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Do you have “predictions fatigue” yet? You know, that tired feeling you get when everybody with access to a blog or email is telling you what to expect in the coming year.

I’m not big on predictions. It’s not that they’re worthless. It’s just that nobody can predict the future. It’s like reading tea leaves or clicking your heels together and hoping it all comes true.

But instead of dismissing them outright – I know smart people who can make better educated guesses than most others and are worth some attention – I suggest you find one or two predictions that makes the most sense to you. Like mine!

I’m not saying I can see into the future (although at least one of my 2017 predictions came true), but I see things you should be doing anyway given the way the email industry, regulations and customer expectations are evolving. So, I’ve come up with three areas email marketers should focus on in the next 12 months.

Privacy hits home for consumers

“Global privacy will come to the forefront in 2017,” I said it last January and that has certainly come true. What will follow in 2018 is an extreme focus on consumer privacy and data privacy, thanks to the GDPR laws that will go into effect next May and affect marketers in and beyond the European Union.

I don’t foresee U.S. law changing as dramatically as the EU and Canada (thanks to CASL, the set of email and data laws which went into effect in 2014 and affect marketers beyond the country’s borders, too).

However, marketers should expect to see a tipping point at which consumers will start to care more about their personal info, whom they share it with, what they’re willing to share, and how it’s used.

As an email marketer, your job is to get your head out of the sand and familiarize yourself with these data issues. You can’t ignore them or think your legal counsel will take care of it for you.

The email address is the center of the data universe because it’s your customer’s main identifier across channels. So, it’s imperative that you stay up to speed on issues affecting the use, collection and dissemination of information associated with those email addresses.

How to do that? Use an RSS reader to gather together information from data experts. Follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn and pay attention to what they say. Join industry groups like the Email Sender and Provider Coalition, which works on behalf of marketers and the email industry.

How did your strategy day go?

Scheduling a strategy day is one of the best investments you can make in your email program. I urge marketers this time every year to take time away from the office and focus on planning the next year’s strategic approaches. I even gave you a guide to a successful event – check it out!

If you didn’t follow my advice last year, you have another opportunity to fix that mistake in the next few months. Use this time to step back, write down your accomplishments from the previous year and figure out what you want to achieve in the coming year.

While you’re thinking about how to achieve your objectives, remember something else that I’ve been talking about, here on the blog and elsewhere: incremental innovation. That is, making a series of small changes that add to progress over time.

Big changes don’t happen overnight. Your strategy should incorporate small steps that add up to that change.

Get your team together – somewhere off campus if possible – and look at what you need to do over the next 12 months to drive your program forward. Start by acknowledging your accomplishments and then focus on where you need to go next.

Buy a round for the team

Many marketers I talk with are struggling with their organization’s inability to understand the power of email. We fight to change the minds of people who think email is just a mass-communication, discount-driven channel.

Besides all the organizational and educational avenues open to you, there’s one that never fails: Buy someone a beer and talk one-on-one.

To get the most out of this tactic, look at the people in your organization who can help you change hearts and minds. They can be in web development, CRM, IT, the executive suite, other departments that can help your cause – even your boss.

Beyond looking for allies, look at taking your team out for a beer, or lunch or some other occasion at least once a month. This helps your team grow together and become cohesive, to trust and depend on each other personally and professionally.

That team-building, with its personal connections, is invaluable to working together, internally, laterally and up and down the org chart at your company.

Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Ryan! That’s not groundbreaking! I could have thought about it!” And, you’re right. But the fact that you didn’t think of it proves that we sometimes need to be reminded that the simple things can prove to be the greatest involvement.

Wrapping up

This is the time of year when we hit “reset” on everything – on the budget, on your team goals, on your strategies for achieving them. Look across your business, and figure out what small steps you can take and build on to get the greatest results.

Put my recommendations into practice this year, and then thank me by buying me a beer.

 

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