Balancing Customer Email Requests at a Scaling Company

Balancing Customer Email Requests at a Scaling Company

Being on the email team at an email company brings a lot of visibility and, oftentimes, scrutiny. We’ve all heard the old adage that “the paint is always peeling at the painter’s house,” or “the chef unwinds to a TV dinner.” But while our team has made more than a couple of mistakes over the years, we do our best to keep our email program in tip-top shape.
Executing flawless campaigns is just one part of the battle though.
As SendGrid has grown from a startup to a scaling company, prioritization of the emails we send to subscribers and customers has become a critical exercise.

The first step is to set expectations with stakeholders across the organization that request email communications to be sent. These internal stakeholders are our “customers” in this case, and so we want to deliver on what we promise while maintaining clear communication. This often requires compromise and having clear processes and expectations in place to make those conversations productive, not combative.

By communicating why we can’t send all the emails, all the time, there are two key variables at play: 1) the bandwidth of the team sending the email communications, and 2) the appetite of the recipients. We at SendGrid have put several measures and processes in place to address these challenges that I've outlined below.

Follow a formal communication request process

We accept and schedule communication requests in two-week increments. This window gives us enough time to plan, but also doesn’t require our colleagues to be clairvoyant of their needs multiple weeks in advance. Requests are submitted to our team via a simple Google form.

We have an article in our internal intranet that describes the process, reminding colleagues of expectations, and links to the form. The form itself asks five questions regarding timeline, audience, purpose, etc., then prompts the requestor to provide email copy, suggested subject line, and other requirements.

We also ask technical questions, such as “Should this communication bypass subscription preferences?” for cases in which critical account notifications are involved and, therefore, transactional in nature.

After the form is filled out, a member of the team reviews the request, transfers the form submission into a document, and slots the communication into the calendar (more on that later). In most cases, our team works with the requester to gather more information and collaborate, which helps build relationships across the organization (bonus!).

Build and maintain an email calendar

To keep us organized and to offer visibility to our colleagues, we maintain an email calendar in Google Calendars because everyone in our company already uses it and because it’s easy to add the email calendar. But tools such as Asana or Trello are also valuable and can have more flexibility for customization, should you require that.

Stakeholders can easily toggle the calendar on and off to see what types of communications are slated. In addition to visibility, it also helps us determine if certain segments of our subscriber or customer base are being emailed too often in a given time period.

Moreover, it provides us with fodder to push back if negotiations for sending a communication are complicated (“We are already emailing that segment three times next week for equally important purposes.”)

Looking for even more inspiration for ideas to put in your email calendar throughout the year? Check out our 2019 Email Planning Calendar.

Be smart with your segmentation

One way to combat the challenge of over-communicating with certain segments, or exceeding subscriber “appetite,” is to become a master at segmenting your emails. After all, the more targeted you are with your email campaigns, the better your engagement and program success will be anyway.

But on top of that, you’ll find you can accommodate more communications by being deliberate with your segmentation. Segmentation data can come from many places, but usually fits into two categories:
  • Data you have on your subscribers/customers based on activity
  • Data you have based on what they give you
An example of the latter would come from your email preference center. The more you empower your subscribers to tell you what they want, the better the relationship you build with them. Using a combination of activity-based and demo/firmographic data will set you up for a smart, segmented program.

So there you have it. A quick rundown of tactics we’ve adopted over the years at SendGrid as we’ve grown past our startup roots. It’s never too early to implement some of these processes for your organization because, at some point, you’ll need them.

If you're looking for more advice across all aspects of your email program, check out SendGrid's 2019 A-Z Email Marketing Guide. 

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