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Here’s how to build on your email success

How you manage your wins is just as important as managing failure if you want your email program to keep growing.

Many of my strategic conversations with clients focus on avoiding failure: how to “fail fast,” recover from failure, see failure coming and recover from failure. We talk about failure a lot because there are so many ways to fail.

So, what happens when you succeed?

What do you do when you score a big win, whether you planned for it or it happened out of the blue? How you manage your wins is just as important as managing failure if you want your email program to keep growing.

You scored a win. Now what?

Picture this. You run an abandoned-cart recovery email program. It has worked okay, but you’d like to redeem more carts so you can hit your sales goal for the year.

So, you studied what other marketers in brands like yours did to make their programs work better. Or, you attended a conference and watched a speaker walk the crowd through a remarketing case study.

Then, you found something you could improve in your own program. Maybe you added another reminder, included purchase data and images or added an incentive at the last step in the process.

You tested your change to see what would happen. You saw the needle wiggle a little. So you tweaked it a little more and launched your revised program. A few weeks later, you looked at your initial campaign report.

Whoa! You exceeded your goals. Should you just let the thing run, or is there something you can do to capitalize on your success? Here’s what you do. Here are six steps to capitalize on that success.

1. Celebrate with your team.

Go on, give yourself a big “Woo hoo!” Do a happy dance in your cube. Take a few minutes to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from giving something your best shot and having it pay off. Then, share the spotlight with your team. But don’t go bragging to your boss just yet.

Nobody acts in a silo. Many people will contribute to your success, from the person who pulls the list to the one who designs the tests to the people who help you think through the strategy and execution or help you with your data integrations.

Pretend you just an Academy Award, and you want to list all the people you have to thank. Take your team out for drinks or lunch or find another way to show your appreciation.

When you document your success (see Item 3 below), make sure your boss knows your success was a team effort. List everyone involved on your presentation deck, in your paper documentation. As a marketing executive, I appreciate it when my team members recognize the work everybody did to pull off a project.

Nobody likes a person who hogs the credit, and they don’t get promoted on my teams.

 2. Validate that what you’re seeing is really what’s happening and you can replicate it.

Whenever I suggest a new approach to a client, and the response is, “We tried it and it didn’t work,” I usually find out they tried it once, it didn’t work, and so they moved on. The reverse is true when you succeed.

When something works the first time, you might be tempted to just let it run forever. However, success isn’t really a success unless you can repeat it using different approaches. Something that works right away will eventually stop working if you don’t keep an eye on it and tweak and adjust as needed.

If I send a text-only email to a retailer list instead of, I will get a better click rate than the usual gorgeously designed messages I usually send. That’s because it’s different. But if I keep sending that text-only message, the novelty will fade.

Make sure you can validate your success by testing it different ways. Try it in different configurations. Send at different times of day, or let it run for a while to see if the newness fades. What you do must be bulletproof.

This is all important homework because you want to show your executives that your idea was a success because you thought through and tested for all the variables.

3. Document your work.

Write down everything: the problem you wanted to solve, the steps you took, your tests and results, and what you learned. Documentation is fundamental and essential if you want to build on your success.

We have a fundamental lack of documentation in our industry, which is alarming. CMO turnover has been slipping in recent years and is now just under two years.

Documentation helps you report to your execs but also transfers knowledge to the marketing teams that follow you.

4. Present your findings.

With your documentation in hand (yes, have a paper copy as well as a digital doc or PowerPoint), you’re ready to sit down with your boss to go over your report.

Remember you need to frame your success in terms your boss – and your boss’ bosses – will appreciate. Opens and clicks are nice, but the bottom line is higher revenue either through more sales, larger orders or reduced costs.

Don’t forget to take some credit, too. Many of the marketers I’ve worked with don’t do this. We don’t stand up and say, “Look what we did!” And you know what they say: “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.”

We need to make sure our bosses know what we’ve accomplished, and not just because it makes you and your team look good. It will also help your boss look good.

That’s the concept of “managing up.” It doesn’t mean talking directly to the C-level team. It means working through your boss to enable his (and your) visibility.

5. Check back in three months.

Once you’re all systems go, set a calendar reminder for 3 months ahead. On that day, revisit your project. Does it still work? Are you getting the results you expected?

If you introduced a new tactic, like real-time content, you can expect some drop-off in customer activity once the shiny new toy becomes a standard feature. But if you’re getting little or no traction, you need to fix it.

6. Figure out what’s next.

Now it’s time to build on your success. How can you refine your project or program to take it to a higher level? Where can you apply what you learned, and who else could benefit? Don’t let your great ideas sit in a hole. Put your heads together to strategize and see what else you can improve.

Going back to your cart-recovery program, can you put what you learned to work in other automated remarketing messages like abandoned-browse or post-purchase emails.

Wrapping up

My list might make you think success just breeds a lot more work. I don’t mean to underplay the celebratory aspect. It’s what keeps us motivated and renews our dedication to our work.

Savor the success, but then build on it. Reach out to your tech vendors to offer a case study or write a blog post. I can’t imagine any vendor who wouldn’t jump all over that opportunity.

But don’t get cocky. For every success, you probably have 10 failures. Enjoy the glow, document your success, and then move on to stay ahead of the zombies.

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