Email Marketing and Silo Thinking

Even though we’re an email agency, I cannot think of email marketing as its own entity–but rather as part of the entire customer experience.

Email can’t be put in a vacuum.

The idea of the vacuum, or silo thinking, with any marketing medium is very dangerous. And of course, naturally, it’s easy to separate each medium into silos:

  • On TV and radio, I’ll deliver this message. This will handled by my ad agency.
  • In direct mail, I’ll deliver that message. This will also be handled by my ad agency.
  • In email, I’ll deliver this other message. This will be handled by me and my ESP.
  • For search, we’ll go this route. This will be handled by our SEO team.
  • On the phone, we’ll give our customers yet another message. This will be handled by sales.

The danger lies in thinking each medium is separate–that the right hand doesn’t have to know what the left hand is doing. And that’s all wrong.

To the customer, it’s all part of the experience.

Imagine yourself as the customer. How do you expect your experience to go? How would you feel if each method of contact with you was different from the next? So much so that it created confusion, a cognitive dissonance, enough of a disconnect that you’re left scratching your hand, wondering why you’re getting an email from your sales rep a day after speaking with them on the phone about the same topic?

It’s not so good, is it?

Questions to ask if yo’re a marketer:

If you can, and time allows, construct a diagram of how each medium hits your prospective customers. Map it by days or even hours if you can. Then throw it out and start asking questions.

  • If I were the customer, how would I want to be communicated with?
  • What do I want to use email for? For transactions only? For nurturing a relationship? For contests and fun asides?
  • What do I want to use TV/radio and direct mail for?
  • What kind of presence do I want to have using social media? Do I want to be reactive or out there in the populace becoming (as Chris Brogan says) “One of Us”?

Questions to ask your client if you’re an ESP or agency:

Speaking from a client perspective, I know it’s easy for you to do your one thing well, whether it be email marketing or TV advertising or what have you. And honestly, you’re likely to get many clients who will only bring precisely what they need from you in terms of your offerings.

Don’t fall into that trap. Ask the right questions.

  • What is your typical customer lifecycle?
  • Would you like to improve it?
  • How would you like to improve it?
  • How do you communicate with your customers now?
  • How do you anticipate email (or your respective medium) falling into your communication with our help?
  • What other mediums are you using?
  • How do you anticipate the work we do together affecting those media and your ultimate communication plan?

The bottom line is you need to make sure you’re not perpetuating with your clients the silo way of thinking. Trust me, your clients will appreciate that you care about their bottom line, not just your product. Remember that scene in “Miracle on 34th Street” where Santa sends the worried parents over to another store where it was cheaper? And how it ultimately boosted the bottom line of the Macys?

Don’t be afraid to take those steps. Don’t be afraid to fire a client if you think–nay you KNOW they’re going in the wrong direction.

 

What’s stopping you? 12 Reasons Your Emails Aren’t Making It to the Inbox

Let’s say you have 100,000 names on your subscriber list and an email deliverability rate of 50%. What’s the value of all those many names on your list? Exactly. Half what is could be.

You’ll probably never achieve a 100% inbox penetration, but given the low cost an upside potential of emails, you should get your deliverability rate as high as can be and keep it that way.

1) You bought an email list.

Seriously? It’s 2017 and that’s not cool and thanks to services like BlackBox, your ESP will find out.

2) You didn’t ramp up your IP address slowly and carefully.

Or maybe you didn’t ramp up your new IP address at all? If you’ve switched ESPs or for some other reason you migrated to a new IP address, you should have taken steps to slowly, carefully and methodically start emailing your list, building a reputation as you go. If you didn’t, that’s going to work against your email deliverability for a long while.

3) You’re sending to people who didn’t opt in.

I mean, these people or your customers but they didn’t ask to receive your promotional email. This has always been a sticky subject. Now it’s a big deal because of the Canadian anti-spam law (CASL), which is much more strict in defining opt in compared to the CAN Spam law passed by the U.S. Read the rules. Follow them. And only send to people who really want to hear from you.

4) You’re acting like a spammer.

Sure, you might not think you’re acting like a spammer but someone somewhere does. There are all kinds of ways to act like a spammer. If you’re using all capital letters, dirty HTML, or words and phrases that trigger spam filters, you’re acting like a spammer. And spammers get blocked.

5) Your sender reputation sucks.

As with real life, your reputation precedes you. And the ISPs will use your reputation to keep your email out of their customers’ inboxes if they believe you to be a spammer or unwanted sender. You can find out your sender reputation here and then take steps to fix it.

6) You have a dusty email list.

As tedious as it might sound, list hygiene is an important part of your email deliverability so scrub your undeliverable emails. There are lots of companies that offer list verification, some good, some not so good. That’s why we created this simple email verification recommendation service to help you find the best companies with the best rates.

7) You’re in a shared IP pool with some bad company.

This is one of those email deliverability issues you can’t tackle alone. If you’re in a shared IP pool with email marketers who don’t follow best practices, their reputation mars yours. Talk to your ESP about this.

8) You’re boring.

Ho hum yaaaaawwwn…. Oh, sorry! Did you say something? If your email messages fail to excite, compel or engage, your subscribers are probably not bothering to open your emails—and that tells the ISPs that you’re spam, since you’re being ignored. Be so good they can’t ignore you. Services like Phrasee can help ensure your emails get opened.

9) You send too many emails too often.

Spam is in the eyes of the beholder, and you don’t get to say whether you’re spam or not. They do. Who’s they? The people on your email list. Most spam reports aren’t due to emails promoting land in Costa Rica or Nigerian princes in need. No, most spam reports are generated by people who just don’t want your email any longer. Period. When you send too many emails too often, you’re annoying, and people will report those emails as spam in order to stop getting them. Send better email or slow your roll.

10) You’re not listening to the ISPs.

Do you have an abuse@yourdomain.com email address? If not, set one up, so ISPs can easily contact you about issues. If you’re messing up, they’re not going to mess around trying to contact you. Make it easy for them to be proactive on your behalf.

11) You’re not authentic.

What kinds of authentication are you using to prove to the world that you are who you say you are? Commonly used types of authentication are SPF, DKIM and DMARC. If you’re not using any of these, it’s time to start. Authentication protects your sender reputation, publishes the mail servers that can send on your behalf, and offers a way to identify your email as really being from you.

12) You ignore your email reporting.

If you don’t know something’s broke, how are you supposed to fix it? Keep a constant eye on your email reporting, and you’ll spot the downward trend that tells you a problem is brewing. Or maybe there’s no trend, only trouble, and you suddenly can’t email anyone with a certain address because you’re now blocked by an ISP. Wouldn’t you rather know in real time when there’s a problem you need to fix? Then pay attention to your email reporting—on a regular basis.

OK, be honest now: Out of these 12 things, which ones are you guilty of? And when are you going to stop doing them? Because the sooner you stop, the sooner your emails will get into more inboxes. And that, my friend, gives every one of those names a lot more value…and potential for ROI.

The difference between B2B and B2C email marketing

As B2B marketers we tend to look at others for inspiration. To innovate we often take what other marketing organizations have done and built on those ideas to improve and make them more interesting. When it comes to using email marketing to develop leads, though, there is one tricky part of the equation. There are B2B emails and there are B2C emails and they are not identical twins.

In this post, we’ll look at the differences between B2B email marketing and B2C email marketing. You’ll want to pay attention because while some of the methodologies are the same the differences are important because the outreach strategy for one might not work for the other.

B2B Email Marketing

B2B opportunities tend to be large. There are exceptions on both sides of the fence. There are small purchases in B2B and large purchases in B2C, but in general, the large purchases lean toward the business-to-business world.

Because the purchases are larger there should be more marketing in B2B email marketing than sales. There are many different reasons why people subscribe, not all tied directly to sales but rest assured people don’t sign up just because they are in the mood to be sold to.

What does this mean?

By now, all B2B companies know that from the time a new prospect is initially reached, the emails should work to guide, educate and qualify the prospect – like a salesperson might do. Nobody ever bought a house based on one email. In B2B email marketing, you have to respect the buying stage that the prospect is in and that it will take many more contact moments before a sale is made.

The first email might include a high-level overview of the features and, client-focused, benefits, but it can largely be a follow up of your content incentives used for lead generation. Subsequent emails will often provide additional insight into the industry, and eventually, additional products and services offered by the company.

The entire process,  one that works in concert with your CRM system, web analytics, and sales team, is about presenting the problems that exist and taking the prospective client down the path of solving that issue. Remember, that being persistent is often what will drive success.

B2C Email Marketing

A common scenario is to see an email that puts the pressure on your to purchase. Email marketing and urgency go hand in hand in B2C email marketing. You’ll see a sale that is ending soon and you have to act now otherwise you’ll miss the promotion. Urgency is actually one of the areas where B2C and B2B are similar. B2Bs do try to get urgency attached to their offer too but at the risk of it being less believable than it is in the B2C arena.

Of course, that is a grand generalization, but B2C companies tend to be more aggressive in tone. B2C email marketing is the fact that many acquisition-focused campaigns are directly sales-focused. This means that the email is about getting to a sale, quickly. Purchase price tends to be on the small side for B2C products so the sales process is more impulsive and quick. Just have a look at the call-to-actions like “Buy now”, “Pre-order”, “Shop”, etc.

You might see an email that introduces a new product. The expectation is that you immediately become interested in the item and make the purchase. Email is an ideal medium for impulse buys. Sometimes even without showing you the actual product yet. It might work, but if you think of it is pretty bizarre.  Here is an example of that in an email from Neiman Marcus.

Nieman-Marcus Email
(Image courtesy of Notablist.com)

Although there are still there are some differences here in adoption rate for the B2C and B2B audiences, you can expect all of your emails nowadays to be read on mobile. Do we need to go mobile first? At least make sure your email all incorporate best practices for responsive email design.

Finally, B2C emails tend to not follow along welcome series, once the prospect becomes a customer or opts-in. It is usually not longer than one or two emails until the program flips back to “standard newsletter”- mode. This is in contrast to some advanced B2B email marketing campaigns who well know client cultivation.

Final Thoughts B2B vs. B2C Email Marketing

These differences in B2B and B2C email marketing are important to note. If you understand the differences you can really focus in on what will work best for your company.

On some occasions, you can use inspiration from one for the other. It might be a way to get a little edge on the competition.

A Curated Look at 134 Email Marketing Predictions

Email Predictions for 2017

For the second year, we have collected and curated email marketing predictions. So what’s changed in 2017? Data analysis tops the chart and knocks automation out of the top 4.

The top 4 categories for 2017 are data analysis, emails and ESPs, content and segmentation. This year data analysis includes artificial intelligence and bots with nearly half (15 of 33) of the category predictions dominated by AI and bots.  The other big winners this year are email design and improved ESP platforms followed by video in content and AI-assisted segmentation/personalization.

The chart seems to indicate a significant drop in segmentation, automation and social, but the reality is that AI and bots are predicted to redistribute the workload in 2017.

We have summarized the predictions by category here.

email-predictions2

Data Analysis

Oh data, data, data, there’s so much gold in all this information that’s been piling up and waiting to be used by marketers. Beyond the astute data scientist, much of this data has remained “piled up”. Fear not, for now technology will be doing most of the heavy lift of analyzing data and putting it to work for marketers.

AI will do the analyzing for us and quickly ferret out new marketing opportunities. The agency and brand will have more time to dedicate to the creative process to address these opportunities rather than digging into the numbers.

Predictive analytics performed by AI, our new friend or enemy (depending on who you talk to) will satiate the consumer and reduce churn. Today’s overly complex automation flows could be laid out by AI without the agency or brand having to consider possible overlap. It can all be handled in the background without the need for marketer intervention. We will see many more email & marketing automation companies adding AI to their platforms in 2017.

Bots will be the future of email marketing. Chatbots will bring customer service into the realm of AI and reduce friction in the in-app experience.

Emails and ESPs

Beyond AI, the the single biggest expectation for 2017 lies around improvement in email design. The email production process will be fixed with new email creation tools that lower email development costs. Email service providers (ESPs) will vastly improve their capabilities.

Email will be full of interactivity and design will be modular. They will also be full of images, videos, quizzes, surveys and created by drag and drop. The final product will be delivered personalized and uniquely configured for each recipient. All hail Email!

Ecomm and direct buying from the email will be the focus for 2017.

Content

Video will continue to dominate as the preferred method of content consumed. Video creation is easier than ever to create and provide in a more personalized form across all the social platforms.

Messaging will be much more contextual in nature and allow for hyper-personalization. Predictive analytics will keep content relevant and help large organizations do a much better job of delivering content that converts the best at the same time as satisfying the correct information need of each consumer. No more landing pages where one size fits all.

The seamless of content across channels will continue to be the aspirational goal of marketers.

For written content the struggle will be to be believed. Fact vs fake has taken center stage and will create issues for many marketers. Brands will need to take an active stance in monitoring the media where their ads are placed as fake news continues to pose a threat to brand credibility.

Segmentation

Hyper-personalization is the goal for 2017. One to one marketing will become the new norm. No longer will just an email address be enough for marketing. Algorithms applied to behavior of subscribers will predict what they will do next.

Mobile

Truly considering mobile, will drive real-time data and location utilization. GPS based SEO will overtake keywords as mobile dominates search. Desktop will continue to fade in favor of mobile ads and web sites will transform from a novelty in B2C to a main staple for all digital advertising.

Mobile payments will come to inboxes. First-Person marketers will focus on wearable devices and marketers will catch up to mobile-first consumers.

Automation

There will be a revolution in marketing automation. Intelligent automation will begin to rise over simple personalization and drive a clearer, more personal message with full lifecycle marketing consideration with less crossover of automation streams.

SMS takes a bigger share of the marketing arsenal, but be careful and use sparingly. Yes, text have a very high engagement rate, but if consumers get overwhelmed by brands in this channel, it will become another channel of noise to be ignored.

Ads

Independent publisher will have a tough time in the era of walled garden marketing. Social will work to refine ads to the point that it will be difficult to tell ads from viral posts. And in this environment, media agencies will be held accountable for ROI like never before.

The Rise of Madtech (confluence of Marketing, Advertising and Technology) – Expect to see the continued integration of ad tech within the email and marketing automation platforms this year. AI could take the convergence deeper by making programmatic ad buying a breeze.

With the metric issues recently divulged for Facebook ads and the revelation of the Methbot ad fraud network, brands will be extra cautious in how they spend their ad dollars in 2017.

Web

Website branding will pose a major design challenge to industry in the fight between user experience and being mobile and desktop friendly.  The Cloud will be used more extensively to support large bursts of email traffic

Social

Customers will shape the conversation. Email + Socials = A match made in heaven. Social alone may not get the job done, but if you’re doing it right and capturing sign ups to your email list through Social. Social provides the research and peer approval while email will nurture your customers and ultimately convert for the win.

Security

As global cyber security attacks continue to rise, digital marketers will struggle with keeping consumer data safe and private as e-commerce and marketing automation opens new doors for crafty cyber thugs. Global privacy comes to the forefront as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation comes nearer to its full effect date of May 2018.

List growth

Curiously, there was only one prediction about list growth and it speaks to the return to the double opt-in and the idea of quality over quantity. I’m all for quality and considering the rise in list bombing this year, I would take it one step further and include Captcha.

Summary

All predictions should be taken with a grain of salt as there is always a certain amount of self-interest and company focus involved and of course they are just that, predictions! Nonetheless, 2017 looks to be an exciting year for email and marketing automation.

About the Author:Gerald Marshall is Head of Operation at Email Industries.

Send Less Email? Yes. No. Maybe. It Depends.

Send Less Email? Yes. No. Maybe. It All Depends.

The other day I got an email promoting a guide on how sending less email could generate more revenue. The guide wasn’t much help, but it got me to thinking…

What I started thinking about is the question, should you send less email? And my answer is yes. If you are sending generic emails that aren’t targeted to your subscribers nor of interest to them, then yes, you should definitely send less email.

“But sending more email is how I generate more ROI!,” some email marketers will complain.

OK, I’ll give you that. Sending more email means you’re getting into more inboxes and increasing the likelihood of conversions. However, sending higher numbers of emails that are more about what you want to say and less about what your subscribers want to see will also generate:

  • Spam complaints
  • Unsubscribes
  • Ill will
  • Deliverability issues

Sending more email might increase sales, but it also might result in negative consequences.

Why some marketers need to email less often

But I don’t really believe marketers should send less email. I know from experience that sending more email really does work—when they are the right kind of emails!

When you look at the research, however, it does seem like we might as a whole be sending too many emails in the eyes of the consumers. One study has downright gloomy numbers, with 69% saying they unsubscribe because they are getting too many emails.

However, the problem isn’t that marketers send too many emails, per se. The problem is those marketers who send too many irrelevant emails—because consumers don’t want the irrelevant emails, or at least not so many of them.

According to one study on consumers views on email marketing:

  • 43% want less email from businesses
  • 24.2% want emails that are more informative
  • 23.9%  want more personalized emails

If you add those two bottom numbers together, you get almost the same percentage as the first number. That tells me that wanting less email yet wanting better email probably go hand in hand.

In fact, if you send email your subscribers want to get—targeted, relevant, personalized, timely—then that 43% number would probably go down. Why? Because what consumers are really saying when they say, “I want less email from businesses” is really, “I want better email from businesses.”

Send better email, not less email

As I said at the beginning, if you’re sending generic, one-size-fits-all emails that aren’t targeted, relevant or timely, then please: Send less email. You’re making everything harder for all of us. (Note the statistics cited above for proof!)

On the other hand, if you want to do a better job, to create and send emails your subscribers eagerly await, open and act upon, then send better email, not less. What’s better email? Email that’s of interest to each subscriber individually.

Better email is what happens when you segment, putting subscribers into like-minded groups based on basics such as gender and geography, then later based on specifics such as browsing behavior and purchase history.

Better email happens when you choose to put the subscriber first and send information that’s personalized (sound familiar?) to what you know about them based on the data you’re collecting.

Better email happens when you deliver dynamic content to ensure personalization.

Better email is also what happens when you pay attention and get proactive about your inactives.

Send better email, get better results

So now you have to choose: send fewer or send better. Since targeted types of emails perform better, I hope your obvious choice is the “send better” choice. Because they are emails consumers want to receive, they improve your:

  • Engagement
  • Deliverability
  • Open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Conversion rates
  • And ROI!

Sounds like savvy marketing to me!

Bonus point: Giving consumers control can help

Does your brand have a preference center, or any other way for subscribers to tell you how frequently they want to hear from you? If not, think about it. An article in MarketingProfs.com says 40% of respondents would decide not to unsubscribe if only a brand would let them change the frequency of the emails they’re receiving. It lets the subscriber go from “too many” emails to “just enough”—rather than none at all, which is nothing but bad for business.

The danger of too few emails

Simply decreasing the number of emails you send is not the answer. You could email too infrequently as a result. When you’re not emailing often enough, you’re risking your brand, sender reputation and deliverability. So it’s not as if you can make up some number that is “the” best number of emails for you to send in a given period of time.

Choose instead to improve, but also test to find that sweet spot where your frequency is high yet your unsubscribe rate is low. But most importantly, choose to improve.

And really it keeps coming back to one simple fact: When subscribers get content they want to get, you can email them more often and not annoy them…at all.

Young Guns or Wise Guys: Who are today’s Top Email Bloggers?

Top Email Marketing Bloggers

One year is ending and another beginning, which usually brings with it a sense of promise and potential, as we look ahead to everything that could happen in 2017. What better time for me as a marketer to take stock of the up-and-coming bloggers in the email marketing field to whom we should be paying attention in the months, right?

As I came up with this topic, it sounded like an easy enough task, and one that would ensure I was up-to-date with my industry. It wasn’t an easy task. And it turns out I wasn’t ever out of step.

How do you find young email marketing experts anyway?

To start my search, I asked friends in the email marketing industry to suggest young email marketers we should be paying attention to during this coming year. Here’s what happened:

  • I got names of people known for great marketing advice, but not for being email marketers. (And a few weren’t exactly young and new to the scene either.)
  • I got names of people who tweet but don’t blog. Sure, they’re in email, and yes, they are young, and apparently they have a lot to say. But they say it in 140 characters, not 1,400 words—not so useful, that.
  • I got names of people who already have a reputation in the industry for being thought leaders and experts. (I didn’t need those names. I had them.)
  • And one blog post that was recommended to me was supposed to list 20 email marketing experts, yet one-fourth of those on the list were copywriters, and only two of the others were email experts—and they were already known to me. Not that I have anything against copywriters! I simply don’t understand why they would make up a list of top email marketers when email is so much more than content alone. Nor am I clear why a list of 20 top email marketers only included two email marketers…

As all of this played out, I realized this wasn’t going to be easy. And Google? Google wasn’t much help. You can find all kinds of lists of marketing blogs you “should” be reading, but email marketing experts specifically? Exact search results = zero.

In the end, I got a little frustrated, I admit. But I persevered.

There ain’t a lot of blogging going on

Here’s what I did: I checked out everyone recommended to me, to see whether or not they’re producing useful content that will help people like you and me do a better job at email marketing in 2017. And here’s what I learned:

  • There’s more tweeting than blogging going on among the younger email marketers.
  • It’s really really hard to find people who are recognized for being experts in email marketing—not digital marketing, not online marketing, not content marketing—email marketing only.

What does this say about our industry that we seem to have a dearth of young marketers writing in-depth, useful, practical content for others to learn from?

I have nothing against Twitter. I love Twitter. Heck, I’m on Twitter (@indiescott). But there is only so much wisdom to be gained from a tweet, and I wonder what this says about how our industry will share (or won’t share) advice and best practices in the future…

The young ones aren’t necessarily blogging, but they have lots to say

So the young email marketers, they are on Twitter. I didn’t include anyone in this post that was only on Twitter, because I don’t find that to be useful information. Unless the marketer was tweeting as well as producing some kind of other content, they didn’t make my cut. (You can argue with me about the fairness of that decision in the comments below, but hey, it’s my list.)

Here are the four young email marketers who did make the cut:

More than one person suggested Jaina Mistry as a young email marketer to watch. I like Jaina. As with the other young ones, Jaina isn’t a prolific blogger, with only occasional posts on the Litmus blog, but she is active on Twitter @jainamistry

Phrasee.co led me to Jacques Corby-Tuech, on Twitter @iamacyborg. Again, no blog although plenty of cool tweets, but what drew me to this young email marketer is a side project: “The No BS Guide to Email Marketing.” With this project, he and others are helping email marketers to help themselves to do email better. (And maybe that is what will replace blogging as the information source for email marketers seeking out best practices?)

There is one young email marketer who is blogging, however, and that’s Justin Khoo. His posts are highly technical and deep dives into email development. They aren’t for everyone, obviously, but he is one to watch as he is creating the kind of rich content we seem to be lacking.

Another young one, Kristin Bond is also blogging (on occasion only) at Email Snarketing, and she’s busy on Twitter @emailsnarketing, calling out silliness in the industry. Her writing style is fun and she makes good points, but you’ll likely find more from her on Twitter than in the blogosphere.

Then I turned to the tried-and-true

That’s admittedly a short list—too short. Four? Just four young, up-and-coming email marketing bloggers to watch, only one of which is really actively blogging? Yep.

Ironically all of this effort led me back to the tried-and-true email experts who are blogging and creating the content that’s truly useful. I’d be remiss to ignore them in pursuit of the new when they offer what I was hoping to find elsewhere: knowledge and wisdom that’s current with the ever-changing field of email marketing.

I offer you my five favorites here:

Chad White remains a voice of reason in the industry blogging at Email Marketing Rules, a guide to email marketing best practices. On Twitter @chadswhite.

One of the “founding fathers,” if you will, Loren McDonald is another seasoned, experienced and wise email marketing expert who continues to offer in-depth and practical content via his blog. On Twitter @lorenmcdonald.

Email consultant Jeanne Jennings will pick apart an email message to make points in her blog, and all of her advice is stuff any marketer can learn from. On Twitter @jeajen.

Ryan Phelan blogs on practical matters, sometimes calling us out when it needs to happen, as in his post on nothing will change in 2017 until we change how we think about email. On Twitter @ryanpphelan.

Jordie van Rijn is known the world over as a prolific email content producer, he’s my partner in Alfred Knows and the author of the annual Future of Email Marketing compilation that he pulls together each year by surveying other industry experts for their predictions. On Twitter @jvanrijn.

So, young email marketers, should you have made the cut but didn’t? That’s probably because I haven’t seen your stuff. Send it my way. I could use a little reassurance that creating rich content still has its place in our busy email world…and I’d love to champion your cause as one of the up-and-coming young marketers I was seeking out when I started this journey!

Want to Rock Your Email Marketing in 2017? Skip the Sexy Stuff and Master These 4 Fundamentals First

Which new and innovative marketing tactics are you planning to introduce in 2017? You have plenty of ideas to choose from, like augmented reality and Instagram photo contests, to name just a few.

But—despite the draw of these sometimes spectacularly popular ideas (like the craziness of Pokémon Go in 2016)—email is still the most preferred brand communication channel for pretty much everyone of every age, including Baby Boomers (73%), Generation X (71%), Millennials (62%) and Generation Z (65%). Yes, even Millennials prefer email. Forget the Millennial myth. Millennials do use email, and it’s their preferred way to hear from businesses like yours.

Email still matters

This is no small point I’m making here: No matter how many fancy schmancy ways retailers try to market to customers, those customers by and large still prefer email over other channels as the means by which they want to hear from those retailers. Sure they might have a blast tracking down a Pikachu or snapping a picture of their dog with a beer, but that’s not about your communications with them.

It’s easy to be distracted by the new and shiny when they go viral and they’re all over social media, but the facts are that email still matters for any marketer trying to increase revenue. So make sure your email program is constantly improving in 2017.

Master the fundamentals first

Be careful not to get sucked in by all the new, shiny, sexy, trendy stuff (cough cough beacons cough cough) while ignoring the fundamentals. Chasing the latest and greatest isn’t a bad thing. But it is an unnecessary thing if you haven’t mastered the basic building blocks of a strong email marketing program first.

So what should you really be focused on in 2017—before you start planning for a viral virtual marketing campaign or trying out some new technology that still has a low adoption rate? In my opinion, mindful of the fact that email still matters as much as it does, there are four fundamentals you should master before moving on to any other kind of digital marketing. Those four fundamentals are:

  1. Mobile
  2. Personalization
  3. Automation
  4. Testing

Fundamental 1: Mobile

Maybe you’re sick of hearing about mobile marketing by now. Maybe you’ve mastered it. Not all marketers have, however, and that’s going to work against those who haven’t. Although the numbers vary regarding the percentage of consumers checking email on a mobile device, those numbers are all high—and increasing.

What does it mean to master mobile? To deliver emails that render well, no matter the device they’re viewed on, and to offer landing pages that mobile friendly as well. If your email shows up on a smartphone and looks like crap, it will probably be deleted or at least ignored. And if your email looks good but a click-through leads to a clunky web experience, you’re probably going to lose that prospect at that point.

Lesson? Master mobile.

Fundamental 2: Personalization

If you don’t want to personalize your email marketing because you don’t think it’s worth the trouble, you’ve been outvoted: Consumers think it’s worth the trouble, and they expect it. According to a Mapp infographic,

  • 77% expect email marketing to be personalized based on information they’ve submitted about their profile;
  • 76% expect email marketing to be personalized based on past purchases;
  • and 62% expect email marketing to be personalized based on browsing behavior.

Privacy is no longer the concern it used to be because consumers are willing to give up some privacy in exchange for email marketing content that’s relevant and interesting to them.

You have multiple opportunities to gather data about customers. Do so, and use it. Segment your audiences. Personalize your content. Offer a preference center that lets your consumers have a say in the kind of emails they get and the frequency with which they get them.

Fundamental 3: Automation

Depending on your email service provider or inhouse solution, you’ll have varied options for automating your email, but you should take advantage of every one in order to reduce your workload and improve your efficiencies. Here are just a few ways you can use automation for better email marketing in 2017:

  • Send a welcome series to a new subscriber or customer.
  • Use triggered emails to send personalized emails based on a user’s behavior, such as a subscription, download or purchase.
  • Automate the personalizing of content.
  • Automate your email reporting.
  • Have a re-activation campaign in place that starts automatically after X months of inactivity.

If you’re not yet using automation and triggered emails, develop a strategy for doing so. Onboard new customers after a purchase or if you’re B2B marketer, develop a piece of content to offer that you can follow up with a drip campaign.

Fundamental 4: Testing

Although Jay Baer is talking about content marketing when he says it should be about “test, test, test not guess, guess, guess,” you can make the same argument for email marketing. Test always and test everything. Think beyond your subject lines to test everything that’s part of the three fundamentals described above. Test your mobile marketing.

Test for the kinds of personalization that perform better than others. Do you customers want personalized content? How about testing for frequency? Do you know your ideal cadence? Does it differ between one segment and the next, with one group wanting more emails and another wanting fewer? In one study, 41% of respondents said they prefer a weekly email and only 8% want a daily one. How will you know which your customers prefer if you don’t test?

You need to test in order to maximize gathering information for your personalization too. Just how much can you ask for on a signup page? Can you ask for gender, age and ZIP code? Or do people start dropping like flies when you add just one more field? Test and optimize those forms so you can optimize your personalization.

Test for the best ways to use automation. How many emails should you use in a triggered welcome series? Two, four, one? Test and find out.

There will always be something to test just as there will always be something to tempt you away from these fundamentals. And tempted you may be! As long as you have your mobile marketing, personalization, automation and testing rock solid, your email marketing will rock in 2017—and then you can go after the shiny new stuff and have a little fun!

The Holiday Email Marketing Balancing Act

The Holiday Email Marketing Balancing Act: Turning Email Volume Up and Down to Capitalize on the Giving Season

Turning Email Volume Up and Down to Capitalize on the Giving Season

Has your email inbox gotten more crowded since the holiday email marketing season has begun? Of course it has. Now email after email hits my inbox, most of them from brands I buy from, but definitely in a higher volume than usual.

That’s not unusual, as you know. Marketers send more email during the holidays. Last year, email volume increased 23% over the previous year. And it will likely do the same thing this year, because research shows and experience supports that sending more email equals more revenue.

But here’s the thing: Even if the increase in frequency you’re doing is optimized, your customers are also on the receiving end of everyone else’s increase in frequency too. So to maximize your revenue and good will consider these simple tactics this season.

Send more of the right kind of email
You’re not doing anything wrong by sending more email, but you do risk generating some ill will because you become part of that cumulative onslaught. With that in mind, here’s an idea: To make sure you’re maximizing your effect (and ROI) during the holiday email influx, maybe you should decrease the number of other emails you usually send.

Turn down the one…
“What?”,  you’re probably thinking. “Send less email??” Yes, less email, but I don’t mean your holiday campaigns. I mean your non-holiday drip campaigns, triggered emails that are unrelated to buying.

…and turn up the other
Then turn up the volume on your holiday email marketing. Send more one-off bespoke campaigns, or do something simple like resending campaigns to non-openers using different subjects lines. Also send more behavior-based or transaction-based triggers like cart abandonment and browse abandonment emails, as well as “you might also like” cross-selling and up-selling emails. Rather than send more of all kinds of email, focus on sending more of the emails that are appropriate to this busy buying time of year.

Taking this approach is also an opportunity to stand out: Given that email is so valuable this time of year, it might be a good time to take some of your programs off auto-pilot and opt for creative campaigns that stand out in the inbox instead.

An email marketing self-improvement plan (you can actually stick with).

email marketing self-improvement plan

January will soon be here and with it the New Year’s Resolutions. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, these resolutions are part of the fabric of our lives these days, and they do have the potential to motivate…even if we don’t make a serious change as a result of making resolutions.

However, if you’re feeling like your career could use a boost, a resolution to improve might be just the ticket. Maybe work has become drudgery, or you think you’re doing repetitive motions with the same email marketing methods day after day or month after month. Or perhaps you know you’re falling behind the curve and you want to get ahead of it once again. Even if none of these apply, self-improvement is always a good goal to pursue, but especially in an industry that changes as quickly as ours does.

To make that self-improvement easy to pursue, I’ve put together a plan for you for 2017, as your step-by-step guide to getting better at email—and your job—every day, week and month of the year.

Daily: Make time to read
Spend 15-20 minutes a day reading about email marketing. Find one or two email marketing blogs or newsletters that you get a lot out of, and commit to keeping up with them. I know this part is hard. I sit down to my computer and get so wrapped up in the work to be done, the emails to be answered, and the calls to be returned that I don’t always stick to my plan to educate myself daily. Strive to make it a habit, however, and you will learn and improve, little by little, every single day. If you’re not sure where to start, you can always count on MarketingProfs.com to provide great content, and email geeks such as ChadJordie, and Loren regularly offer great information.

Weekly: Participate in a LinkedIn group
Join an email-focused LinkedIn group—and participate in it, or at least be sure to pay attention to the conversations. My personal bias/favorite is Email Gurus but there are several others to choose from. If you’re really committed, you’ll pay attention daily, but if that’s too much, subscribe to the weekly email digest to see what has happened and been discussed…and to chime in if appropriate.

Monthly: Read a marketing book
You’re not going to find a new email marketing book published each month, but just as email marketing is made up of many parts, so should your education be. Books on persuasion, copywriting, design principles, social media, buying behavior and the like should all be on your list. If you’re not sure what’s new and recommended, check out this list at Forbes.com. Also consider the classics such as just about anything by Seth Godin, “Selling the Invisible” by Harry Beckwith, and “How To Win At B2B Email Marketing” by Adam Holden-Bache or  any of the books on this list of 10 classics.

Semi-annually: Do your competitive research
This might be some of the best self-education you’ll do! Set up a fake email address, subscribe to their emails, and start taking notes use or pay for services like Notablist or eDataSource. But if you’re more budget minded you can find all kinds of tips for doing a competitive analysis by Googling the topic, but don’t get too wrapped up in the approach. The main thing is to just do it—and learn from it.

Annually: Attend a major email marketing conference
If you’re lucky enough to live in big city with active marketing groups putting on regular events, take advantage of those. Whether or not you have that opportunity for ongoing education, however, do try to attend one big conference per year. You’ll get a big huge dose of new knowledge, but you’ll also get re-invigorated as you network with peers, share stories and gain a fresh perspective. (And hey, a little time away from the office can re-energize us too!)

Here are some conferences to consider:

That short list is literally just the tip of the iceberg, and it could be the timing, the travel or the cost won’t work for you. Don’t despair! Choose something else that does work, even if it’s not as big in scale. For more possibilities, see this comprehensive list pulled together by MarketingTerms. It’s not email specific, but it’s a good place to look for conferences during a certain time of year or in a certain location. Also be sure to check the DMA’s calendar for all kinds of different marketing events.

This list looks doable, right? So do it. Make 2017 a year to go from so-so to stellar in your email marketing career by tapping into all of the many resources you have available for self-improvement.

6 Surprising Email Marketing Statistics and What They Really Mean

Surprising Email Marketing Statistics

Email marketing statistics are, dare I say, a dime a dozen? Spend only a minute or two with Google and you’ll see what I mean. It makes sense, however, because email is very much about numbers. When we can so easily pull together statistics to learn from, we should.

Yet all those numbers can sometimes make our eyes glaze over, and we might miss some noteworthy trends that we should be paying attention too.

Lately a few such stats have jumped at out me and I’ve pondered their possible meaning for us marketers—how we can learn from them and be more proactive in our jobs.

Below I’ve pulled together six of those surprising statistics related to email marketing and listed them with some suggested takeaways for you as the email marketer. Some are B2B specific and some B2C specific but take that as a vague kind of categorizing, because I do think there’s plenty of cross-pollenizing that goes on between the two.

I hope you find them useful—or at least noteworthy.

Surprising statistic #1. B2B buyers are doing most of their research ahead of time

These days, B2B buyers aren’t waiting for salespeople to reach out to them when they have a need. Instead, they are proactive: B2B buyers are now 57-70% through the buying cycle before contacting a vendor.

What this means for you: This isn’t email specific, but it does mean your email marketing program needs take into account this kind of self-service approach. Do you need to provide more detailed information, to meet the needs of an educated prospect? Are you talking to the prospects at the level they are at and answering the questions they have? Review your email marketing cadence and content and make sure it fits with this new paradigm.

Surprising statistics #2 and #3. Business people are on mobile devices—aaaannd their computers

Don’t think the mobile marketing is only for the B2C marketer targeting teens and Millennials. Among the business users, 64% of decision makers read email via mobile devices. In response, the percentage of B2B marketing dollars devoted to mobile is predicted to nearly triple by 2018. However, don’t give up on those desktops either: Although mobile use for B2B purchase research has jumped 91% in the past two years, 78% of business execs still prefer to use their computers when browsing content.

What this means for you: You still have to have a mobile mentality even if you’re a B2B marketer. But don’t leave out the laptop and desktop either. Make sure you cover all of your prospects’ preferred ways of getting and interacting with email.

Surprising statistic #4: Millennials actually like email marketing

Just because its email doesn’t mean it won’t work for marketing to the younger set! According to MarketingProfs, more Millennials (26%) than non-Millennials (16%) say promotional emails influence their purchase decisions “all of the time or most of the time.” In addition, research by Adestra finds about 68% of teenagers and 73% of Millennials say they prefer to receive communication from a business via email, and over 50% rely on email to make online purchases.

What this means for you: Keep investing in your email marketing and continuing to make it better and better! Email is not and probably won’t ever be dead, so ignore the naysayers and give the people what they want…even if those people are under age 34!

Surprising statistic #5: Android users spend more time with their emails

According to Movable Ink “US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q2 2014” which I found cited at Emailmonday, almost 53% of Android smartphone users spent 15 seconds or more viewing each email message. Desktop users came in second, with 43.99% spending 15 seconds or more viewing an email. iPhone users, on the other hand, tended to pay little attention to their emails, with the majority (39.87%) spending only 3 seconds or less on each message.

What this means for you: You need to know what kinds of devices your audience uses to view your emails. If you have Android users, take advantage of their longer attention spans. If you have a majority of iPhone users, find ways to make their short attention spans work for you. And segment the best you can to make sure you serve each of these two audiences relevant messaging that fits the time slot they’re giving you!

Surprising statistic #6: Mobile shopping is seriously on the rise, especially for the holidays

This statistic might not be a surprise to you because of course mobile shopping is on the rise, right? Except this is a dramatic rise! According to IBM Silverpop, mobile email click-throughs grew 22.8% on Black Friday last year, from 44.7% in 2014 to 54.9% in 2015. Yet mobile opens were up only 2.7%! In general, mobile commerce for the 2105 holiday season grew 59% from about $7.98 billion in 2014 to about $12.65 billion in 2015. One expert predicts this year’s 2016 holiday season will see growth of 60% in mobile purchasing!

What this means for you: Ready or not, Black Friday and its new best shopping friend Thanksgiving are fast approaching, and people will be whipping out their smartphones to do their holiday shopping—in droves! And since last year, 70% of people learned about holiday shopping deals via email, you’d better be ready to tell them about the deals, and make the deals easy to do via mobile!

There you have it, the six surprising statistics that jumped at out me—and what I think they mean. How about you? Have you noticed any noteworthy changes in how your email marketing program is working, or not working? Let me know!

Gerald MarshallGerald Marshall is Head of Operations at Email Industries, the folks behind Indiemark and BlackBox.