Back to School. Let's exercise the muscle memory of these recurring themes that we have to plan for and execute on through the lens of the three key words for 2022 that I chose back in January.
"Respect the channel. Respect yourself. Respect your customer," I urged marketers in January.
I witnessed respect for the power of the email channel over and over at the last two conferences I attended.
I heard it from attendees sitting in educational sessions and listening to their marketing peers and leaders detail their accomplishments with email, or marketers talking informally over cocktails and dinner.
But I always heard something else, which goes along with respect: Excitement.
I was honored to chair the ANA-EEC awards ceremony in Scottsdale this year, where we gave Tracy Smith of CISCO the Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year award and named Dela Quist, of Alchemy Worx, Thought Leader of the Year (Dela is also a long-time member of the Only Influencers community of email industry professionals).
Both recipients are phenomenal examples of what email has been, is today and what it could be. What came through in Tracy's acceptance speed is that she's genuinely excited about email and its prospects. She's juiced to get up every day and help CISCO execute on excellence.
All of us should feel that excitement every day. Now, I know that's not always possible because you have to fight zombies every day. But what I saw over those few weeks in May is a deep and rediscovered respect for the channel and a determination to make it better.
I'm also hearing excitement from my clients and prospects. My phone rings every day with people who ask me how they can do more, innovate faster and get more sophisticated with their email.
The last time I remember marketers being this excited about email was back in the early days of email, when the channel was new for everyone and we all were working together to solve problems.
Today, respect comes not just in honoring the channel and how we use it but also in respecting ourselves – in managing our personal time, in taking time to clear our heads and finding ways to stay fresh and not burn out. And it's also in respecting those who engage in the channel.
What I took away from the case studies and educational sessions of those two early conferences was a renewed focus on our customers, our prospects, our subscribers – the people who read our emails.
Do you feel that same excitement? Do you get up every day with the drive to excel? If not, you might need time to focus on what's keeping you from feeling that way. If you do feel it, how are you sharing it?
That's what I missed by not having in-person conferences – getting together with old friends, meeting new people, and sharing our stories, experiences and challenges. The best times I had were after business was done for the day, talking over cocktails and dinner and listening to people share their experiences.
That first word on my list – respect – that applies to everyone, from the in-the-trenches marketers trying to make their email programs better to the award winners on the EEC stage.
Some people took a hard look at that word because of Yoda's classic quote, “Do or do not. There is no try."
I am seeing more marketers "do" instead of "try." One client told me, "We just have to get things done. Help us get there."
I'm hearing that everywhere. Time is short. The momentum is there. More marketers are using agile marketing to try new things, like a new way to pay vendors. Yoda wasn't telling people not to try new things – just to do things instead of talking about them endlessly.
Marketers today are tossing new programs into the mix, even though they're half-baked, and then refining them. I also see a new and improved attitude that accepts failure as a part of the process and encourages marketers to keep swinging for the fences.
When and where it's due, I give it. So should you. We all should be recognized for our achievements. We battled through COVID to keep the lights on, engage customers and get relief from our fellow marketers, only to find email was, belatedly, getting its due as an effective sales and engagement channel.
I also see marketers praising their teams' strategic approaches. There's no lack of thank-yous from one marketer to another, or to a team. And that's a big shift.
Marketers are, in general, humble creatures. But sometimes we have to shed that humility and stand up and brag about the great things we do – the customers we bring in, the ones we retain, the sales we generate, the way we push our companies closer to their own goals.
I met a whole new group of people at my two first conferences, and I expect to do the same in Las Vegas. It gives me hope and faith that our email discipline and channel will survive and grow.
Thanks, too, to Only Influences General Manager Jeanne Jennings for including me as the opening keynote speaker at Email Innovations Summit (save 15% with promo code ‘ONLYINFLUENCERS”). I'm super-excited to present to a roomful of smart email marketers. Do I know what I'll be saying to help move our industry ahead? Yes, I do. But you'll have to come to the conference to hear it.
I just went through my three words for the year. What are your three words for the remaining six months of 2022? Think about them. Analyze them and ponder what to do if you want to change them from a previous list. You still have time even though holiday planning is right around the corner or maybe even standing next to your cubicle right now.
An email marketer's life is defined by screaming-down-the-hall moments when someone demands you fix problems just by sending another email campaign, whether it happens three days before Christmas or in mid-June as the thermometer inches closer to 90. As Ferris Buehler once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
Take some time soon to look around at your email program, your team and your life. Think about how you balance your work and life so you can give your best to both and plan for success. And if you're coming to Vegas, hunt me down and tell me your three words. I really want to know.
May the Force be with you!