Which Half of Your Startup’s Emails Are Wasted?

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We know by heart that half of our marketing dollars are spent improperly. But what’s worse is most products waste half of their chances to deepen a relationship with their customers.

There are two different kinds of email within products: product marketing emails and transactional emails. The first of these marketers optimize continuously and the other is oft forgotten.

Product marketing emails include acquisition campaigns, lifecycle marketing, retention marketing, cross-selling, up-selling and content marketing. Tools like Marketo, Silverpop, MailChimp and others have solved this problem for marketing teams. After all, a startup measures its marketing team by their impact on customer engagement, retention and conversion using email metrics primarily. Consequently, marketers hone and refine and perfect these emails.

Not so for transactional emails which include account creation, account confirmation, receipts and updates. At design time, they receive attention because they are part of the critical path to launch. But after launch, product marketers rarely update transactional email because to win prioritization in this week’s engineering sprint demands Herculean leverage. A marketer must prove the impact of their test before it has begun. After all, the email test will delay a bug fix or feature release by one cycle.

Should a marketer curry enough favor to convince an engineer to perform the test another long cycle begins. The engineer must code, test, deploy, verify and analyze the test.

These extensive cycle times prevent iteration and optimization. This is a shame because transactional email is often equal or larger in volume than product marketing emails. No matter the type, each email is a branding opportunity and a chance to engage with the customer and deepen the relationship.

In the very near future, I think we will see better tools for marketers to optimize transaction emails without burdening the engineering organization. It’s a big opportunity. Ultimately, the successful solution will create an abstraction layer between marketing and engineering that allows each to focus on maximizing their contributions to the business.

Published 2013-09-20 in startups  marketing 


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