Email Automation – When It Goes Wrong

Marketing AutomationYou may have read some of my other articles regarding email automation. I actually like using automated tools for email because it keeps the train running on time and if set up correctly works very well for the masses.

However, some email campaigns are somewhat complicated in how they are scheduled, connected to lists, and tied to other databases.  Because of these occasional complexities in email campaigns can really affect revenue if not run optimally, Automation might actually hurt the process because the thing about automation is that it is kind of like the old Ronco Rotisserie “set it and forget it”. Auto pilot works only when it is behaving as normal, but if its not working, its only going to get worse if you are not looking at the data correctly.

Gammadyne MailerI took over an email campaign internally a month or two ago and while I could have used an automation tool for these emails to be sent, I elected to use Gammadyne. You can read more about this handy tool here: http://michaelagoldberg.com/?p=42

This particular campaign two years ago was showing revenue growth month over month year over year on average of 150%. A lot of this had to do with the volume sold the previous year, so obviously that will affect the numbers. However, in this particular campaign, we went from 150% YoY to flat to negative percentages in rev last year. This kind of revenue stream is not supposed to decline  for years (when doing some math it would literally take years to start declines unless you sell NOTHING the prior year.  If you have not noticed, this email campaign is intended for reoccurring revenue from prior years from prior customers.

So when I took over this function, I tried to use the automation tools we have for email and the results were only slightly better. A lot of this was out of my hands at the time, but the decision was made for me to take 100% ownership of the campaign.

When I did, the first decision I made was to revert back to Gammadyne (seriously, read the article about this) for sending emails.  There was a glitch in the automated tool that caused complication with the amount of touches per email address, and also if they were scheduled too close, they would overwrite the current list that was sending emails.  So on my mind the reversion was an absolutely necessary function.

Email copy never changed, but I did modify the way we pull a list. I made it less technical and just simplified the overall strategy with the mindset of “what methods will product the most revenue?”

Execution went as planned, we scheduled the emails to go out at a specific time optimal to customers reading email, and process management was enforced. Meaning while automation has the benefit of “set it and forget it” it can take the intensity and focus off of a project sometimes because you are under an assumption that everything is fine. I think human nature sometimes plays a part subconsciously because if its out of site and out of mind, its OK to many people. I get that, I never said I was not critical about execution J.

So my thoughts on this campaign were simple, before the campaign started my primary objective is to stop the bleeding of revenue. That’s the only goal I cared about. With that said, the team knew what the plan was, how it was to be executed, when it was to go live, and what the goal was two weeks before launch. Setting proper expectations from day one is the single most important priority for me, this way no stone is unturned.

So we had all the process set up accordingly, we send at X time, every week, keep a clean list so we do not get flagged for spam, and watch read rates and revenue. Because YoY revenue would not be a fair gauge to the improvements I decided that Month vs. Pervious month was the best way to get a good read on the effectiveness of the email campaign. Revenue was the only thing I cared about. Below are the results and please note that December is typically the worst month of the year for consumer as our industry is not a Christmas gift.

  • Dec vs Nov = 36% increase in revenue the first month we took this campaign over!
  • Jan vs December = 71% increase in revenue in month two and the month is not complete!
  • Jan vs Nov = 82% increase in revenue in less than 60 days!

raining moneyPeople who know data, are saying HOLY COW that’s a major jump. To make it even more appealing, this is not chump change, we are talking about a lot of money.

So in this particular instance, a manual non-automated process for email campaigns out performs in a major way. This is not a knock on automation its more so to demonstrate that automation has a place in marketing, but so does non-automated campaigns.

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