Email was a big deal when it first came to prominence.
Electronic message delivery had been around for decades in various forms, but email messaging across the Internet gained widespread acceptance around the mid 1990s.
Since this time people have been able to send and receive messages with personal inboxes with just a connection to the Internet.
Today, email remains as popular as ever with around 90% of all Internet users active with email.
It’s a powerful channel and because of email’s wide acceptance email has been a key component of marketing since its inception.
In this post we’ll cover how email changed marketing forever and how you can use email marketing to achieve your business goals.
A History of Marketing
Before the Internet there were a few basic mediums for communicating marketing messages with consumers.
Television was a big medium and remains one of the biggest today. People watch television programs and see advertising in the form of commercials and product placement.
There was the in-person salesperson. You could walk into a store and deal directly with someone that was tasked with selling you a product. Some salespeople would even go door-to-door to sell their wares.
Direct mail is another large medium. Up until the early 2000s the catalog industry was a booming industry. Companies could send various pieces of marketing information in the mail enticing consumers to make purchases. Direct mail remains a big area of focus today for many companies even with growing concern surrounding the USPS.
When email took off in the ‘90s it was a game changer.
The Original Marketing Email
Email changed marketing in a few ways.
Sending a marketing message to consumers became nearly instant. Lead-time to design and print and send a catalog was trimmed down to designing the message and hitting send from the email provider.
Consumers used to see an ad on TV and become interested in a product. They would have to visit the store. With email the consumer could click on an item and immediately make a purchase on an ecommerce site.
Even with the change in timing, email marketing most closely emulated direct marketing. Email would take on the look of a page in the catalog page. The copy would tell a story and sell the recipient on the product being featured.
Even today email is used in this way, but the methods are continuing to evolve and get more interest in terms of marketing.
The Ongoing Evolution of Email
Email continues to evolve today. Perhaps the most significant change recently is the increase in email use on mobile devices.
You can’t walk down the street today without seeing people looking at their phones checking their emails.
Everyone is constantly connected to the Internet and to the inbox.
The mobile trend has already had a few major impacts on email marketing.
First, the screen is smaller (obviously) so there is less room for a design to capture the interest of the consumer. Marketers and designers have to get creative with a marketing email design. Scale matters. Only the most important call-to-action may be included in an email design.
Second, there are more outside distractions for mobile users. Marketers used to know that when a consumer checked their email they were sitting at a desk in a home or office. There aren’t too many distractions in that setting.
When consumers are on the move with their phone there are more distractions. People are around and life is taking place everywhere. There is a higher premium on having an email that grabs attention.
But these are opportunities for the best marketers. Mobile presents a great opportunity for email to become an even larger part of the marketing mix. You can reach consumers no matter where they are and you have more access to their time than ever before.
By building an email list you get permission to market to your target consumers. Those that build their email lists today will benefit in the long run.
The Future of Email Marketing
Email changed the changed marketing forever. Messaging from business to consumer (or business to business) became more of an instant gratification. There was no longer a wait for a catalog to arrive in the mail.
Email continues to evolve itself today with the increase in mobile use amungst consumers. There is more demand to be interesting and to stand out.
Presently, email is as important as ever but what will the email marketing of the future look like?
We talk a lot about consumer emails here but today we’re looking at three very different B2B email marketing strategies, which range from basic to advanced.
Needless to say, email programs in the business-to-business realm have certain attributes that make them different from the average consumer email program—like longer sales cycles, higher price points and fewer products to sell.
Today, we’ll review a few B2B strategies that may help you to, not only, stay in front of business prospects/clients but help you ring the cash register harder, and more often. Let’s begin.
Push Social Connections (as a Standalone Campaign)
In the example above from Wildfire, the company reached out to its subscribers and clients asking for followers on five social networks.
Aside from the additional reach that social media can afford B2Bs, Wildfire is likely looking to build its social following for two reasons.
First, having a large social following is corresponding more with search results. Google+, in particular, is having a bigger impact on search result. Therefore for companies looking to get more traffic from search it’s important to grow a social following.
Second, a social following does have an impression on people that have just discovered a brand. When someone hears about the brand and is potentially interested in the service they’ll do some research and today one of the basic research steps is finding out how many followers the brand has on social media. It’s a quick and general way to see if others trust the brand; social proof. That said, I’m surprised that Wildfire did not include a link to their LinkedIn company profile of company-sponsored LinkedIn group.
Use Dynamic Content (Like a Retailer)
Email newsletters are common among B2Bs. They’re a great way to provide useful resources in addition to the services you already provide. You can gather articles that will be interesting and useful to your clients. But everyone does that.
What’s unique about this example from LinkedIn is how they promote the custom aspect of the newsletter. They are using dynamic content, via merge tags, to accomplish this which insanely common in the consumer and publishing worlds but surprisingly not so common in B2B.
If an email is “dynamic” it means that each subscriber could, theoretically, receive a unique email based on their profile or behavioral data.
This dynamic data, which populates the content of an email, could be as straightforward as a photo and contact information of the user’s account manager or, like in the email above, it is based on a user’s LinkedIn profile.
Dynamic content has proven to increase relevancy which can often accelerate the sales cycle and increase upsells. It’s no brainer.
Use Google Remarketing (in Your Emails)
For those who are late to the party, Google remarketing provides marketers with an opportunity to stay in front of prospects who were on their site and then offer those prospects relevant display ads as they browse the web.
Though it is well-documented how retailers benefit from ad remarketing, it is not always apparent how the technology can work for B2B; it’s especially unclear how it can work with your email program.
I would argue that any B2B company that uses a free trial, has a freemium product, engages in active lead generation, or runs lead nurturing campaigns (which I suppose is almost every B2B) can use remarketing in their email campaigns to increase conversions and drive revenue; but they have to be smart about it.
For the most part, users who have accepted your free trial, for example, don’t want to see ads for a product they’re already tested. One of the biggest mistakes in retargeting is ads asking users to take an action they’ve already taken.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t advertise to existing clients, you simply must do so in a way that adds value. One prime example is freemium products. Preaching the virtues of your paid product to your free users (via email and Google remarketing) can help increase upsells.
Likewise, if you’re devoting dollars to bring traffic to a lead gen form, remarketing to those who open but (do not click) on those emails (or bounce from those landing pages) will help you stay in touch with your warm prospects, with a message that is more relevant to where they are in sales cycle. Here’s how it works.
Just like you would do on your website, all you need to do is add a sales-stage-specific remarketing code into the HTML of your emails, and everyone who opens an email, in that list segment, will begin to see those (more targeted) ads all over the web. The benefit here is that you can better focus your Google remarketing efforts based on how far your users are in the funnel. That way, you can ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your remarketing buck.
What are your favorite B2B email marketing strategies?
Please share your thoughts and comment below.
Ben Franklin was a true “Renaissance Man”. He knew quite a bit about many different things and he is one of the prominent figures in American history.
Today, many look back on the writings of Ben Franklin seeking inspiration. The man certainly left wisdom for generations to learn and even in the email marketing world we can learn from him.
Here are a couple of Ben Franklin’s most famous quotes. The lessons are applied to email marketing and how you can use them to inspire change and growth.
“Well done is better than well said.”
Companies are full of people with good ideas. The companies that have people that are doers are the companies that find success.
Become a company that does things with an email program. It’s easy to go through the motions, but if you try new things and do things you’ll find long-term success.
This quote could also mean that the only thing that really matters is the success of a campaign. Now, you might find that some test campaigns fail in the short-term, but the knowledge you gain will benefit sales and profit in the long-term.
Focus on the profit your email program makes. Opens and clicks are great, but always tie them to profit; after all it is the only email metric that matters.
“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”
This is a great quote for businesses to use in all areas. So often we take inspiration from others and use it to create our own strategies, but the key thing to remember is we need to make improvements on other ideas.
It’s easy to get caught up following the leader. It’s harder to try to do something different, something better. In email marketing it’s necessary to stay ahead of the others fighting for space in the inbox.
We follow trends here on the blog. It’s good to take note of what others are doing. Take the good and make it even better with your own email marketing efforts.
“When you are finished changing, you’re finished.”
This quote is about complacency. Say you have worked hard to find an email template that works really well. It gets people to click and gets them to purchase. It would be easy to just coast on this success, but what got you to this point will not get you to where you want to go.
Maintain the mindset that you need to always look for the next best thing. Not everything you do will improve on what you have, but you have to keep looking for something that might.
That’s the key to changing and getting better. If you don’t find the next best thing someone else will.
“A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned”
For the purpose of email we’ll consider this quote to be:
“A subscriber saved is a subscriber earned.”
List management is a huge part of email marketing. The money is in the list and the better you can maintain the quality of your list the better you’ll be able to profit from email practices.
If your company is generally conservative by nature there is probably room to grow more aggressive with adding names to your list. Try pop-ups on your site and other calls to action.
Actively manage your unsubscribe rates while doing this because you will likely see the rates increase, but the offset will be to your benefit as you gain many more new subscribers and potential customers.
Think of those that unsubscribe not as burdens, but as those that are helping you. These people are telling you that you don’t have to send them emails because they won’t open them anyway. You may only save a fraction of a penny for each irrelevant subscriber, but Ben Franklin said it best when he talked about saving pennies.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
This quote is something to consider for your entire marketing team. The email manager in your company (it could be you) knows everything there is to know about your email program.
When someone asks how to do something it is easy to just do it for him or her. You might save a few minutes in the present, but in the long run you’ll lose time and potentially lose progress.
When you train others in your business to success in email marketing you free up time to explore new opportunities with the program. Teach others. Involves them and move the program forward.
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Email is about first impressions. When someone sees your subject line they make a split second decision about opening the email. Your brand name plays a role, but the subject line is important.
Spend enough time figuring out the kind of subject line that not only gets people to open, but gets them to make a purchase. Write something that is worth reading. Be urgent. Write something that sparks curiosity. Help people with the content in your email. Make it worth their while to open the message.
These are a couple of the best quotes from Ben Franklin. He had no idea what email marketing was back when his time, but he certainly understood people and his wisdom still holds truth today.
Use these insights to guide you as you look to improve your company email program.
Maybe one day you’ll be seen as the “Renaissance Man” or “Renaissance Woman” of your generation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scott Hardigree is the founder of Indiemark and co-founder of BrightSpeed. You can connect with him everywhere, here.
Mobile email is becoming very important. One study estimates that 38% of email is now opened on a mobile device. That compares to 33% of email opened on desktop applications.
In my humble opinion, if your company is not paying attention to how your emails look (and behave) on mobile devices you’re already trailing the competition.
So today we’re going to look at a few mobile email marketing trends that you may be able to apply to your program.
Location-based email marketing has come a long way in a short amount of time. Emails can now determine your current location, with each new open. So you could open an email from your favorite restaurant in one town and if you are in a new city the next day you could open the email again and it would list the store that is now closest to your location.
Live email information goes beyond location though. There are live countdowns that can be used for promotions and flash sales. Live emails also include social media updates like a live Twitter feed or Facebook photo stream.
The example above is from a Movable Ink blog post, a company that is really doing great things with live email content.
There are lots of possibilities.
2. More Text, Less Images
One issue with mobile email marketing is the time it can take to load images. But the biggest game changer when it comes to email content is that when images are blocked an image-heavy email is nearly unreadable. Sure, this is also true for emails which are viewed on desktops but given the slower load times it’s all the more important to use text over images, when possible and appropriate.
In the example, Apple uses a green background with a headline image and product image, but the text is actually text. Should the images be slow to load on a mobile device the user would still be able to read the text right away and they would still see the call to action to visit the local Apple retail store.
3. Responsive Email Design
Responsive design is being used on heavily on websites. The process gives users an optimized experience no matter what device they use to view the site. The site owner only has one site to maintain, which makes it different than a mobile site.
Nowadays, a lot of companies are using responsive email design too. Which, if coded properly, allows the email to render differently and depending on the device on which is open. You can adjust width, image size, font sizes and even hide or reveal content blocks or columns.
This example from Twitter, which was featured in this post from Litmus, not only changes (for the better) when viewing on a mobile device but the call to action changes as well, which we discuss in more detail below.
4. Pushing Apps
LinkedIn has an increasingly good email resource for professionals. What’s most interesting about this email, though, is the call to action for the LinkedIn Mobile App.
Like responsive email design, it’s a great way to provide a better experience to users based on the device they are currently using.
Final Thoughts on Mobile Email Marketing
Mobile email marketing is becoming something nearly every company will need to pay attention to in 2013. People are viewing email on their phones at an increasing rate. If the experience is not optimized subscribers will lose their patience.
Take inspiration from the trends above for your email programs.
What else are you seeing in the mobile email marketing world? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Today we announced the launch of BlackBox, a service to help email service providers (ESPs) and direct marketers prevent abuse and fraud.
Bad Data with a Heart of Gold
In essence what we are providing access to a very large volume of purchased data that is actively circulating around data aggregators so that those who are responsible for email deliverability, marketing compliance or data acquisition can perform their own analysis, in-house, in order to prevent malicious clients or partners from abusing their platforms or budgets.
How to Prevent Abuse and Fraud
Prior to BlackBox our clients never really knew what you were going to get until they pulled the trigger. Is that list old, purchased, or a ticking time-bomb? Is their customer or supplier a good guy or something else? With BlackBox they know, before the damage is done.
ESPs are not only using BlackBox to vet new customers but also to predict bad behaviors. So, depending on the sophistication of the Email Service Provider, they are leveraging the BlackBox data in different ways. For example, some ESPs already have their own in-house process they use to prevent abuse, which is typically comprised of problem data that has already pass through their platform. They in turn are using the BlackBox as a preemptive layer which helps them to be more proactive as opposed to reactive. And for those who have not yet built their own anti-abuse tool, they are using BlackBox to jumpstart their efforts.
Likewise direct marketers, specifically those who are responsible for list acquisition, are using BlackBox to successfully vet prospective data partners and conduct periodic reputation audits of their data contributions. Say, for example, a list matches against BlackBox at X% or better, this is a very strong indicator of abuse or fraud. It is at least a very good reason to investigate their client,s or data contributor’s practices more closely.
BlackBox In a Nutshell
Indiemark is acting as bridge between the underbelly and the uppercrust of the email marketing industry. We want to see this bad data being used for a good purpose, like helping our clients to protect their investments, their reputation and their organization. Learn more.
Have you received any holiday emails this year? Yes, that’s meant to be a joke.
If you’re like anyone else with an email address you’ve probably seen hundreds of holiday emails already and some of those probably arrived well before Thanksgiving.
It’s a crazy time of year for the email inbox.
We’ve already talked about the psychology of holiday email purchasing. That was the first time we mentioned “The Holiday Creep”. That phenomenon is obvious this year because we’ve already been exposed to Christmas emails for a month.
Let’s dig further into the holiday email marketing life cycle. Hopefully we can gain a better understanding of how this time of year works for the consumer. There is still time to make adjustments to your email marketing strategy and now is a great time to start thinking about next year.
The Early Birds Get Shopping Out of the Way
The first cycle for the holiday season is the early bird shopping. We’ve been seeing this in our inboxes for the last few weeks.
Retailers are sending out emails that reach for the person that is ready to make their purchases now so they don’t have to worry about it later. These people are ahead of the game. They have their lists ready and they want to make sure they get everything before inventories get low.
The Gander Mountain email above is the perfect example of early bird shopping. Not only can people shop now and get their holiday shopping done, they can save too. It’s a great way to capture the early birds out there looking for early deals while inventory levels are still high.
The Deal Shoppers Wait for the Best Deals
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest days of the year for the deal shoppers. These consumers are the ones that are looking through every newspaper on Thanksgiving cataloging the items they need to get early in the morning on Friday.
It’s a competitive time of year for shoppers and for retailers. In order to stand out you need to be different.
JCP did something completely different this year. They are no longer doing promotions or discounting. Instead, the company is simply focusing on the best pricing. The company also has a new focus on branded merchandise.
There is a good bet that people will still flock into JCP stores on Black Friday to check it out.
The percentage off might not be enough to stand out anymore from the competition. Focus on a merchandise item that is hot or find a way to stand out in the inbox like JCP did this year.
December Shoppers Need Help Making Decisions
December shoppers are an interesting bunch. They’re probably the minority of shoppers out there. They aren’t eager for the holidays. They kind of go about their business for November and once December hits they’re ready to start shopping for family and friends.
The December shopper is not a last minute shopper. They still have a few weeks to get all the things on their list. Perhaps the best way to describe them is to say they need a little help making gift decisions.
Under Armour knows they have things guys need. It might not be a glamorous gift, but every guy could use a new pair of boxers and socks for the New Year. It’s a great gift that every guy would like to have in his stocking for Christmas.
For the December shoppers out there that can figure out what they want it’s good to have a little help. Emails like this one from Under Armour solve that problem with a good tip for a gift.
The Last Minute Shoppers Have No Time for Choices
Then there are the last minute shoppers. These folks are the ones that procrastinate until the last second. In fact, they might need to purchase something on the way to the Christmas part on Christmas Eve.
This shopper might not even need a discount. They need to have a direction on what they should buy and they they’ll buy it.
In fact, what might be best for this consumer is a reminder that this is their last chance for free overnight shipping. That way they’ll still have their item to their home in time for a quick wrapping before putting it under the tree at Grandma’s house.
Actually, that’s a good point. This shopper probably needs wrapping done too. You can grab a few extra bucks from them if you offer a wrapping service.
Final Thoughts on the Life Cycle of Holiday Emails
We’re about halfway through the holiday email purchase life cycle. The more we understand about the shopper and what state of mind they’re in when we email the better chance we have to send them something that will get them to take action.
Hopefully these tips will give you some insight for the last few weeks of the holiday season. You can also get a head start on next year. Now that the holiday is fresh in your mind it’s never too early to get a head start.