I am no big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. In this I feel I am joined, albeit a week or two into January, by those who do set themselves such targets. It felt a positive thing at the time but, experience shows, it normally fails.
I am no big fan of target setting either, specifically in email marketing. My lack of enthusiasm comes from years of such management exercises, both from the perspective of the person who sets the targets as well as those whose job it is to hit them.
So how about a New Year’s Resolution not to set targets? I promise you, it is a step towards more efficient working processes.
I’ve been in many focus groups, sat around a table, being told to remember specific, measurable, attainable, and another couple of things whilst all the time thinking how much the exercise is costing. Admit it: I’m far from unique.
Email marketing software pulls us towards target setting as we have oodles of data just asking to be increased as it would be a shame to waste such a resource, but that is, in fact, what we are doing by target setting.
The most effective use of the data is to improve specific criteria.
Instead of demanding that you increase the open rate by 5% over a period of half a dozen campaigns – what was it I said about attainable – a better option would be to test half a dozen different Subject Lines to see which works best.
Servicing a mnemonic acronym is pointless as an end. The time spent trying to fit your idea into one of the headings would be more useful if it was dedicated to ideas on improvement, regardless of limitations.
If on your first campaign with Subject Line changes you ran with a more familiar tone but ended up with a drop of 0.4% in open rate in the trial list, it would not be a disaster. You now have proof it is something to avoid. Not only that, the data will continue to be available. You have gained something with a drop in returns.
Also, you still have five further campaigns to test. In the third you might well have had a 1.4% increase in open rate, which means that for the fourth you are already ahead, something to build on for the remaining two campaigns.
In the continuous testing process you always get something back. Work against the feeling of this being the ‘soft’ option because there are no initial limitation. In fact, if anything, it is the more stretching. There is no hiding from the returns, no blaming an acronym.
Another advantage is that the results are instant, there’s no prolonged period where everyone knows the targets won’t be met or, worse still, that they were set too low/high. As soon as you get the returns you can opt for the improvement or avoid the idea that did not work.
The most useful aspect of dropping target setting is that it stops staff sitting back and being comfortable with their level of performance. Using email marketing software to continually test presses them forward.