Choosing an Email Marketing Software

January 11, 2010

Who’s the best email marketing company/software?

This question on a recent LinkedIn discussion thread for the Technology Marketing Community reminded me of when, a couple years ago, I delivered a presentation at the 2008 MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Summit. Titled “Managing the Vendor Selection Process”, it talked about my experience in selecting a new email marketing software for my company. Slides can be seen below.

Slideshare link: www.slideshare.net/dkuperman/managing-the-email-marketing-vendor-selection-process

The Selection Process

As the Director of Marketing, I had been pressing the company to replace our internal, archaic email system with something that was web-based (an “ESP”, or Email Service Provider, as the industry calls it) and that would reduce the time it took us to prepare, send, and evaluate email campaigns. The process we went through is not necessarily the best or the only way to do it, but it certainly helped put some metrics in place that we could use to evaluate each vendor. With so many options out there, having some kind of analytical basis to back your final choice can help get approval for the new system.

The Vendor Selection Matrix

I created an Excel file to consolidate all info from the vendors we selected so that we could do an analytical evaluation. The matrix helped us focus on how vendors compared on each feature and also gave us the ability to rank vendors based on weighted scoring. Why? Well, because there were some features we considered more important than others and so should you. Just because a vendor has a great way to create dynamic content for newsletters, it won’t matter if you don’t usually send out newsletters. You get the point.

Excel Template for vendor comparison: you can download and use my template as a starting point.

Note: if the download link doesn’t work for you, contact me and I’ll email the file to you.

How to score vendors using the comparison matrix spreadsheet:

  1. List features
  2. List vendor names
  3. Decide on a numbering system for each feature evaluation (if you have multiple people helping you select and evaluation vendors, make sure everyone agrees on what constitutes a “meets feature fully” versus “meets feature partially”). This is to help you differentiate between vendors that offer a similar way to accomplish something but one is clearly better (because it’s easier, or gives more options, etc.)
  4. Decide which features are more important (here’s where the weighted score comes in… give higher numbers for features that are more important)
  5. Score vendors

The best email marketing vendor?

Ha! Good question! This is a question that only you can answer:

  1. Decide what is your goal with the email marketing software
  2. Define key features you really need
  3. Score vendors
  4. Chose the one that most closely matches your needs

How about “soft” qualities?

Yes, the excel matrix may help compare features vs. features, but falls short on so-called “soft” features like technical support, quality of service, and the all too common “gut feeling”. Make sure you take those into consideration, especially on tie breakers. Vendors that score very closely may have some clear differentiators that are not easily measurable. The important thing is to lead with the analytics side before throwing the qualitative evaluation into the mix.

Good luck in your email marketing selection process!

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The meeting is over. Now what?

December 14, 2009

What do you do when the meeting is over?

Effective Meeting Notes

l have learned the hard way that unless I take good notes during a meeting, I cannot be very effective afterwards and therefore the meeting ends up being a big waste of time. When discussing a new campaign, the direction that the new ad should take, and the pages we need to update on the website I have to be able to identify the following items after the meeting:

  1. What was discussed
  2. What decisions were made
  3. What action items were decided
  4. Who will do what by when

The best way to turn meetings (which are, unfortunately, inevitable) into productive time spent with the team, is to take effective notes. During note taking I try to write only key pieces of information (and not to simply transcribe what was said) and place symbols next to each one that helps me easily and quickly identify what is important.

Here are my identifiers:

  • The letter “i” in a circle: Informational only. Something that was told to give context, specific background information or other piece of data that I don’t have to do anything about.
  • An empty square [  ] (empty checkbox): Action item assigned to me.
  • An exclamation point “!”: Important information or decision made that I have to remember or that affects an action item.
  • Someone’s initials: Action item assigned to someone else.
  • FUP”: something I need to follow up on. Usually a task assigned to someone in my team that I need to check the status.

These are the most commonly used symbols during my note taking, and sometimes I add a couple more (asterisk, pointing arrow, circles, etc.) depending on the note. The key for me is to be able to review my notes and act on what needs to be done.

When I have to create meeting minutes, this system helps me to go through my notes quickly and identify things that should be in the minutes versus superfluous stuff. For the action items assigned to me, the first thing I do when I get back to my desk is open my Outlook and create Tasks for each one. This way I capture all my to-do items quickly and am ready for the next item on my agenda (usually another meeting).

Since I use a tablet PC (currently an HP Pavillion Tx2500), my notes are electronic and I can easily go back to them and search for them. Below is a sample meeting note with my system, I hope it gives you a better idea of how I use it.

What is your system? Please share!

Sample Meeting Notes

Example of how my symbol system for note taking works.


The Productivity Paradox: Short Term or Long Term Effect?

March 15, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how to recover time I’ve spent in tasks not directly associated with what I consider productive, i.e. email, admin stuff, and doing everything else but those tasks that will help me achieve my goals. Why do I do those things, you might ask, and I reply that is because sometimes you just can’t say no. In a corporate environment, sometimes (some of you may argue that’s ‘all the time’) you get pulled out of your daily activities and asked to do something unplanned, like help out the sale manager with a powerpoint presentation, interview a new candidate for that admin position or even attend a meeting called last minute by your boss. As much as you hate it, sometimes you just have to adapt to the situation and juggle things around, add another monkey to your back and hope it doesn’t brake your neck. 

But I digress… what I’ve been focusing on for the past few posts is on how you can use tools you already have at your disposal (like MS Outlook for most corporate users) to become more effective and productive. The use of such tools, however, can be seen as a short-tem fix instead of a long-term effect. If you become better at managing your schedule, let’s say, will that help you gain back time you have wasted up until now and use now the time you’ll be saving in more productive tasks? Or is the time you have already wasted considered “sunk time” and will never be recovered?How productive are you?

On a recent blog post Jason Cohen, from Smart Bear Software, tackled this issue and argued that if you become 1% more productive each day you won’t necessarily be able to add all this productivity up and claim at the end of the month that you’ve now achieved 30% more productivity (the claim of 1% translating into cummulative productivity was made by Alfred Lin, Zappos COO, in his blog post). This is an interesting concept, because a lot of people start using GTD and similar methods to become more productive and it is comong that they end up not implementing the full method but are still satisfied because they feel they are now a bit more productive each day. So, in the end, if you are only a bit more productive can you claim an overall big productivity improvement?

What I will argue is that whatever the correct answer to this question, it is missing the point. The important thing is not to decide whether you can become 1% more productive each day, but is your productivity being applied to achieve your goals? Before you attempt to increase your productivity, first ask yourself: do you have a short-term or a long-term goal?

Short-term productivity is exactly that, the 1% each day, the ability of now to clean up your inbox in 30 mins instead of 45 mins, the extra 5 mins you gained because you are now running effective meetings, and the satisfaction that your day is now being spent on things that matter. 

Long-term productivity is the focus on your overall goals, how you spend your time, and what do you need to change in your daily habits that will let you achieve your objectives in the amount of time you have available. We all have goals and work hard to accomplish what we set forth but are we being realistic? Are we startegizing and planning what our priorities will be? Do we even know how much time we need to spend on specific tasks and whether those tasks will get us to where we want?

Jason, again, touched upon a very powerful first step for anyone interested in the long-term productivity plan. He talked about assessing your time and noting how you are spending your time during the day and week. Peter Drucker, in his book “The Effective Executive” spent the majority of his book discussing time management because it is such an important concept to tackle if you want to become more effective. Drucker suggested “know thy time” as a precursor to any adjustment you will have to make to your daily routine. This simple yet powerful principle is essential to help you better understand how you are spending your efforts. Take notes of how you are spending your time, then go back and ask yourself:

  1. What tasks are taking most of my time during the day and week?
  2. Which tasks should I be working on that will lead me to accomplish my goals?
  3. Are those tasks in my first list matching the ones in my second list?

Obvious, but not necessarily easy. Most of your time should be spent on those tasks that are directly associated with your goals, and if you are not spending most of your time on those, than no matter how productive you become every day (be it 1%, 5% or 10%!) the amount of productivity increased won’t matter if you are not focusing on what’s important.

Getting stuff done isn’t the goal. Getting the RIGHT stuff done, is.

Once you’ve identified what are the right tasks, the ones where you should spend more of your time then you can start thinking about ways to become more productive. This is long-term planning. If you always know how to spend your time, then when those unplanned events happen, you won’t be thrown off balance trying to recover your time.

Don’t focus on small or big improvements. Decide what you need to improve first.


If you’re gonna copy, make it right

February 15, 2009

An interesting blog post by Jason Cohen at OnStartups.com  discussed why you shouldn’t copy other companies just because they were successful at what they do. He uses examples like 37Signals, Copyblogger, FogCreek Software, Zappos, and make a good case for trying to think for yourself instead of just following what others are saying.

His controversial post caused quite a stir whith some people taking it personal, others agreeing with him and even others that were lost completely as to what the message he was trying to say was. Why do I care? Well, for one I’m interested in controversy and believe that dissident voices can often give us great insight into what we thought was a certainty. How often have you presented an idea to your team or to the company’s senior management only to get asked questions you never yourself considered before? My second reason for liking that post is that I agree with what Jason said.

Let me explain. Although I admire Joel Spolsky and think he’s right on the mark 99% of times, I wouldn’t simply copy his business model or his ideas and try to use them in my own company. The simple fact that it worked for him doesn’t prove that it will work for everyone. Another person I admire is Jack Welsh (former CEO of GE) but I also wouldn’t be as ruthless as he was during his tenure simply because that is not my style. Can you be as successful as someone else without using the same methods? The myriad of companies out there that are successful and yet operate completely different (Southwest and JetBlue, Yahoo and Google, GM and Toyota, etc.) are the proof.

Did Jason take some stuff out of context? Maybe. But the overall idea was interesting and valid, especially for us mere mortals that look in awe at others that have been more successful (however you define the term) and have to be brought back down to earth and go back to work.

The lesson here translated into the marketing realm is that you should always keep an eye out for the competition, for your partners, for other similar companies, for what is said to be working and why. What is the best ad campaign you’ve seen recently? Which is the best website? Who in your industry is the king of PPC and SEO? This is all good food for thought but beware of simply copying what others are doing. You competitor may have a very good reason why he decided to create a blog on his website and why he spent thousands on that slick direct mail piece but it doesn’t mean you should follow suit. Watch, learn, absorb all the good and bad then translate it into your own context. 

Effectiveness doesn’t come from copying, it comes from making it right for your organization. Do what works for you, not what have worked for others.


Effective Manager Defined

February 14, 2009

From time to time I go back to some business books I’ve read that had big influences in my career, one of which is “The One Minute Manager”, by Ken Blanchard. There’s a specific passage I think is a great definition of effective managers, it reads:

Effective managers manage themselves and the people they work with so that both the organization and the people profit from their presence.

This is a simple but powerful thought. How are you making use of your time? How are you making use of your team’s time? Are the tasks you and your team working on going to directly affect the company’s ability to compete in the marketplace?  Are the marketing campaigns you are planning or have planned going to directly influence sales? What are the key items in your agenda as a marketer that can have a direct impact in the company’s bottom line? 

Food for thought.



Effective Marketer Principle 8: Say “We” rather than “I”

February 6, 2009

“Think and say we” is Drucker’s advice. There are two good lessons here, one being that you should earn the trust of your team and you can only do that if they see that you are not going to go at it alone without giving them any consideration. It is also a good reminder of the great art of delegation, which is getting work done through others.

The marketing manager that thinks in terms of “we” will get more accomplished because he will be:

  • Sharing with the team the vision and direction of the company and of the department
  • Sharing with the team the marketing plan for the year and the goals for each campaign
  • Asking the team for feedback, ideas, and criticism
  • Giving feedback to the team on what they are doing right and what needs to be improved – Sharing with the company the successes the team as a whole has achieved
  • Trusting the team to make the right choices at difficult moments and allowing them to make mistakes along the way
  • Giving each team member additional responsibilities so they can learn and grow as professionals
  • Taking on more responsibilities and important projects now that he can share with the team the burden of ensuring successThink We Rather than I

A final, bonus if you will, lesson from Peter Drucker’s insightful article is about the art of listening. He says “listen first, speak last”. Good listeners will be better at understanding what needs to get done and will be more effective. So if you are ready to becoming an effective marketer, master these 8 principles (see previous posts for the other seven principles) and you will be one step ahead of the competition.

The road to effectiveness is not an easy one, but is definitely a rewarding journey.


Effective Marketer Principle 6: Focus on opportunities rather than problems

January 18, 2009

 

Have you ever run a marketing campaign that didn’t present any problems, hiccups, or unforeseen obstacles? Unless you are extremely lucky (or have been kept out of the loop on what was happening with the campaign) odds are you have had your share of, let’s say, interesting events. How you approach such ‘events’ has a profound impact not only on the outcome of the said campaign but also on how your team and other professionals perceive you.

The whole subject of having a positive attitude, of looking at the glass half full instead of half empty, is a big subject and not what I intend to cover right now. My suggestion if you want to get some interesting tidbits on the impact of having a positive attitude in your life (both professionally and personally) is to read “The Little Gold Book of Yes!”, by Jeffrey Gitomer (see link in my ‘books’ page). But let’s not digress. Peter Drucker talks about the principle of focusing on opportunities rather than problems as another good way of achieving results.

Problem solving, however necessary, does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produce results.” So if it happens that you encounter a problem as you execute your plans, instead of simply trying to fix it, think of what king of opportunity it brings. You probably heard of countless stories of how a company faced a crisis situation and was able to turn it around and come out even better than before (remember the Tylenol scandal? Johnson came out victorious after a well planned management of the crisis that could have cost the company dearly). So your job is to spot these opportunities and make the most out of them. Focus on Opportunities

Effective marketers are aware that focusing on opportunities rather than problems will yield better results. Next time you run into a glitch in your marketing plan, think how you can turn it into an advantage.


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