I meant to write this a few weeks ago, but alas, I was doing an ESP migration to SFMC, which I think we all know is ~kind of my thing~. While I’ve worked on dozens (115 actually, but who’s counting?) of migrations to ExactTarget/SFMC over the years, this one was a little different and more challenging. I learned a ton and got to spend time in parts of the platform(s) that had always been a bit of a mystery to me. I dipped my toes into learning about APIs, wrote a lot of SQL, and dug into parts of Salesforce I had never seen before. Who knows, maybe that means I’m going to be ready to tackle some new Salesforce certs this year. But that’s not what this post is about.
Every year, there are lots of articles and webinars put out by companies in the email space about predictions for email trends for the following year. They typically ask experts in the field about what they think companies will be doing in email. I’ve been asked to contribute to these before, and honestly… I never know what to say, and usually decline. [Before I write what I’m about to write – I just want to say that I admire and respect the people who contribute to these articles, and fully appreciate how hard it is to predict what’s going to happen in a field that is constantly changing while also moves as slow as molasses in many ways].
I read the articles when they come out, and the predictions are usually things like: more personalization, more focus on accessibility, AMP, dark mode (whatever happens to be on peoples’ minds that seems to take longer to actually implement). And, sure – those things will be trends. They should. But I think if I were to actually contribute content to one of these, my answer for what you should do this year would be, as it is for most decisions on any email program: do what your brand/customers actually need and want, and what you and your team have the capacity to actually accomplish.
The thing is – we can’t all do everything. I’ve been on and supported many, many, small, under-resourced email teams. Sometimes just getting the email out the door on time with no (or, uh, minimal) mistakes is all you can manage. And I’m here to tell you: That’s Okay.
I’ve spent a lot of years feeling like I wasn’t doing enough when I would read about cool things people were doing with email, or see presentations at conferences about what’s possible. But at the same time, I also knew that some of the more advanced capabilities of email weren’t actually necessary for the brands I worked for and for the goals of my emails.
There are tons of ways to build an effective email program, and they don’t all involve shiny new things (although, accessibility shouldn’t be considered a “shiny new thing.” It’s table stakes). The thing that’s great about email is its flexibility. Sometimes the simplest, text-based emails can be the most effective. Sometimes you need snazzy interactive features to best achieve your email’s goals. Sometimes you’ve just done another ESP migration (ahem) and you need to focus on building a strong, clean foundation in your data setup, templates, folder structure, and processes. Then when you’re ready for more, you’ll actually be able to do it better.
And here’s a little thing I’ve learned over the years: sometimes shiny email tools may not be what you need or want right now, but they may be later. I’ve had at least three vendors I’ve worked with who weren’t what I needed when I first met them, but then years later, when I actually DID have a need for what they offered, I knew exactly who to call. Email is about relationship building, which extends beyond just what you’re sending to your subscribers. It’s also your own relationships with other people who work in the space. Keep those going, even if you’re not ready for certain products or features just yet.
So, what SHOULD you be doing with email this year? Make it your New Year’s resolution to live within your email means (in terms of budget, but also in terms of you and your team’s skillsets and time). Learn about what’s out there, and then decide for yourself if it’s what you need/want. Don’t read all these lists of predictions of what “everyone” will be doing and feel like you have to do it all. You don’t.
But also, stop doing image-only emails. Please.