Look for things you can pat yourself on the back for. Be reminded that you made it through another challenging year.

‘Tis the season! The season for all things. For retailers, it’s absolute chaos. No time for strategizing. From here through the New Year, it’s execution all the time.

There is no “try” there is only “do,” as Yoda says. Launch things. Make money. Hit your year-end goals.

As an email strategist, I got bored after the 15th of November, when my team locked down its holiday campaigns to the end of the year. My job was done. I did things to fill my time, but in the last six weeks of the year, nobody called on me for strategic thinking. Everybody was in execution mode.

Today, my agency’s retail clients are all heads down, launching campaigns. Our teams are helping them get things done. Everybody is in a mad push for the end of the year.

Teams in other verticals fall into one of two groups:

  • The ones for whom December is just the end of the year. You want to finish strong, and that’s great.
  • The ones, especially B2B marketers, who are crushing it to close deals by December 31.

Whatever vertical you find yourself in, take a few minutes to walk with me and look back over what we’ve done in the last 12 months.

4 marketing lessons learned in 2022

I suspect many of you are grabbing time to read this while you’re on your way to something else — your daily stand-up, a team meeting, commuting to or from work (don’t read and drive) or just kicking back and looking for something to do because you don’t feel like doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

Wherever you are in your daily life, thanks for joining me to review the year, look for things we can pat ourselves on the back for and remind ourselves that we made it through another challenging year.

1. The advice I shared in 2022 can guide you through 2023

When I look back at all the columns I wrote this year for MarTech, one thing stands out: Most of them are designed to help you level up your email program. I frequently advise marketers to stop what they’re doing, clear their minds, look at their efforts and think of how to improve them.

That has been my goal with my MarTech columns since I began writing them — to help marketers do better.

I share real-world advice pulled from my own experiences because I have been where you are now:

  • The person pushing the “Send” button.
  • The one getting screamed at to “send another email.”
  • The marketer who had to figure out how to fight for every scrap of budget to make the email program achieve its potential.

If you’re thinking about what to do in 2023 but not sure where to start, visit my article directory on MarTech and search for ideas. How to do email audits, review your tech stack and move to a new ESP. How to brag a little about your team and your results and help your company understand the power of email and why it deserves investment.

You’ll find a year’s worth — and more! — of strategic and tactical approaches that can make a real difference in your email program. Find one or two improvements that you could make happen, along with a reserve list of five or six, and then follow my guidance for how to make them happen.

No, you don’t have to do it right now. Post a note on your cubicle wall or tape it to your computer monitor, and come back to it after the holidays.

2. Brands are beginning to invest extra in email again

I’m noticing an encouraging trend — an increase in spend. We’ve seen significant investment in email by our clients in 2022. When I ask business owners why, they say they learned their lessons during the pandemic. They needed to invest in better platforms to take advantage of everything email could do for them.

We also saw people put their investments on hold to see what would happen in the economy and the labor force. But overwhelmingly, spending increases outpaced cutbacks or holds.

We also talked with front-line marketers. They told us they won their increases because they had effectively communicated the power, the upside and the opportunity of email in their organizations.

They made a case for email. They educated their executives and pointed out where email could excel. They also highlighted instances outside of marketing where email could solve company problems that cropped up because of COVID-19.

That’s the advice I shared a year ago in my forecast for 2022. Boast about your program a little. Talk about your email program with your executive team and point out what you’re doing and how you’re contributing to the company with email.

This has been one of my consistent themes this year because I can see the increase in business, and I want other marketers to share that mentality if they can put together solid business and communication plans.

In other words, if you want the funding, you have to think like a business owner. Because you own a business unit within your company. Treat your marketing program like a business, an asset, and communicate that asset to your executives.

This approach results in increased spending at companies that value email. That comes from people who own it.

Dig deeper: 5 email marketing lessons learned in the pandemic

3. RFPs and ESP migrations are off the charts

This is another long-term result of changes forced under the pandemic. Many companies found their platforms weren’t good enough. They weren’t fast enough. They couldn’t handle the fast pivots and new demands from extreme digital transformation.

That left many marketers wondering, “Am I the problem? Or is it my platform?”

In my 20 years of working with RFPs, migrating to new platforms and onboarding new clients, I saw people running RFPs because they didn’t understand what their present platforms could do. They hadn’t tried everything or taken ownership of the process to learn all the ins and outs.

Today, we are getting inquiries from people who have done that work and know that their platforms can’t take them where they want to go. They don’t have time to cope with sluggish systems, downtimes, workarounds or extra processes. These companies are driven to change and need platforms that can keep up with them.

You don’t have to be beholden to the platform — whether email, marketing automation, CRM or what have you — that you have been using.

Digital transformation in its broadest sense can mean moving to a new platform that enables cross-channel and omnichannel marketing, that gets you to the Valhalla of real-time dynamic content, that draws a closer relationship between customer intent and product demand.

This rush to RFPs will continue in 2023. The frustration I hear from clients is tangible. This is a challenge to the existing ESP industry to do better. You can’t just say you “do email.” People want more than a pipe. They want functionality that goes beyond email and pushes email to do more.

Is an RFP in your future? Maybe. But before you start putting one together, be sure you’re using everything your current platforms offer. Audit your platform use to be sure you can accomplish everything you need to do now.

Dig deeper: 5 tips for successfully switching email service providers

4. Finding balance is a need, not just a want

COVID drove home the idea that people want balance between their work and home lives. As I wrote last year (“Marketers: Where will you be a year from now?“), finding that elusive work-life balance would become a priority in 2022. Burnout was real, and we could feel its effects as 2021 ticked over into 2022.

I wish Elon Musk had followed my advice.

After he acquired Twitter a couple of months back, he sent out a now-infamous memo telling people they had to work harder — nights and weekends — or quit.

My reaction: Somebody wasn’t reading the room.

Whether Musk appreciates it or not, we have moved beyond demands like that. We have moved beyond the corporate dictate that work is the be-all and end-all.

Yes, some employees signed up for that 24/7 workday. That’s fine. That’s in their DNA. But many others looked at the choice between more work and more life and chose to have a life.

I hope this trend continues into 2023. Manage your work so you can take time for yourself. If you’re in ruins, so is your work.

In my 2021 column, I also advised marketers to keep their resumes updated and to take any interviews that come along. You could be happy as hell in the job you’re in, but keep an eye out for the next great opportunities.

Finally, continue to boast about your email program. Help others discover all the good work you do and get the respect you deserve. As some of my clients showed, it can pay off.

Going into the new year prepared

As we go into 2023, let’s remember this — as hard as it was to work through the upheavals that COVID wrought in 2020 and 2021, we got to the other side. No, COVID is not over. We’re facing another winter with the triple threat of COVID, the flu and RSV, the respiratory virus that’s so dangerous for young children and the elderly.

And let’s not forget about the twin challenges of inflation and recession and whatever crisis is waiting for us. Can we meet it? Yes. Can we conquer it? Yes!

Over the 20+ years I have been in this business, email marketers have always impressed me with their spirit, their grit and their ideation.

We are a talented industry, and we need to take pride in what we do.

Over the next few days, disregard Elon Musk’s advice and take time for yourself. Watch SpongeBob SquarePants. Put your phone down. Turn off your notifications.

Put some distance between yourself and your work to start 2023 with a fresh perspective. Give yourself the gift of balance because you deserve to take breaks.

Know that I think everybody reading my words is an amazing person.

Have a wonderful holiday, and I’ll see you on the other side.