Go to any digital marketing event and you’re sure to hear one thing: content marketing is important. But the hot new art and science of being an effective brand publisher is actually more than just a trend; it’s becoming the atomic particle of all marketing.
Meanwhile as content marketing rises in importance, email marketing has been enjoying a resurgence in utility as the tried and true channel for reaching people where they gather every day: their inbox. Why? Because it works. In fact according to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing yields an estimated 4,300% ROI.
And while these seemingly separate practice areas of content marketing and email marketing are marching forward in parallel, they’re actually on a collision course.
The obvious intersection of content marketing and email marketing is simply delivering branded editorial content via email. But there’s actually a bigger opportunity: Using email to re-engage users with personalized content selected based on their history and demonstrated interests across other digital channels.
Why does content marketing deserve special treatment? Branded editorial has some very distinct challenges and opportunities that set it apart from typical promos and offers:
Content is long lived. The best brand content is evergreen. People who are interested in a topic like digital photography are likely to be interested in that subject for an extended period of time.
Content has a lot of meta data. Because editorial content has many words and a variety of formats, there’s much more meta data that can be used to select it.
Brands have a ton of it. The best content marketers have thousands of pieces of content. A content personalization solution needs to be able to analyze, classify, reformat and target large volumes of content.
For instance, if Bob was previously checking out content about nutrition for senior, overweight dogs then wouldn’t you want serve him some specific, relevant content based on his demonstrated interests in the next educational email your pet food company sends (i.e. instead of that Pulitzer prize winning piece about kitty litter)?
The same thinking applies across categories. For example, consider Delta Faucet, who through its Inspired Living hub offers a range of how-tos, design ideas and trend articles. They knew that their content portfolio covered a wide range of interests that didn’t fit neatly into a one-size-fits-all or segment based approach. So by individually personalizing their overall content experience, Delta Faucet has been able to drive a nearly 30% lift in engagement.
It stands to reason the best content marketers who are also great email marketers are now starting to think about email and content as connective tissue for the broader digital journey. Leveraging data across channels to develop a predictive approach to content selection - in email as well as other channels - is proving to be an essential technique for driving repeat engagement and ultimately building long-lived relationships with consumers.
How does this method of cross-channel content sequencing actually impact your email marketing efforts though? One major, US grocery brand recently added such a personalization capability to their email newsletter programs - leveraging past topic interests in other channels for content placement decisioning at send time. The results? The grocery chain saw up to a 180% lift in the email click-to-open rate compared with a control group. And importantly, they reduced the time needed to manually curate editorial sections of email by 99%.
How can your brand start moving the needle on this front? Here are three steps the best brands are taking up front to unify their email and content strategies in the most optimal ways:
Do a content audit. It sounds basic, but it’s absolutely essential to have a complete and comprehensive understanding of your content portfolio. Key questions: How many pieces are there? What formats and lengths are represented? What types of topics and subtopics are reflected and how often are you publishing?
Do an email audit. Know what you’re sending! Key questions: What is your brand’s total email footprint? For any given type of subscriber what does the totality of volume and types of email look like? Which email products are best poised for including or featuring personalized content selections and which ones should potentially be exempt?
Define success. You want to make your content and email marketing strategies work together better and deliver a more personalized experience. What does actual success look like and what are the key metrics that tell you you’re doing well?
Bringing the two worlds of content marketing and email marketing together to support each other can be highly beneficial - and represents a move that can help your brand capitalize on two of the most important practice areas of modern marketing. By taking a data-driven approach and pursuing a well-defined marketing technology roadmap, today’s modern marketers are poised to do well - and serve their end consumers better than ever.
This approach of personalized content only works if you know that your emails are getting through to your prospects and customers. Download the Email Deliverability Guide for the latest best practices on the subject.