How effective is your email program? Let’s walk through a five-point email audit to help you understand what’s working and what needs to change.

How’s your new year going so far? I hope you came back to work after a break with renewed vigor and optimism. Now is the perfect time to think about what you want to do over the next 12 months.

I always urge marketers to set aside time, while the year is young, to go off-site for a strategy day and develop a plan for your marketing year — not just campaigns, but what you’re going to do to move your program forward.

But what if you’re a team of one? Or if you’re too busy with everything you need to deliver to take a whole day, or even a half-day, for a strategy session?

Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. My five-point email audit will help you assess your program’s effectiveness and challenges, then map out a course to follow.

If you do have a strategy session, have each member of your team conduct this audit before you meet. Then, during your session, compare answers to see how in sync everyone is.

5-point email audit addresses acquisition, process and in-house promotion

Each item on this list is an important aspect of email marketing that generally needs to be changed or optimized:

1. Are you asking customers and users for their primary email addresses?

We talk about the need for the primary address because it’s a unique identifier. It links to all kinds of information for you. It’s also the email address your customers check most often. Emails to primary addresses are more likely to be opened and acted on.

Action: Evaluate how your acquisition program focuses on asking for the primary email address. Look at examples of your communications. Do you list benefits? Do you give people a reason to believe in the value of your program? Are you giving them realistic expectations about your emails?

If you want people to give you their primary email addresses, you must give them realistic expectations of the value of your program.

2. How do your transactional emails make money for your email program?

Our industry has talked for the last 15 years about having transactional emails that can make money as well as confirm a transaction. Print off a representative selection of your transactional emails. How do they look? Are they clear, concise and on-brand? How much of the real estate is used for promotional messaging (within legal boundaries, of course)?

Action: List changes to make in your transactional emails. You’ve got 11 months to go in the year. Now is the perfect time to work up a project with the teams you’ll need to involve: tech/IT, web, e-commerce, creative, ESP (email service provider) and others.

3. What’s the process you need to get an email campaign out the door?

Get a blank piece of paper and write down the process you take to create and send an email campaign — the good, the bad and the ugly. You don’t have to show it to anybody, but you do need to know your process and what holds it up or speeds it along.

Some places to examine:

  • Strategic indecision.
  • Lack of communication or clarity in the creative brief.
  • Creative assets not ready as specified in the brief.
  • Tardy approvals.

Action: Look for the areas where the process always breaks down and come up with ways you can optimize or shorten it.

4. How do you promote your email successes throughout the company?

Publicity and public relations isn’t just for relationships beyond your company’s walls. You should also put those tactics to work to raise your profile and establish your authority on-site as well — especially if you’re a one-person shop.

In my first internet job (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth), I ran an affiliate program and used a spreadsheet to track all the KPIs that management wanted to see. Every Monday, I came in early to print it out and lay it on my boss’s desk.

I didn’t ask permission. But I kept doing it. Eventually, people saw how much money we were making and the KPIs we were generating, and they started paying attention. Most importantly, my team started getting more support.

All you need to get started is a sign posted outside your cubicle with a brag worthy stat on it. “Our conversion rate is X%!” Or “We acquired X,XXX customers this month!” Or “Our RPE (revenue per email) on this campaign was $XX.XX!”

Action: Evaluate how you promote your own successes to your company. List the steps you take to announce major achievements. Which of these could help you raise your profile: internal webinar, lunch-and-learn sessions, articles in the company newsletter or announcements on the company intranet?

Most important: How does your news reach the top tier of your company, the boss of your boss’s boss?

5. What do you want to accomplish this year?

You should have a list of two or three things that would help you achieve greater success in the next 11 to 12 months. Not 10 things. Not 17. Just two or three. Even if you think you have tons of work to do to push your email forward, you still need to get your daily work done. Focus on fewer, but meaningful — or doable, changes.

Action: By the time you reach this point in your audit, you should have a list of ideas you could work on this year. Narrow the list to the two or three that you could reasonably accomplish but which also could trigger more changes down the line.

Put all your skills as a marketer to work on this one. What is your goal? What is your strategy for accomplishing this goal, and which tactics will help you put your strategy into action?

Final action: Document everything

Keep track of everything you did this year to measure and improve your marketing program. Document your processes. List the new methods you used to promote your successes within your company and what the results were.

Don’t be put off by failures or results that weren’t what you expected. Keep trying. This time next year, pull out your list and use it to guide your planning.