'Tis the season for vacation!
I just spent a lovely weekend on Catalina Island off the Pacific coast near Los Angeles. When I flew home, a miracle happened. My drive from DFW to my house takes 45 minutes in good traffic. This time, at peak Dallas nightmare rush-hour time, it took .... 45 minutes.
Did the traffic gods part the lanes for me?
More likely, lots of people were gone on vacation.
This is the time of year when every work shift feels like the graveyard shift. Your micromanaging bosses and executives are somewhere deep in the land without cell service (I hope). The frantic pace has slowed down, and the folks who just got from time off aren't in a work frame of mind yet.
I have three ways to spend this down time will help you run a more effective email marketing program and set yourself up for the last four months of the year.
Why now? Because you have the time, and nobody's looking.
1. Check your program, check your metrics, check yourself.
You have six months of email performance data now. Like every other marketer, you have a nut to hit. Update your metrics to see if you're on track to meet or exceed your goal.
Are you ahead? Great. Don't tell anybody!
I can hear you now: "Are you crazy, Ryan? I want to celebrate!" Big mistake. Big.
Why? Because as soon as your bosses find out, they'll raise your goal. Plus, you could lose ground before the year ends. Do a little fist pump and move on.
Are you behind? Don't panic. Use this time to find ways to plug the deficit.
Can you fit in another email campaign that will appeal to your customers who are in vacation mode and need an extra push to stop what they're doing and open your email?
Why not test another email trigger? Revamp a transactional email to add more value for your customers? Try something you've always wanted to do but didn't have the time to think through. Remember, some companies report +60% of their email revenue from triggers and transactional emails.
Still coming up short, look for inspiration:
See what everybody else is doing. Read industry publications like Marketing Land. Are you a member of the Email Experience Council or other online communities like Only Influencers, the #emailgeeks Slack channel or the Women of Email Facebook group? Post a question there. You'll be amazed to find out how supportive your fellow email marketers are!
Search Google for help. Try these searches to find help for email triggers or info about how to spruce up your email program.
Ask your tech vendors. Call your email agency (or find one), or your ESP or automation providers. Ask them what you should be doing with your services that you aren't doing now. If your account rep is on vacation, check out vendor blogs that do more than pitch project features. Here's your starter list: Litmus, Email on Acid, Oracle Modern Marketing Blog, Campaign Monitor and Sailthru.
Look for ways to extend existing programs easily. Are you still sending your first abandoned-cart reminder 24 hours after abandonment? Try cutting it back to 60 minutes. Add an upsell/cross-sell module to a purchase or shipping confirmation.
Use what you know to improve your email. If you know customers who buy Product A often come back to buy Product B, add a predictive trigger that sends an email to prompt that follow-up purchase.
Squeeze in a little more thinking time. (More about that below) But, what you choose to do should make sense for your email program, your brand and your customers.
Most important: Do something! If you're ahead of plan, this will put you even farther out ahead. If you're behind, don't pin your hopes on the holiday season to bring in bags of make-up money.
2. Reach out to your internal teams.
Walk around your building, and introduce yourself to people you might only know as an email address, an intranet ID or a voice on the phone.
Groups that might be off-limits in busy times, like your tech or development teams, would love to have someone pop in with doughnuts, croissants, coffee and other treats without asking for a favor immediately. (That can come later.)
Meet other groups in your organization that might benefit from your help. Start a conversation with "How can I help you achieve your goals or solve a problem?" But don't chat up just any Tom, Dick or Mary who's stuck in the office, too. Go to the key groups that also help you make your goals.
When I worked for a major retailer, I didn't schmooze the folks in Jewelry. I talked to the Appliances group because they sold the crap out of their inventory.
Talk to your own team. Ask what they want to accomplish and what their biggest hurdles are. If you're the boss, it's your job to empower your people so they can do their jobs better.
Although I hesitate to add meetings to a meeting-free time, getting together to ask, "What can I do to make your job easier?" is a worthy exception. Keep it focused on goals, so it doesn't devolve into a gripe-fest that blows up in your face.
Polish up your personal brand. Spend some of your slack time on yourself. Update your resume, your LinkedIn profile and any other professional listings. Add your most recent work accomplishments, new skills and certifications and anything else that will burnish your brand.
I'm not encouraging you to spontaneously quit and run out the door yelling, "Ryan told me to do it!" But you never know when that next opportunity will show up. Be ready with an up-to-date and error-free resume.
3. Get your holiday planning on track.
Most companies that depend on the 4th/Holiday quarter to make plan are already deep into the season. If your company isn't one of them, go get coffee and come back later because my conclusion is gonna be epic.
Use your team meeting to make sure you have everything that you need to be successful and avoid the usual last-minute pre-Christmas frenzy.
Beyond your email templates and content, do you have the data you need? Have you submitted your tech requests? Most retailers lock down tech by Oct. 1 so be sure your request is ready to go.
What about contingency plans? You need rules and processes to handle the unexpected and help you respond when panicked product managers holler, "Send another email!" if sales lag.
It's hard to think about Holiday when the temperature is soaring and the beaches or mountains are calling. But all the prep work you do now will pay off in December.
Wrapping up: Just breathe
For most of us marketers, we have 10.5 months of crazy and six weeks when the world goes on vacation and we can sit, reflect, plan and act. Give yourself time to think about strategy instead of knocking out the next campaign. Take your team out to show them how much you appreciate them.
And, for Pete's sake, get the heck out of the office! In Europe, everybody takes a full vacation every year. Here in the U.S., people think you're a slacker if you disappear for a long weekend. Not taking time off makes marketers cranky, and nobody wants to work with a cranky marketer.
Appreciate the downtime, and don't let the zombies win. See you after you get back!