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  • February 29, 2012

7 Strategies for Success Learned from the Email Evolution Conference

The EEC and DMA hosted a jam packed three days of learning and networking last week. There were so many industry experts and case studies, it was hard to narrow it down, but here are my top takeaways from the event.

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  • Your competition is everyone in the inbox: This is something we don't normally think about, but you are competing against all of the emails a person is signed up for along with emails from their friends, family and co-workers. Put yourself at your customer's keyboard and think if you would like your email. Would you open the email over everything else you have in your inbox? It is important to treat the ability to get into your customer's inbox as a privilege that you don't want to lose.
  • Mobile enabled email: Don't be lazy about designing for mobile. This was a theme in multiple sessions. Simms Jenkins, CEO of BrightWave Marketing quoted, "A machine is broken when it no longer does what it was designed to do." You need your content to be readable, clickable and relevant for the user on the go. According to Comscore, 89.6 million Americans used mobile to access email last year. In man on the street interviews showed during the conference, people stated that they delete emails that don't look good on their mobile devices.
  • Focus on quality not quantity: One
    industry expert stated, "Email acquisition is like crack and has become a game
    of quantity over quality". For example, vegans will sign up for an Omaha
    Steaks sweepstakes to win an iPad and hit spam complaint the next day, or may
    stay on your list without purchasing anything, hurting your results and
    ROI. Plus, an iPad sweeps is going to get you big results, but unless you
    are Apple, it isn't necessarily aligned with your brand. We spend all
    this time and money acquiring email addresses and 50-60% of email lists end up
    being inactive. We think about sending promotions and discounts, but not the
    long term relationship. That all sounds negative, but Simms Jenkins is
    "bullish on email acquisition for the first time in ten years."
  • Relevancy is key: Giving your customers choice and some control over the types of communications they receive through preference centers helps to provide additional opportunities for engagement and segmentation. Your customer will provide the information necessary to get relevant content, but make sure you don't overpromise in your preference center and ask for information you don't plan to deliver on. For example, if you ask for your customer's birthday, you need to be sure to send them a birthday email. Another surprising takeaway for me was the focus on opt down strategies. The most common reasons for attrition are frequency, relevancy and subscription choices, so giving your customers a choice can save from 15-40% of these potential unsubscribes. Relevancy is not only key for email but for all of your digital channels. Rick Heffernan from MetLife spoke with Ed Henrich of Responsys about improving your triggered emails with highly targeted display ads to the same audience, helping to reinforce your message.
  • Make sure to market in your transaction emails: Transactional emails can be a big moneymaker, but are often ignored. They have a 60% open rate and simply adding a promotional message can increase revenue by 20%. Even credit card decline emails can make money because the person goes back to the site to put in the correct number and ends up buying additional items. Don't waste the email real estate you have (typically 30%) to cross-sell and upsell relevant products. Zappos and eBay do a great job in their transactional emails - this is your opportunity to promote to people that might not be opted in to your email list.
  • Target your inactive audience differently: Tread lightly with your inactive audience so you don't negatively impact deliverability, and be sure to segment this audience out of your regular mailing list. Eric Kirby of Connection Engines and Haley Osher of HauteLook showed some sophisticated modeling that maximizes inactive segments by only mailing inactives who are likely to respond or buy.
  • Extend your reach with social: The average Facebook user has 190 friends. If you send your email to 100,000 people and get .5% to share, you just about doubled your reach. And, don't forget that social is not just Facebook and Twitter, but includes sites like TripAdvisor and anywhere your brand or product is being discussed. Give your social followers a reason and opportunity to sign up for emails on your social sites and use your emails to add fans. But, be careful with being too promotional in social channels since people prefer to receive promotional information via email. Jessica Harley from Gilt Group said that selling on Facebook "was like trying to sell stuff to people while they are hanging out with their friends at a bar."

The Email Evolution Conference provided me with great takeaways to share with my colleagues and clients to help them become better interactive marketers. This was my first time at the EEC and definitely won't be my last.

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