Remember all those automated email marketing campaigns you built? We don't, either. Some marketers even have 300 of them going at once, as CMSWire Contributor Chad S. White points out in his article this year on making the most of automated email campaigns.

"It’s hard to take care of your automations if you don’t know how many you have, what they’re triggered by and their goals," White wrote. "One of our clients did an inventory and identified nearly 300 active automated emails, which prompted an effort to consolidate and improve the management of these campaigns."

We caught up with White about his article, and here's the transcript from our talk.

Editor's note: This transcript is edited for clarity.

Email Marketing Rules

Dom Nicastro: Hey everybody, Dom Nicastro here, managing editor of CMSWire, and I'm here with CMSWire contributor Chad S. White. He's the author of "Email Marketing Rules" and head of research for Oracle Marketing Consulting. How's it going, Chad? 

Chad S. White: It's going great. 

Nicastro: Excellent. Well, thank you for joining us. Roughly how long have you been a CMSWire contributor?

White: So for only for about a year now, so I'm relatively new to the group.

Nicastro: We like the newbies, get you in the door and can't thank you enough for shelling out your wisdom to our audience of marketing and customer experience professionals. And you are a specialist in email marketing. And, you know, from me Chad, at the end of the day, it's like, we can be fancy with our marketing, we can talk about things like AR/VR. kiosks, and all that. The end of the day, we're sending out some emails, that's the bottom line with marketing. So it's great that you keep writing about that topic. It's never going away.

I think email is the best platform for collaboration in the history of the world. You can talk to anyone and everyone everywhere. So, my first question is about the book, "Email Marketing Rules." Is that email marketing rules as in hey, here are some rules on email marketing, or is it email marketing rules? It's so cool.

White: It's, of course, both of those things. But yeah, so the the pun is intended. But yes, it is about various rules and best practices about email marketing.

Related Article: 6 Ways to Review and Improve Your Automated Marketing Emails

300 Automated Emails

Nicastro: Alright, cool. Glad I can clear that up. So it's a little bit of both. In this article, you write about a client that discovered when they did a little audit, or maybe by accident, that they had 300 automated emails going out the door at any given time. How does that happen? What can marketers do about that?

White: Yeah, so I mean, it's both a problem and not a problem. I mean, having lots of automations are good, and having them be targeted is a good thing. I think the thing that's particularly challenging about 300 automations, is that, that is a lot to manage. And I think that's sort of the crux of my article is that oftentimes, you know, these programs are thought of and sometimes even like lauded as being set it and forget it. And that's the furthest thing from the truth.

These are like living, breathing campaigns. They act over a period of time. And there's lots of things that can make them break over that period of time, from changes at the mailbox providers and inbox providers to stuff that's internal, you know, internal web pages changes, messaging changes. And so the article is all about these six ways that you should be sort of taken care of, and sort of nurturing these campaigns.

Because in general, these are the campaigns that have the highest ROI of everything that you send. And yet they're the campaigns that, you know, marketers tend to kind of ignore the most. They really oftentimes do set them up and largely forget about them, which is a tragedy, because there is so much money and engagement to be had from these programs. But they degrade over time if you're not taking care of them. 

Related Article: 10 More Common Email Marketing Mistakes — And Solutions

Design Refreshes for Email a Must

Nicastro: And one of the tips you give is about looking at the design. I mean, it seems to me that a lot of marketers. You know, my marketing team is so buried in data, analytics, send times, best practices for what you say in the email. Let's change things up. But the actual design, like how does it look? Are too many marketers not looking at that enough?

White: Well, I think that, you know, marketers do value design. I think the disconnect here is that they'll just redesign their broadcast promotional campaigns on a pretty regular basis, but they don't give the same love and attention to the design of their automated campaign. So those designs tend to stagnate.

And even though they've redesigned their website, and they've redesigned their broadcast emails, they don't always port those same design elements into their automatic campaigns. And that's absolutely something you should do. Anytime you redesign your app, your webpage, those designs trickle into your email marketing program, and not just to your broadcast campaigns, but also to your automated campaigns.

I think one of the things that was a little bit of a silver lining around the pandemic is that it caused a lot of brands to reevaluate some of this messaging that they had to sort of put on cruise control. And some of the messaging really struck the wrong tone, you know, in light of the pandemic. So a lot of reengagement-based messaging, re-permission automations. Even like some cart abandonment — the messaging was a little bit tone deaf and not like kind of up-to-date or what was going on. It was, you know, very little contextually-unaware messaging.

And a lot of brands went and they changed and they updated that. And so that was a very good thing. And, you know, you shouldn't need something as dramatic as a pandemic to get you to be reevaluating that messaging on an ongoing basis. You should be looking at these things routinely.

Learning Opportunities

And one of the things I tried to do in the article is to give people lots of reasons. So not just to look at the QA and make sure that you don't have any broken links or any broken images, but also to look at optimization opportunities. Triggered messages are AB tested at a way lower rate than broadcast emails are, which it should be the reverse, because of the ROI.

But also things like seasonal optimization. A lot of brands have a seasonality to them. And so there's lots of opportunities to bring in seasonal messaging. And you know, if you're a retailer, and you are not doing a holiday refresh of your welcome email, your cart abandonment, you're leaving money on the table, because there's absolutely opportunities there to add in seasonal imagery, seasonal messaging to really speak to those seasonal shoppers in a way that's going to be more relevant than treating it like, you know, any old day of the week in the middle of the summer.

Related Article: Messaging During Recessions: 3 Opportunities for Marketers

Staying in Sync With Subscribers and Customers Through Email

Nicastro: Yeah, such a good point about the pandemic awakening us up to many, many things. It forced us to look at things with a hard, hard look, like if you have an email campaign that says, want to get away? Like, no, no, no. We can't get away. It's the pandemic, we're in lockdown. So things like that kind of woke us up to like, we really have to check on these things often.

White: First of all, I thought, we as an industry did a really great job of responding. But the kinds of questions that we asked ourselves, in the early months of the pandemic are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves, you know, every cycle. Are we aligned with our consumers? What are consumers thinking? What is the top of mind for them? What are their priorities? Their needs and desires?

And again, I think, you know, March, April, May of 2020, I think, we did a fantastic job of really scrapping the playbook and what we were going to do, and coming up with new campaigns and new talking points and really getting aligned. But we shouldn't let that go. We should definitely, you know, keep that mentality of, hey, let's make sure we're always staying in sync with our subscribers and our customers. And certainly through automation is one of those ways that we can make sure that we're aligned.

Privacy, Cookies on the Email Radar

Nicastro: Final question for you Chad is, you know, what can we expect in 2022? What kind of things are you watching and potentially writing about as you're contributing here to CMSWire?

White: Oh, that's a good question. I definitely have a list of things that I want to write about. But I think, you know, one of my pandemic learnings has been to not plan too far ahead, because definitely things can change. But certainly, you know, I think some of the big issues right now are, I think still unwinding some of these pandemic changes. I think the sunsetting of third party cookies and privacy, protection, those are the big three that are sending ripples through our industry. So I think it's probably a safe bet that I'll continue to write about those things.

But the wonderful thing about email marketing is that there's complexity in everything and lots of nuance to talk about and lots of opportunities to do better. 

Nicastro: Good call not to lock yourself in, you know, you talked about like cookies and all that. And Google itself is changing all the time, you know, FloC and now Topics API. So we can't we can't lock ourselves in to anything specific. But it's good that you're watching the privacy and the cookies matter, because I think a lot of marketers are obviously, too, so we're looking into that.

White: And definitely going to have lots of repercussions — far beyond advertising. Definitely having a big impact on the approach the email marketing, like those email addresses, email address collection, zero party, first party data collection, super elevated in importance now that third party cookies are being sunsetted.

Nicastro: Yeah, and we'll follow the compliance issues too with regulations and stuff and we're wondering if the US is going to come up with a federal law. We're watching that very closely, too. 

White: Only a matter of time now. 

Nicastro: Only a matter of time...One federal law would streamline things for sure.