Welcome to 2024! A new year is like a new car — it comes with that amazing smell of promise unsullied by life events. So, let’s look at what we can do to make this new-year smell linger as long as possible for our email marketing efforts.

Everything in this new year should be about setting goals for the year, creating aspirations and deciding what we need to accomplish — like how we will reach that seemingly impossible sales number our boss gave us because we smashed our goal in 2023.

If you find yourself in the front seat of the struggle bus, do what I do. I think of three words — that’s it, just three — that will frame my priorities or personal goals for the coming year.

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3 words for 2024

Before I signed off on 2023, I shared my views on trends and takeaways from 2023 and how we could use what we learned to inform our 2024 planning.

What I’d like you to do after you finish reading this article is to write down your own three words, maybe on your next break or commute. Put some thought into it; this is not just another homework assignment. Class is not in session!

And when you come up with your three words, don’t keep them locked away on your phone or in a document on your desktop. Write them on a sticky note that you post on your computer, your cubicle, your office wall or any place where you can see them daily and remind yourself about your intentions. Let them become your north star for the year.

Here are my three words for the email industry in 2024.

1. AI

After tracking and working with various forms of artificial intelligence over the years, I’ve come to believe it’s time for marketers to take it seriously. It’s not a fad.

AI has become a serious mechanism for change. It also created two kinds of people: those who have embraced it strategically and those who keep their heads in the sand, thinking they can limp without it.

Having AI as my first word for 2024 also signifies its importance. In my company, we spent 2023 looking for AI tools we could use to help us in our business. We didn’t give up. We spoke with people who were on the same quest but abandoned the process because it wasn’t working for them at that moment.

That might seem smart in the short run, but you’re just kicking the can down the road. Although AI has taken a firm hold among many people in marketing and allied professions, we must remember that AI-driven tools like generative AI are still in their infancy.

Let’s fight the urge to kick AI down the road, to wait until the tools and data are robust enough to give us maximum value for our efforts.

When we give up too soon, we don’t learn how to use it properly or distinguish real AI from glamorous imposters. The only way to get the AI mastery you need is to try it, to find a place for it, to fail and try repeatedly.

One possibility: If the free version of a large language model like ChatGPT has worked for you, find the money in your budget to upgrade to a paid service and make room for it in your workflow. We’re doing that in my business and it works well.

We email marketers must explore how the current toolset can help us achieve our goals in the business. No, you haven’t attained AI nirvana if you use ChatGPT just for writing and testing subject lines.

Gaining expertise is hard work. It’s like when I work out with my trainer. If I’m not gasping for breath at the end of a session, I haven’t tried hard enough. If you don’t get frustrated or see visions with AI, try again.

2. Change

If it were up to me, 2024 would be the year we changed everything. Nothing should be off-limits. Everything would be on the table, whether it’s our approach to email or our thoughts about our customers, tech stacks, vendors, work processes or testing regimens.

We should be open and aggressive about change because “We’ve always done it that way” is never a successful business strategy.

But that doesn’t mean changing for the sake of change or on a whim. Instead, look at your strategy. Identify what you need to shake up, why you should do it and what you hope to achieve.

This will take some thought. That in itself will require changing how you conduct business. The first step is to shift away from the “just get it done” mindset that values tactics over strategy. We needed this tactical approach in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic blew up. But now it’s time to adopt a mindset for change.

Why the shift? Because if you focus exclusively on getting things done, you aren’t thinking about how you’re making that happen. A change mindset makes you look at how you get things done and search for ways to do them better.

I encourage you to walk into your business with this change mindset. And make no mistake — if you are an email marketer, you own a business. You own that business because you’re operating a program that produces revenue. It’s your responsibility to own email and know the best ways to run it.

I understand the need to go on pause. We work with marketers and executives who hesitate to change something because change can be scary. We don’t know what’s on the other side, but we know things aren’t working and could be done better.

Being aggressive on change can help you keep that new-year smell around longer!

3. Learn

This year marks my 26th in the email industry and my first as CEO of my email digital agency, RPE Origin. I’ve spent those years listening to people and learning from them. Even after 26 years, I haven’t reached the point where I don’t need to learn.

If you think you’ve reached the “god of marketing” level in your career, that you’re so important that people need to listen to and learn from you, then you’re wrong.

Everybody should be humble enough to say they need to learn. With the email industry evolving faster than ever thanks to technology, privacy, customer expectations and government regulations, nobody can claim to know it all.

Plus, the email community makes self-learning easy, whether it’s consulting with the people you pay to run your business or learning from your customers. In my company, we teach, discuss, learn and share information. We join industry groups and communities, attend conferences, read and write articles and blog posts and sit in or lead webinars to seek and share expertise.

Continue to learn about new platforms, processes and workflows. But begin with the humbleness of spirit to say, “I need to learn.”

In 2023, my agency hired some key people whose jobs included, in part, helping me understand things I did not know and pointing me toward things I needed to learn. Some bosses find it hard to say, “I don’t know this stuff.” That’s just the first step.

Be a sponge in 2024. Soak up everything to better understand what you need to learn, then use that knowledge to identify and drive change.

Embrace AI, drive change and keep learning

January is a hard month for everybody. You just came off an exhausting fourth quarter, had a break and now have to start everything up again. You aren’t just sitting on the struggle bus — you’re driving it!

It takes discipline to get started. But if you want to succeed, you must invest in the journey one more time.

This “three words” exercise, coupled with strategic and planning goals, can help you pull the cord to get off the struggle bus at the right stop.

Originally posted on MarTech.org