email marketer presents budget to execs

Email Marketing Budgets: When and How to Ask for More


You’ve got big ideas for where you could take your email marketing program, and you’ve got plans for how it could positively impact your company. Anything that’s worth doing typically takes two things: time and money. And as the saying goes … time is money.

In our eBook, Maximizing Your Email Marketing Budget, I joined several other marketing veterans to provide advice on how to get the most out of email no matter how much you have to spend in 2021.

I discussed how to work with decision-makers when email marketing budgets need a little more room to turn your big ideas into reality. It’s a multifaceted topic, so let’s dive into it.

Different email marketing budgets for different programs

Because every situation is unique, how and when you ask for a bigger slice of the marketing budget will be different for every email team.

Ultimately, it depends on the sophistication of your current program. Are you starting from scratch, do you have a top-tier marketing program, or are you somewhere in the middle? It’s a completely different conversation based on the pre-existing level of buy-in within your organization.

If you’re just beginning to build a robust email marketing program, you’ll be in a completely different spot than an email marketer who has the data and results to prove what email can do for the company.

Starting from “Square One”

starting out email marketer

Before you allocate extra budget for email, you must have a solid foundation to build upon. That means you need a quality list of subscribers, which you’ve built organically. Get some advice on organic email list building here on our blog.

If your program is brand new, consider putting money into an acquisition initiative to build up your list of contacts. If you can segment that list, all the better. We may be preaching to the choir here, but don’t assume you can buy a list of emails, start spamming people, and have money start pouring in. It doesn’t work that way and never has.

Another key consideration for email marketers at the outset of a new program is data. Email offers an incredible amount of valuable marketing insights and customer information, which is powerful when used wisely. But, you must be able to trust the data you collect, and you need to keep in mind how you might use data as your program grows. Choose platforms that easily integrate with others and have a plan for scaling your marketing technology.

When you’ve got that list and a scalable method for collecting reliable data, it’s time to put email marketing into gear. The first thing to do is highlight the potential value of email and how it will help accomplish specific business goals.

Emphasize these four big picture benefits:

1. Email is affordable

Beyond an email service provider (ESP), it doesn’t cost much to get started with email marketing. Once you build a list of subscribers who want to hear from you, you’ll have an extremely affordable channel for reaching customers and prospects.

2. Email is highly trackable

In comparison to traditional marketing (print, broadcast, direct mail, outdoor, etc.), email provides a ton of valuable data your team can use to understand where people are in the buyer’s journey. While you can certainly track other types of digital marketing, email offers a unique look at behavior because it involves the intimacy of the inbox.

3. Email is the unique identifier for individual customers

A valid email address is as good as gold to digital marketers. People often keep personal email addresses longer than physical addresses or jobs. Think about it. You need an email address for every device you use, and it goes with you any time you buy a new phone.

People use their email to log in to many other online accounts making it possible to retarget prospects or build look-a-like audiences for digital advertising. Because it’s a form of digital identification, access to email also allows you to craft better, personalized experiences. As your program becomes more sophisticated, you can use email to create a cohesive, historic picture of your customers’ online activities and preferences.

4. Email works beyond top-of-funnel marketing

Most digital marketing tactics are designed to grab the attention of prospects and raise brand awareness. But what happens after that? Email is the most effective way to stay in contact with new leads and nurture them until you convert them into customers. Too many sales and marketing funnels are clogged with people at the top. Email helps move things along.

It works with current customers, too. For example, you wouldn’t want to use PPC ads and pay to try and reactivate dormant customers, but email is perfect for re-engaging those contacts!

No matter how mature your program is, highlighting the benefits above will remind decision-makers in your organization of email’s true value. These benefits are worth mentioning any time you’re asking for more budget.

Leveling up your email strategy

leveling up email marketer

Once you’ve laid the groundwork for a successful email program, it’s time to turn things up a notch. How will you use email marketing to level up? There are plenty of options, from hiring new talent or a strategic partner to purchasing new technology or enhancing emails with show-stopping new features.

No matter what you believe is the right choice for the future of your program, you’ll need to answer a few key questions when you ask decision-makers for buy-in:

  1. What’s the cost? Be upfront about how this initiative will impact the overall budget.
  2. What can you do with it? Describe the ways your idea solves a problem or provides specific benefits to the company.
  3. How will you support it? Tell them how you’ll take full advantage of the investment. Explain how you plan to utilize existing resources (tools, teammates, time, etc.).

As you pitch your ideas and ask for the budget to make them happen, remember that you aren’t the only one making asks like this. There’s a finite amount of budget. Understand that leadership needs to be balanced and is trying to keep a lot of people happy. Be aware that when you ask for more, someone else could get less.

If you need the money more than another initiative, provide specifics that explain why you deserve it and why your idea is worth the additional budget.

Ask for a modest amount and experiment. This gives you the opportunity to validate your idea first. As I explained in our eBook on maximizing email marketing budgets, there’s no shame in starting small:

If successful, that could lead to even more budget than what you were initially thinking you would need for the idea. This will build a track record of success for you with your executives and will increase the likelihood that you will get the increases in budget that you want in the future.”

My best advice to any email marketing team looking to take their efforts to the next level is this: First crawl, then walk, then run.

Mastering the email marketing game

master email marketer

Once you level up and start “running,” it’s time to use email marketing budgets to help your team master the channel. How can you become faster, more efficient, and more effective?

Top-tier marketers have all the data they need to prove the importance of email. In fact, they may not even need to ask for bigger budgets. A survey featured in our white paper, Success in the Inbox: Keys to Email Marketing, found that more than 80% of successful marketers already planned to invest in email.

So the question is, where’s the best place to invest? When it comes to email marketing technology, I believe two of the most impactful options are automation and analytics.

When implemented effectively, marketing automation can save a lot of money, and more importantly, it can save your team a lot of time. When you understand the customer journey you can build automated, yet personalized email experiences for them. Furthermore, when you automate repetitive or tedious tasks, you free up your team’s time so they can work on more important projects. Automation enables you to try new things and grow without compromising in other areas.

Analytics for email will give you insights into where you should use your budget. But the real accomplishment is the ability to connect data from email marketing to other analytics platforms and separate areas of the business.

That often becomes a challenge as a company grows. Different teams start using different platforms and you end up with a bad case of data sprawl. What’s needed is one source of truth or a single location to consolidate and compare information from different sources. In this case, investing in better analytics could become a company-wide initiative that draws from more than just the budget for email.

Why ask for bigger email marketing budgets?

What’s amazing about email is it’s a full-spectrum technology. You can use it for customer acquisition, for retention and loyalty, for education, to reactivate customers, for transactional purposes, and for general communication with subscribers. Email plays a key role along the entire customer journey. It’s hard to say no to budgeting for something like that.

Keep in mind that, because you don’t need a big budget to make things work, scrappiness in email marketing goes a long way. However, it’s also true that bigger email marketing budgets help you achieve even more, especially when you’ve got a plan.

Get extra advice from six other marketing thought leaders in our eBook, Maximizing Your Email Marketing Budget.

When you do invest in email, you’ll want to make sure you protect that investment. An email readiness platform that lets you test and optimize campaigns before you hit send makes a ton of sense. Email on Acid provides a suite of pre-deployment tools that ensure you deliver perfection every time. That includes email previews on over 90 clients and devices, as well as spell check, URL validation, email deliverability help, and email accessibility tools.

team budgets for email marketing
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Author: John Thies

John Thies is the CEO and Co-Founder of Email on Acid, a pre-deployment Email QA platform that strives to remove the inherent fear of hitting the "Send Button". He’s a passionate and engaging industry leader who lives, breathes, and dreams in email (seriously). John also serves as the CEO of Cause for Awareness, a recently formed non-profit that empowers other non-profit organizations with digital marketing resources. He resides in Denver, Colorado with his wife and son.

Author: John Thies

John Thies is the CEO and Co-Founder of Email on Acid, a pre-deployment Email QA platform that strives to remove the inherent fear of hitting the "Send Button". He’s a passionate and engaging industry leader who lives, breathes, and dreams in email (seriously). John also serves as the CEO of Cause for Awareness, a recently formed non-profit that empowers other non-profit organizations with digital marketing resources. He resides in Denver, Colorado with his wife and son.

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