I started this post a while ago – one of something like 15 in my pile of unfinished blog posts and random ideas for blog posts – and never got around to finishing it.  After some South Park fun on Twitter with my friends Shannon Holato from Bronto and Andrew Osterday of Premier Global this seemed like a fun post to pick back up today….

So, do you ever get frustrated, or just shake your head, at those with an Underpants Gnomes’ view of email marketing?  If you’re a fan of, South Park, and have seen the Underpants Gnomes episode you can probably guess what’s coming…. 

I’m not going to explain the entire plot.  You can watch it here, or read about its cultural impact here

The way the Gnomes run their “business” reminds me a lot of how many companies run their email marketing.  Here’s how the conversation goes in the Gnomes’ cave:

Kyle: So what are you gonna do with all these underpants you steal?
Gnome 1: Collecting underpants is just phase one. Phase one: collect underpants.
Kyle: So what’s phase two?
Gnome 1: Hey, what’s phase two?!
Gnome 2: Phase one: we collect underpants.
Gnome 1: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what about phase two?
Gnome 2: Well, phase three is profit. Get it?
Stan: I don’t get it.
Gnome 2: (Goes over to a chart on the wall) You see, Phase one: collect underpants, phase two-
Gnome 2: Phase three: profit. 

The most obvious comparison to come to mind is:

Phase 1: Collect email addresses
Phase 2:
Phase 3: Profit

As much as I’d like to say that nobody really collects email addresses without a plan to use them, if you’ve been around email marketing for a long time, you’d know that not to be true….  But I digress….

I’m sure that there are email marketers sitting back scoffing as they think, “Phase 2 is send an email.  Duh!” And to them I say, “Duh!”  But do they have a plan to send email, or do they just do it because they’ve collected email addresses? 

Okay, so you’ve got your Newsletter schedule and calendar; cool.  And you’ve done your content homework over at the Retail Email Blog; double cool.  That’s a good start. 

If one can’t get that right, how do they ever expect to go on to more complex email marketing programs?  Which is really what I wanted to get at….  how do you choose what programs to implement first?

Do you use the Timothy Geithner bailout method (WARNING: Links to graphic and possibly disturbing content) ala South Park?  Or something a bit more measured?

In determining which programs to implement and when, the marketer should consider available resources, the level of effort (LOE) compared to the return on investment (ROI), the short-term v. the long-term goals of the program and the organization, and any migration plans for automating existing statically deployed campaigns.

I like to use a little spreadsheet to help determine and visualize some of the costs to implementing an email program that you can download here.  (Note to clients & prospects: If you hire me and determiningimplementation order is one of the reasons/deliverables, don’t be shocked or surprised if I use the tools that I’ve created, even though I sometimes give those tools away.)

The following worksheet assumes no current campaign revenue for the three examples given; broadcast, simple segmentation, and behavior based.  It may be that these are new programs, or that they are stand-alone campaigns.  Calculations are viewed as monthly totals culminating in annual revenue projections.


We see that a broadcast campaign is projecting $10,000 in revenue and estimates that the campaign will take five man-hours to implement.  Internal costs of production are calculated at $120 per hour.  Five man hours by $120 gives an implementation cost of $600.  The projected revenue less the implementation costs leaves a projected gross of $9.400.

Notice that in the other two examples that even though a campaign might have a higher projected revenue, the costs of implementation may show that a lower projected revenue program might actually have a higher return on investment.


This next worksheet applies the same principles as the first, but this time looks at projecting growth of existing campaigns or programs.  This worksheet assumes that campaigns are repetitive and ongoing, thereby showing a higher projected annual gross than campaigns of a static nature.  The projected annual gross is equal to the first month’s projected revenues less the implementation costs, plus the projected monthly revenue by 11.

Something to keep in mind is that even though a projected level of effort may only be 10 to 20 hours, it may take 2 weeks, or months, for the required resources to schedule that time – something that should always be taken into account when projecting product launch dates.

So there you have it – a glimpse at one of the methods that I use to help to determine implementation order of email programs.  Of course there’s more; there’s always more….  You didn’t expect me to tell you everything, did you?

How do you determine your email program implementation order?  Do you use a similar method?  Some sort of Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey method?  Darts on a board?  Or something involving a chicken?