Email Marketing in The Big Marketing Picture
When I brainstorm topics for an upcoming OI article, sometimes I focus on bigger trends in the industry (AI!) or areas where I can speak with some authority (email compliance). But I also like to think about topics and conversations that have come up on our Thursday OI-members-only Live Zoom calls, since they often reflect what’s on the mind of email marketers. This time around I took the latter approach. A topic I’ve heard come up frequently on OI Live calls this year revolves around the challenge email marketers face within their organizations or with clients about how the email channel is often siloed from other marketing channels and may not get the attention it deserves.
Note: The Author of this blog post, Tom Wozniak (Optizmo), will be leading a discussion on this topic during the OI-members-only Live Zoom on Thursday, November 16, 2023.
As someone who has worked across just about every marketing channel during the course of my career (and overseen them all as head of marketing at various companies), I can attest to this situation being common at many companies and not just limited to the email team. Plenty of organizations (particularly larger ones) treat each marketing channel as its own little island, with separate goals and KPIs that may or may not be aligned with the company’s overarching marketing strategy, let alone the strategies of every other channel (email, content, display, search, SMS, social, events, video, direct mail, etc.).
From an email marketer’s perspective, this kind of siloed environment presents plenty of drawbacks. Here are a few:
- You don’t know what impact your marketing efforts have on the big picture of the company. You may not even know what other marketing teams are working on (campaigns, offers, etc.).
- Lack of open communication with other marketing teams can lead to conflicting messages or overlapping campaigns that aren’t in sync and likely don’t support each other.
- The email channel may be pigeonholed in terms of where it fits into the company’s overall marketing strategy. (It’s only for retention efforts, only to upsell current clients, etc.)
- Email is ‘old-school’ digital marketing and in a siloed environment, the spotlight may shine brighter on an exciting new tactic (influencer marketing!) or a cool new social media app (TikTok!).
- Career advancement opportunities may be limited to ‘just’ email marketing roles in your organization.
Putting on my CMO hat, I would argue that these kinds of barriers between the channels are also just bad for business. Any organization that is leveraging multiple marketing channels to achieve its goals will benefit if the teams running those channels are in regular communication and can work together to achieve individual and organizational objectives.
Benefits of Breaking Down Silos
What advantages come from opening the lines of communication between marketing channels?
Targeted Cross-Channel Promotions
One of the biggest benefits of cross-channel coordination is the ability to plan and execute campaigns that work together to drive response and eventually revenue. Strategically connecting with your audiences with the same or complimentary offers and messaging in different channels at the same time or perhaps setting up a larger campaign where recipients are reached sequentially in different channels are just two examples. The opportunities for these types of integrated campaigns are only limited by your own products and services and your marketing teams’ creativity in identifying opportunities to develop cross-channel promotions.
Insights Into Multi-channel Impact
Once you have more open communication within the overall marketing organization it becomes much easier to measure how one channel impacts another, driving performance across initiatives. There’s an old saying that “a rising tide lifts all boats” and it applies well to marketing. A campaign sent out in one channel typically has an impact on performance in other channels. Send out an email campaign and watch web sales go up, even if you can’t attribute them directly back to your email campaign ( for instance, if someone simply navigates to the website directly rather than clicking on a link in the email). How about when someone has seen several social media ads for your company and is primed to consider a purchase when they receive your latest marketing email. If there isn’t regular communication between marketing teams in different channels, this cross-channel benefit may never be noticed, let alone measured and accounted for.
Increased Exposure for the Email Team
Email marketing is so 20th century that it typically lacks the bright shiny object factor of a newer channel like social media or the latest viral mobile app. This can lead to the email program being marginalized or at least taken for granted. When your team is actively working together with other channels, along with the corporate marketing team that may be focused on overarching strategy, the impact of email becomes more apparent to everyone. This helps shed more light on the email team and the skillsets they bring to the channel.
New Opportunities for Email as a Channel
At the end of the day, performance speaks for itself. When more people in the organization (particularly senior management) are exposed to the effectiveness and ROI of your email program, it can naturally lead to larger budgets and more interest in how the email channel can drive growth and company performance.
How to Start Breaking Down Internal Barriers
Everything I wrote above may sound great, but it’s all based on the enthusiasm or at least willingness of your organization and senior marketing leadership to adopt a less siloed approach to email marketing and other marketing channels. That may be easier said than done. Getting a company to change its philosophy around something like this can be a bit like turning a cruise ship. It doesn’t happen immediately and takes some persistent effort. So, here are a few suggestions to start getting some buy-in to your attempts at more effective coordination and communication.
Build Relationships with Other Marketing Teams
This may have been easier when there was a physical office everyone went to each day, with a break room or other real-world ‘water coolers’ to have impromptu conversations. In the more common 2023 work environment, you may or may not actually see folks from other marketing teams in your company on a regular basis, so it takes a bit more of a concerted effort to build some rapport. If you don’t have easy opportunities to strike up random conversations with these folks, you will need to reach out proactively. In that case, put your marketing and sales skills to work. Show an interest in what they are doing on their team, with a focus on how you might be able to help them. Once people see you are actually interested in what they have going on and don’t seem to have an ulterior motive (the email team wants to take your marketing budget!) you should find them becoming more open with information. Then, simply look for ways you can work together and potentially help each other with marketing goals.
Talk About Your Team’s Successes Internally
I’m probably generalizing a bit, but most email marketers I know tend to want to do great work, drive great results, keep their heads down, and just keep on optimizing. What they don’t want to do is spend time on self-promotion within their organizations. But, a bit of self-promotion is vital if you want to raise the visibility of your team within all levels of the company. Look for opportunities to share your success stories and learnings from various campaigns and initiatives. It isn’t too hard to make it clear that you are simply excited to share the results from a great campaign your team has executed. Eventually, more people across the organization will become interested and even invested in what the email team has going on. When you can also include stories about how you are working with other teams (marketing or otherwise) to drive business goals forward, you should find an even more receptive audience.
Get Senior Management Interested
I suggest starting with the first two steps above, because if you can work with other marketing teams to identify and execute on opportunities to support each other’s objectives successfully, then you have a story to tell senior marketing leaders. Simply walking into the CMO’s office and doing your best Ronald Reagan impression, asking to ‘tear down the walls’ between marketing teams or business units probably won’t be as successful as it was during the Cold War. Instead, you want to have a case to make, backed up with some success stories and evidence that this more transparent and coordinated approach will benefit the company, the marketing division, and the CMO. It helps if you have already started sharing this information internally on a more regular basis, as well. That way, the CMO should already be aware of some of the initiatives you want to discuss.
None of these tactics are guaranteed to be successful, but as email marketers, we’re good at testing and optimizing over time to drive the results we’re looking for.