I have been playing tennis for more than 30 years, and I must confess that I still don’t have a single “killer shot.”  Whether my forehand, backhand, volley or serve, each shot is solid, but none have the ability to end a point on their own.  Instead, I am forced to “construct a point” by moving my opponent around the court, so that they will make a mistake or can’t run the ball down.  Think chess, and you have an idea of my game (and of how slow my ball is 🙂 ).  My strategy is not exciting but, when I am playing well, it can work.  The lesson I use is:

In the absence of clean winners, thoughtfulness and consistency wins.

Marketers are inherently innovative people.  We like to explore new ideas, new target markets, new business models and new technology.  We are thorough business people – we finish the projects and initiatives on our plates – but our hearts really sing for the next shiny thing.  It is in our DNA.

The joy we take in new initiatives is one of the risks we face in executing effective email marketing.  Effective email marketing is a combination of science and art, with an emphasis on the science.  Testing is what makes email marketers the most effective, and that approach is not super-exciting or innovative.  It is methodical and thoughtful, as you build a base of knowledge on segments, offers, timing, subject lines and creative for your customer and prospect bases.

In addition, no single “blast” email will achieve your results.  To get a message through to your audience, you must be consistent.  Remember, over 95% of your customer or prospect base will not click through on your emails, so if you want to transmit a message – whether positioning, product assortment, pricing – you have to be consistent about a campaign – a series of emails that link from one to another and can be associated in the minds of your customers.

Many email marketers fly from one approach, one target, one message to another, like a bee going from flower to flower.  Price-oriented today, service-focused tomorrow – the list goes on. Customers are left with the sense that they are dealing with multiple companies, each trying to get their attention for one split second.  This email schizophrenia leaves customers with no clear message, no way of placing the company in their minds.  The end result can be commoditization, as customers simply give up on any clear differentiation and just wait for the next sale, the one they know is coming.

Few marketers have the “killer shot” – the one piece of communications that changes the game in a single email.  Instead, like me in tennis, they have to “play chess,” carefully building a positioning and benefit story in the minds of their customers.  To do that, they need thoughtfulness and consistency, or they will find themselves down and out in the first round. Avoid corporate schizophrenia and you can find yourself bringing new trophies to the office.