4 Product Management Tools To Help You Become A Better Email Marketer

Posted by George Bilbrey 

I’ve spent the last 18 years working in product organizations for marketing technology companies. As a result, I’ve had the privilege of spending time with my two favorite kinds of people: product teams (product managers, user experience, data scientists) and marketers (our clients).

In the early 2000s, the kinds of problems faced by email marketers and the kinds of problems faced by SaaS product teams (not even an ungainly acronym in the early 2000s) seemed very far apart.

However, over the last few years, I have started to see a shift in the problems faced by email marketers. Building email programs is becoming more and more like building software, as email marketers move from a world driven by campaigns toward a more programmatic approach characterized by:

— Contextual messaging based on observed behavior on websites, in apps, and other locations.
— Programs that can be entered at several locations and exited at multiple locations.
— Multiple channels.
— A focus on helping a subscriber/customer do a job.

This focus on supporting clients in “doing a job” with complex process flows feels a lot (to me) like building a software product. So what are some of the tools that product managers use to build software that could be useful to marketers? A few come to mind — some of which are already in use by many marketers:

Customer journey mapping and service blueprints: Building a “map” of full customer experience and support activities, both those visible to clients (“front of house”) and those not visible to clients (“back of house”), is a great way to understand the role that email plays in the getting the client’s job done. This book is one that I’ve used several times when building maps over the last few years.

User personas and user stories: User personas are one way of codifying the context and needs of the person you are building your program for. User stories summarize what exactly the customer is trying to do.  Understanding the client’s objectives in a concise manner is useful when building a complex communication flow. This article gives a good overview of how to build user personas and user stories for email marketing.

Experiment boards: Most product teams spend a lot of time tweaking their applications to optimize the metrics that matter for their business. Many teams will keep track of all the experiments they have run, are running, and plan to run with an “experiments board.” This article gives you an overview of how to create an experiments board for marketing.

Design Sprints: One of the more common problems when building a complex software product is the endless “debate cycles” that take time but don’t help you build a product. Design sprints are a way to get good data from a prototype quickly. This post gives you a good overview of the design sprint approach.

I hope you find these tools useful.

This post originally appeared on Media Post.

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About George Bilbrey

George Bilbrey is the founder of the industry’s first deliverability service provider, Assurance Systems, which merged with Return Path in 2003. He is a recognized expert on the subjects of email reputation and deliverability and is active in many industry organizations, including the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) and the Online Trust Alliance (OTA). In his role as president of Return Path George is the driving force behind the ongoing innovation of our products and services. Prior to Return Path, George served as Director of Product Management at Worldprints.com and as a partner in the telecommunications group at Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. in economics from Duke University, and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina.

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