Guest blog: The boardroom responsibility in Email Software Selection

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The other day I was sitting down with a marketing manager of a big retail company, he had just started his job to change the traditional marketing philosophy and bring it to Now. In other words to develop digital marketing and the culture changes that come with it. For new board members the first 100 days are often used to get a feel for the company, the market, build up rapport and get to know everyone before present (the outline of) a plan to move forward. It is smart to take time for that.

But what I admired most is that he knew that people needed to be motivated.

Foster an environment for growth
A lot of parts of the marketing machine were not moving smoothly and getting employees frustrated. For instance problems in synchronising data took too long, was manually wasting time and clogging up the process. Making changes to the website that should be very easy were deemed impossible by the current web development team. But what he did was not to take these problems and start to address them one by one.

During the meeting he asked what the marketer thought he needed to get things done. How the marketer would find out what the origin of the problem was. This is bottom up thinking. As long as the employees are empowered to solve challenges they face, it is a way better way of handling problems. And in this case, the problems were with a misaligned infrastructure and set of vendors built on of previous needs, versus the situation with current ambitions.

Frustration kills enthusiasm, micro-management kills inspiration. People from outside were introduced (including me to help guide tool selection and optimisation) and create the right environment for growth.

Tools + people + suppliers
Having the right tools + people + suppliers is just that, creating the right environment (for growth). It is like a garden. Plant the seeds (ambition and direction), make sure the team has the right tools and experience to make the garden bloom.

Get the experience on board
Internally, the most important channels demand the right people. I am amazed at the disinterest that is given to email marketing / marketing automation is getting in some companies. Interns without any experience are put on it, to manage a program, write plans and choose tooling. Without coaching or experience, that is a recipe for… mediocrity at best.

Building the right infrastructure and plan is about creating an environment for growth. In which reach and interest with target customers is built. A good email marketing program is fostering the environment for sales opportunities, this is what marketing is meant to do.

Industry focus in selecting the right vendor
Vendors in email marketing are making moves to accommodate to their target market better. We are now finishing off the Email Marketing Software Buyer’s Guide. It shows what vendors can and can’t do for features and functions. But don’t forget their industry focus. A function (like segmentation or reporting for instance) built for casual use isn’t the same as for intensive use. Your needs are more likely to be catered to if the portfolio includes similar companies to your own.

Roadmap and releases
I keep a close eye on what vendors actually have on their roadmap for the site as well. To give an example. GetResponse launched a send-time optimization functionality, something like what 3rd party companies like Audiencepoint or Fresh Relevance have been offering.

At first glance it might seem like a shiny thing that doesn’t address main challenges. For sure it seems that way. Their own research pointed toward an increase in open rates to 23% on average, this might not be true for everyone (that is how averages work) but even if it didn’t there is still an interesting upside. A lot (and I do mean a lot) of SMBs are investing resources on figuring out the right time to send. If you take away that problem, that is a value add.

What this also shows is that the vendors are developing functionality that is useful for their specific client audience. Don’t underestimate the vendor focus on industry, customer and user types. If it doesn’t match with your company and ambitions, it is a liability down the road.

Vendor Resource Management
A bad hire can be devastating, a bad apple in the team, it can destroy morale. We all know that, that is why we have interviews and a trial period (of usually 3 months) for new hires. We need to think of suppliers and toolings in the same way and seriousness as we think about human resource management. You need to invest in getting the right team there and experience will get better results.

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About Jordie van Rijn
Jordie van Rijn is an well-known email marketing consultant, and influencer in the world of MarTec and eCRM. If you have any questions about vendor selection, feel free to reach out and contact him. He founded Email vendor Selection and just recently launched a new venture called Alfred Knows.