Wait – we didn’t plan for this! Email Deliverability...how to operationally approach change that you can't control.

At Raise HECK we’ve been focused on managing predicted or intended change, but what happens when there’s a large shift that occurs outside of your organization that impacts core business operations?

How do you prepare and adjust for what you can’t control?

Meditation? Long walks? Deep breathing? Sure that’s all helpful to keep you calm, but it won’t solve the business problem at hand.

One example of a significant shift in business operations is the evolution of email deliverability. The change has been swift and dramatic and if not addressed operationally, it will adversely impact a business or nonprofit’s digital strategy, revenue and reputation.

In the nonprofit space specifically, in the early 2000s many organizations understood that to reach their supporters they needed to have an email marketing strategy. This was a way to grow their supporter base, build conversations with current constituents and increase revenue both online and offline.

For many years, email files were managed in a similar way to well established direct mail best practices. The goal was to grow your file as large as possible and to email anyone and everyone. The benefit of online was that there was not a cost to email one supporter versus 100,000 - so why not hit as many people as possible with your fundraising appeal?

This worked well for a while, until it didn’t. Over a decade and a half, ever-increasing amounts of unsolicited email - spam - caused Google to start cracking down and setting the rules for the email industry. Gone are the days of emailing your full file. You need to work harder to ensure your supporters are engaged and active and if they are not…you should not email them or they will drag down your reputation and revenue.

For years, we’ve seen MANY organizations resist this change, and as a result their email reputation declined.

Initially there wasn’t a good deal of information and data from the Email Service Providers about this inbox-delivery change, so the email software companies took a while to produce resources about the importance of only emailing engaged supporters. That lack of clarity allowed organizations to resist the wave of change and maintain bad practices.

But the wave has crashed, and if you are not adhering to best practices in email deliverability then your organization is definitely suffering in inbox delivery.

So back to my question – how do you prepare for what you can’t control?

It follows a similar pattern to managing change that is within your control. You must understand the facts and use data to drive the conversation to bring key stakeholders along.

First, remove emotion and focus on the facts by examining the data. Today there is a WEALTH of information and companies dedicated solely to addressing email deliverability. Although, as discussed, that wasn’t always the case. But what did exist was the ability to look at your own email statistics and data. If you examine the data without an agenda it will help you to truly look for patterns and understand what the patterns are telling you.

Second, once leadership (or staff who need to convince leadership) understand the outside change, you need to convince key stakeholders of the facts and how it will impact your operations. Part of convincing key stakeholders will be showing them the data that backs up your claim. Best practices in the fast-growing and ever-changing digital space are never permanent, and they’re not even always best - they’re just better practices for what’s working now. Data is the key to demonstrating a trend or a change. Industry think pieces can help to support your theory, but as the garnish, not the main course.

Third, once resistance has moved towards acceptance, you need to come up with a plan to operationally address the change. In this example, businesses and organizations needed to adjust their email marketing strategies. The need for this change should be understood by key stakeholders and then systematically implemented.

In our daily lives both personally and professionally there is so much we cannot control. But by being open to the change and addressing rather than resisting it, you will help your organization grow and likely set you apart as innovators.