New Year’s Resolutions for Email Marketers
It’s that time of year again, time for a slew of articles either forecasting what will happen in the email marketing industry during 2024 or focused on New Year’s resolutions marketers should have on their lists. Far be it from me to swim against the current over the holidays, so here’s my list of four resolutions that email marketers should make for the coming year.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we should probably acknowledge the elephant in the room at your New Year’s party. Historically, people are incredibly unsuccessful at achieving New Year’s resolutions (about 91% of resolutions fail). With that in mind, I’m keeping this list short (only 4 resolutions), and I promise that each one is achievable! Two of them are pretty ‘inside the box,’ but still important, while the other two may take some email marketers outside their comfort zone.
1. Stay Compliant
Since I work for an email compliance company, I can’t help but start here. It’s also the one that everyone should already be achieving, so it should be easy to check off for 2024! But, as a reminder, this means that you must make sure you’re compliant with CAN-SPAM (if you’re mailing in the U.S.). Having been in place since 2023, the key elements of compliance with the law are well established at this point. But it never hurts to have a quick refresher. So, here are the 8 elements of CAN-SPAM compliance that the FTC has called out in its CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business. Read the entire guide for more information. It’s a very concise and understandable guide.
1. Don’t use false or misleading header information - Make sure your ‘From,’ ‘To,’ ‘Reply-To,’ and routing information accurately identify the initiator of the message.
2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines - Your subject line should accurately reflect the content of the message.
3. Identify the messages an ad - CAN-SPAM provides leeway in how to do this, but it must be disclosed clearly and conspicuously.
4. Tell recipients where you’re located - Include your valid physical postal address.
5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future marketing emails from you - Include a clear and conspicuous means of opting out from future marketing email campaigns.
6. Remember that subscribers can opt out of marketing emails, too - Just because a recipient has subscribed to receive email content does not mean they can’t opt-out from receiving marketing emails.
7. Honor opt-out requests promptly - Opt-out requests must be honored within 10 business days and opt-out mechanisms in an email must be active for at least 30 days from the day the email message was sent.
8. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf - Even if you hire or engage with an outside company to send out email marketing campaigns on your behalf, you can still be held legally responsible for the compliance of those campaigns.
Remember that compliance with CAN-SPAM is more than ensuring you provide an opt-out mechanism and honor those unsubscribe requests quickly. Be sure you adhere to all of the requirements to help ensure a long-term, successful email program. All that said, compliance isn’t just about CAN-SPAM. Check out another resolution below that may take you out of your comfort zone a bit.
2. Start Testing AI
This one is probably pretty clear at this point, since you can’t have been in email marketing (or living a digitally connected life at all) in 2023 and have not heard about the emergence of AI. However, if anyone still needs to be convinced, 2024 is the time to begin finding ways to incorporate AI into your email marketing program.
But what does ‘testing AI’ mean exactly? There is no single answer to this question, which is why AI offers so much potential, while also making it challenging to know where to start. Here are just a few suggestions on where you might evaluate the potential for AI in your email program.
1. Content Creation - This is the area people are most familiar with, after the emergence of ChatGPT, Bard, and similar tools over the last year. It’s easy to understand how generative AI might be tested to write subject lines, CTAs, or entire email copy.
2. Performance Analysis - AI is excellent at analyzing a set of data you input into its system. You probably already have reporting set up on your email campaigns (you better!), but I have yet to find an email platform or reporting tool that has built-in reports that cover every way I might like to analyze campaign data. What about comparing campaigns year-over-year or looking at multiple campaigns holistically? AI can be a huge time saver in this type of analysis that you might have previously done manually.
3. Campaign Optimization - Once you’ve run all that data analysis, AI can provide recommendations to optimize future campaigns based on those learnings. It may identify optimization opportunities that didn’t occur to your team previously.
4. Audience Segmentation - Another area where AI can help is in identifying additional audience segments for your campaigns. Let the AI platform examine your data to identify groups of recipients that might make sense to put into specific target buckets in future campaigns.
5. Email Strategy Development - Don’t be afraid to ask AI for its opinion on your overall email strategy. Even if it doesn’t suggest anything you aren’t already doing, it will reinforce the decisions you have already made. But it may throw some curveballs for new campaign ideas or general email program structure that could get your creative wheels turning.
3. Stay on Top of Regulatory Changes - and Not Just in Email
This is my first slightly outside-the-comfort-zone resolution suggestion. Chances are you already stay informed on regulatory or legal changes at the state or federal level that impact the email marketing arena. However, you will benefit by taking an even broader approach to update your regulatory knowledge.
If you have an audience that extends beyond the U.S., then gaining a solid understanding of the laws and regulations of other countries is an excellent place to start. How’s your understanding of GDPR (EU), CASL (Canada), the SPAM Act (Australia) the Data Protection Act (UK), or many of the other international data privacy, digital marketing, or email-specific laws? It can be daunting to become familiar with all the potential rules of the road around the world, but it makes sense to start with any countries where you have a reasonable-sized audience and then expand from there.
Even in the U.S. email marketers can gain a lot of value from becoming more familiar with regulatory changes impacting other marketing channels or elements of data privacy, that impact marketing in general. Why spend more of your limited time (because we all have too much on our plates already) understanding how a new FCC regulation will impact the call center and SMS lead generation industry (yes, that’s happening right now)? If for no other reason, you may identify opportunities for email to step in when another channel becomes more challenging or non-feasible. Additionally, monitoring the broader regulatory marketing landscape can alert you to changes that could be headed for email in the future.
4. Take a Holistic Approach to Measuring Performance
Email marketers love KPIs. It has always been a highly trackable channel, making it a natural fit for marketers who like to analyze performance and focus on driving results. So, most email marketers are already wired to look at performance metrics with a close eye. However, we are also creatures of habit. When we evaluate the performance of our most recent campaign, our default is to look at the same KPIs that we used last time. Why reinvent the wheel each time? This is why we create campaign dashboards and other automated reports. They give us the information we need and save us a ton of time.
All that efficiency and time-savings aside, we might be missing the forest for the trees if we get too focused on specific performance metrics while ignoring other data points that might be more directly tied to the big picture. Focusing on almost any single metric, in a vacuum can lead to a myopic approach to your email marketing strategy and campaign performance analysis.
Click rate has a long history of being a KPI for email marketers. It’s a great indicator of engagement with your email campaign, the success of the call-to-action, and drives respondents to the next step in your sales process (visiting a website, filling out a lead form, etc.). But, a click on an email is probably not the end result or ultimate success metric of your business process. Still, it might seem logical to think that a 2% CTR would virtually always be better than a 1% CTR. However, what if further analysis shows that the campaign with a 2% CTR drove a much lower eventual conversion rate or that the average order value for those 2% was less than half of the value from the campaign with a 1% CTR? Those would not be uncommon realities for companies in a variety of industries.
With this being the case, it makes sense to take a step back from your standard KPIs and approach your performance analysis from a more holistic perspective. Follow your metrics as far to the end result (a conversion, a sale, revenue!) as possible and make sure you aren’t making optimization decisions based on intermediary goals that may or may not be directly tied to the ultimate goal.
And that’s it! Four resolutions that every email marketer could implement in 2024 and I think it’s safe to say that following all four would lead to a stronger performing email program over the course of the year. Happy New Year!