Creative email marketing ideas

5 Email Marketing Initiatives to Invest in Throughout 2021

The New Year is an ideal time to try out exciting ideas and launch new email marketing initiatives. Of course, it takes money to pull that off, and getting approval may be harder than you’d expect.

We’ve gathered advice from seven different email industry veterans in our eBook, Maximizing Your Email Marketing Budget. Plus, Email on Acid CEO John Thies gave his guidance on how to get buy-in for your ideas. I’ve got some advice of my own to share!

As someone who’s dealt with the struggles of getting budget approval for even the most basic email marketing initiative, I feel your pain.

I once worked for a global tech company, managing email strategy worldwide, and my starting budget was exactly $0. We had to get approval for everything. My job was to explain what we needed, get pricing, evaluate vendors who would best meet those needs, and take it to procurement for price negotiations with the vendor. I couldn’t move forward on anything until I circulated a request through decision-makers in 36 countries to see if they’d be willing to put money into my budget and cover the cost of what we needed.

This process could take six months or more. The company’s fiscal year started in April, so I was making my slide deck for pitching ideas in late summer/early fall.

You don’t want to show up late to the budget party – even though it’s probably not the most exciting party in town. So, my first piece of advice to email marketers is to make sure you understand how your organization’s budgeting and procurement process works and what the timeline is.

After that, you need to determine which email marketing initiatives are worth your time and effort. If you’re wondering where to focus and why, here are five ideas:

1. Data hygiene

team conducts email data hygiene

The cleaner and more reliable your data, and the more connected your different databases are, the more powerful email marketing will be. You don’t have to wait for spring to clean up your subscriber lists. Start there.

All the changes that came with the year 2020 make now the perfect time to get rid of inactive email addresses, especially if you’re working for a B2B company. Lots of people changed jobs or (sadly) lost jobs in recent months. Plus, there have been plenty of businesses that were forced to permanently shut their doors in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Partnering with someone who can provide “data washing” services is a smart move. Your ESP may offer a service like this. You can also partner with brands like Kickbox, NeverBounce, or Webbula to name just a few companies that help email marketers with data clean-up.

Generally, for B2B brands, ESPs charge on a cost-per-contact (CPC) basis. If you’re paying for contacts you don’t need, you’re basically flushing money down the drain.

B2C email bounces may cause issues, too. Bounces add up against your IP record and sending domain. If you have inactive addresses in your list that have turned into a spam trap, your IP and sending domain can get blocklisted. That means you may have to go through the pain-in-the-neck process of getting your IP or domain removed from these lists.

If you can’t get your emails into the inbox because you’ve been blocklisted, then you can’t make any money off your campaigns.

2. Personalization

personalization email marketing initiatives

Email was the go-to marketing communication channel in 2020. We could cite plenty of stats on what happened with email during the COVID-19 pandemic. But you’ve probably already noticed how much more email you’re getting these days.

Advanced email personalization helps your brand stand out because it offers a unique inbox experience that aligns with the customer journey and the buying cycle. It also helps establish a stronger, more relevant relationship with customers and contacts.

The growing number of potential partners offering email personalization technology include Movable Ink, LiveClicker, NiftyImages, and Zembula.

From an eCommerce perspective, there are many opportunities to gain an advantage with personalized emails. You have data on what customers are viewing on your website, what products they order, when they ordered them, and so on. Use that data to make informed decisions on what to send to people and when to send it.

Beyond marketing messages, personalization technology can also enhance transactional messages and shipping updates with package tracking emails.

To accomplish all this, you’ll need quality data with the proper fields connecting your eCommerce platform to your marketing automation system. That often requires someone with the technical know-how to make things work. Which brings us to my next suggestion …

3. Training

developer trains on email data science

A priceless member of any marketing team is a data technologist or data scientist. Not every company is fortunate enough to have someone filling that role. You can, however, invest in training team members to work with the data in your marketing automation system.

To accomplish things like automated responses or abandoned cart emails, you’ll need someone who’s familiar with SQL and/or Velocity scripting (if you’re using Marketo). These aren’t easy coding languages to work with but investing in employee training could open up new doors and result in a stronger team.

If training for your team isn’t an option, you can hire a professional with experience to set up automations and data dashboards that your team can easily interpret. Also, many times larger ESPs have dedicated teams to help with this, at a cost. Although outsourcing email marketing work isn’t necessarily a bad idea, investing in your team could be a better long-term strategy.

You don’t have to limit training to developer skills. Your team may benefit from getting better at graphic design, copywriting, split testing and conversion rate optimization, or any other tactic that makes the team more versatile. Get training directly from the platform or look for online learning opportunities. Do whatever you can support all your email marketing initiatives.

4. Project management

project management for email marketing initiatives

Email marketing initiatives connect to nearly every aspect of business and marketing. Email is used for customer acquisition and retention, promotion and education, crisis communication, and more. Your team is responsible for keeping a lot of balls in the air and you need something to help you keep everything straight.

Some email teams can stay organized using nothing but a spreadsheet and an online calendar. There are also some very popular and user-friendly project management solutions that make collaboration and keeping projects on track easier.

Consider tools like Airtable, Asana, Trello, and Wrike. They all accomplish essentially the same thing, but you’ll want to choose the right features for your team and the types of projects you’re tackling together. If you’re on a team that recently transitioned to working remotely, project management software is a must-have.

5. Email pre-deployment testing

email test to fix bugs pre-deployment

Finally, I have to mention the value of having an email readiness platform like Email on Acid that automates pre-deployment testing and optimization while making it easier to collaborate.

It’s not just because I work here now. It’s because I’ve worked somewhere that didn’t have a solution like Email on Acid.

When I was doing day-to-day email marketing for that global tech company, I had to manage 15 countries that sent three emails per week. When you included language variations it was 52 emails per week, and there were eight different stakeholders who had to approve everything.

I’d send an email proof and get eight different replies that I had to keep straight while communicating changes to developers. Needless to say, it was easy for things to fall through the cracks, and that could lead to email errors.

With Email on Acid’s Team Management tools, you send a link to your team and stakeholders to collect feedback all in one place. Plus, email developers can even make changes right inside of the Email on Acid platform.

That’s just one way that Email on Acid supports your investment in email marketing initiatives. When you test every campaign, every email, every time, you’re taking a peek into the future. Campaign Precheck catches mistakes before you hit send. Deliverability features alert you to spam issues, and Email Previews are like a crystal ball that show you what your campaigns will look like on 90 different email clients and devices.

Looking for something more? We've put together a special report, Email Marketing and the Next Normal, to help you create an email marketing action plan. It looks at the impact the events of 2020 had on marketing practices, and I offer a 10-step action plan for using email in 2021.

Download the Special Report

email marketer works on 2021 action plan
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