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Make the Business Case for Email: Three Ways to Talk Your Boss's Language

by Loren McDonald  |  
June 5, 2007

Email is the most-used tool in the marketer's arsenal—but there's a pretty good chance your CEO just doesn't understand its contribution to the bottom line. Unfortunately, that's because most marketers don't get it either. And, as long as we don't get it, we also won't get the boss's ear long enough to get the resources we need.

Email marketing suffers from what I call the resource-to-ROI imbalance. Poorly done email still delivers pretty good ROI, so it's hard to justify the need for more resources.

But without those resources—namely, dedicated email specialists—you can't implement the best practices that could take your ROI from good enough to great.

Let's say you want to increase your annual email marketing budget from $300,000 to $500,000.

Make the standard plea for that budget increase "because you really need it," and you'll probably get a swift, no-brainer "No." Make the case that you can produce an extra $8 million from that $200,000 spend, and your CEO will probably say, "Make it happen."

Here's a three-step process for talking business with the boss, instead of weighing him or her down with marketese:

  1. Clarify the one strategic thing email does best for your company.

  2. Document why your current approach is leaving money on the table.

  3. Paint a clear and credible picture of what the new resources make possible.

Clarify what email does best

Most CEOs don't understand the "business purpose" email serves, because it's used for everything from marketing campaigns to shipping notifications to saying hi to Bob. This makes it hard to pin down what email is actually worth—until you get crystal clear on the strategic role and function of email in your company.

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Loren McDonald is vice-president of industry relations at Silverpop, an email service provider for B2C marketing initiatives and B2B lead-management processes. Reach him via

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