It’s a new year, and with it come the inevitable pressures of resolutions. Many resolutions are unsuccessful because they require a fundamental change in behavior: “Exercise more,” or “Find more time to spend with friends,” or “Be nicer to my in-laws.” As an email marketer, you already know that the quickest route to success is not through a vague desire to improve, but through the implementation of processes. For example, if you want to make sure your messages render cleanly on a mobile device, you add an address to your test list that you can read on your iPhone.

For your email program then, mere resolutions are not as likely to drive the improvement you want as much as a few new processes. Here are three that you can proactively add to your program now, which will pay year-long dividends like no resolution ever has:

1. Identify up to 3 Objectives for the coming year. These may actually sound a bit like resolutions, but don’t worry – they’re just the first part of the processes you’ll build around them (see #2 below). Think of the major improvements in your program you’d like to achieve this year. Maybe you need to improve deliverability, or lower your unsubscribe rate. Growing your subscriber base, driving greater readership of your newsletters or other messages, or maintaining the same results but with fewer resources are all candidates for this list. Depending on your current resources, business needs and ambition, you might choose a single objective to focus on. Or you could choose more, though I don’t recommend more than three. Trying to get better at everything all at once can diffuse focus, and result in only marginal improvements. Better to crush it in a small number of areas than to inch forward everywhere.

2. Customize your Dashboard to track the metrics relevant to your objectives. You can track almost any aspect of your email program through the Dashboard in MagnetMail. And it’s highly customizable, allowing you to zero in on exactly what’s important. Instead of using the dashboard as a quick snapshot of your email business (which is what its default settings provide), tailor it to give you an ongoing progress report on what you’ve decided is important this year. For example, if one of your objectives is to lower your unsubscribe rate, load up your dashboard with unsubscribe metrics: track your unsubscribe rate, along with the messages with the highest unsubscribe rate, and the groups with the highest unsubscribe rate. (If you’re not sure which metrics to watch for your objectives, drop me a note – I’ll be happy to help.) This way, every time you launch MagnetMail and click over to your dashboard, you’re tracking your progress against your year-long objective. And you’re also ensuring that that objective stays top of mind.

3. Include your objective-measuring-metrics in your regular reporting. The precursor to this step is the regular reporting itself. If you are not already circulating a monthly or even weekly report on the topline of your email program, 2011 is the year to start. Yes, it is some additional work. But you can minimize the impact by creating a spreadsheet at the beginning of the year with the 2011 weekly or monthly reporting dates already mapped out. Select the metrics that a) communicate the most salient points about your email program, and b) are the easiest to collect and communicate. “Number of messages sent” is much easier to communicate on a report than “top open rate by domains.” Pick up some of the metrics from your tailored dashboard to include, so that you’re not just tracking success against your objectives – you are opening the progress up for discussion every time you circulate the report. Like the dashboard, this keeps your eye on the prize all year long. Even better than the dashboard, regular reporting allows you to continue to communicate the impact email has on your organization’s goals. In an era of cutbacks, a little internal marketing goes a long way towards securing budget and resources for next year.