Email Marketing

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 numbers 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
  • 2% want emails that are more informative
  • 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!

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.

Three Testworthy Technologies for Ecommerce Marketers

We’re always on the lookout for marketing technology products and startups that might potentially change the email landscape. I recently found three products that forward-thinking ecommerce marketers might want to check out.

1) Bizzy: Behavioral Marketing Automation for Shopify

bizzy_io

Bizzy (bizzy.io) will automatically analyze and segment ecommerce customers by using data from your ecommerce shop (you’ll need a Shopify store). Bizzy then pre-fabricates all of the campaigns – including the copy, discounts and photos. Users then edit any portion to make it more personal.

They claim this can all be accomplished in 15 minutes with no marketing department, no big budget and lift sales by 35%.

2) Tinyclues: Discrete Product Promotion Predictions

tinyclues

Tinyclues (tinyclues.com) is a predictive marketing SaaS startup targeting ecommerce companies with greater than 20,000 active users. I would venture to guess that this is also volume level needed to make the predictions significant.

How it works: Pick any of your ecommerce products to promote and Tinyclues’ prediction model determines which of your customers is mostly likely to buy the item selected for promotion and the best message to send to optimize conversion. Tinyclues works with your existing marketing automation software.

3) Cinematique: Touchable Video

cinematique

Cinematique (cinematique.com) has the first touchable video platform. Touch, tap or click anything in a Cinematique produced video and it will be curated in your own personal boutique for later exploration. Pretty cool stuff.

Got something to contribute to this story? Please comment below.

Thanks for reading!
– Gerald Marshall,  Email Industries

What I learned after reading 116 email marketing predictions.

You’ve seen them… “Top email trends for 2016”, “Where is email headed in the year to come?” “2016 email marketing predictions”.

In an effort to makes sense of it all I compiled hundreds of prophecies, from nearly as many pundits, and broke down their predictions into 12 categories.

As you see in the chart below I ranked each category by how often the prediction occurred. I then pulled together the most common threads within each category and mashed up the predictions into a consensus of my own.

chart

Segmentation

Most agree that consumers are becoming smarter than ever and marketers will rise to the occasion to satisfy their needs. Specifically, 2016 will finally be the era of the hyper-targeted personalized messaging that will be relevant around platform, location, and product. Emails and websites alike will be customized with dynamic content derived from data-driven decision making based on the individual as brand and direct marketing converge to create a unique experience for each consumer.  In other words, communicate with your customer with a high degree of relevancy and contextual material, minus the creepiness, or risk being ex-communicated forever.

For the complex B2B customer sell, where long sales cycles, high dollar amounts/sale and many people involved in the buyer side of the equation, account-based marketing will take center stage.

Emails and ESPs

According to all of our pundits, not only is email alive it’s in a renaissance. What’s more, emails will no longer need to be coded and are infinitely configurable and controllable with templated drag and drop technology that anybody can use. Emails will be succinct with just the right amount of personalization and dynamic content tailored to the viewer.

You will be able to purchase product direct from your interactive emails and be delighted with the improved quality of the messaging. All email styles will render properly in Gmail and Outlook will shrink in market share.

As for Email Service Providers (ESPs) there will be further consolidation in the ESP market and we can expect the pace of M&A activity to quicken with at least one major ESP being acquired and lots of smaller companies being gobbled up.

Automation

From the moment your customer first signs up for communications, the well thought out welcome series will begin to fire and with every visit to your website, mobile app or social page, you will send the well targeted, relevant message through the appropriate channel all the while enriching your dynamic segments with the new data.

When your customer is out shopping, that ibeacon will trigger, sending unique coupon codes tailored for perfect tracking and customer conversion. Social and automation will combine in new ways and as the shopper hops in their connected car, your systems triggers posts to Facebook about their great bargains and turns up the heat at home through IoT, it all becomes a seamless customer experience.

Content

Content is still king in 2016. Interactive, embedded and animated content are set to drive increased engagement for the year. The most mentioned form for content for this year is video. A picture is worth a thousand words so video has that in spades. The challenge will be to use the medium for engagement that is contextual to your brand and not just to show another cat video, unless of course you’re selling cat food. The increased use of live video also gets a mention.

Social

According to some pundits, Social media is set to take over or at least gain more recognition. Buy buttons will become more prevalent. The focus of the day will be advocate marketing. This will occur in both employee advocacy for your company and brand advocacy through loyal consumers and social influencers.

Mobile

Mobile usage will continue to rise and the mobile experience will become more consistent across email, web and social. This will be facilitated by Google app indexing, responsive and adaptive design. Searchable deep links will take you right where you want to be in the app. Within apps themselves you will see more cross-app navigation options.

And don’t forget to design your campaigns to include the Apple and Fitbit watches. It looks like they are here to stay and will continue to evolve to other untethered devices.

Data Analysis

2016 is proclaimed to be the year of artificial intelligence and the rise of the machines. At the very least harnessing of unstructured data will continue to drive marketing decisions and asset allocation across various channels. We will also gain greater control of omni-channel touchpoints that will drive the hyper targeting a messages mentioned in segmentation.

List Growth

Lightbox sign-up forms will dominate as the method for gaining new subscribers, but be sure to tinker with timing and subscriber psychology in your call to action to get the most qualified contacts and optimized conversion rate. In 2016 marketers will ask for only the minimum amount of information (email) to keep the friction down.

Ads

Ad blocking as announced by Apple will drive efforts to refine target segments, message relevance and contextual format.  Consumers want to be spoken to in a way that matters. So if you’re going to serve up ads make them as native and un-intrusive as possible.

The introduction of Google audiences and Facebook custom/lookalike audiences will deliver ads to recipients based more on behavior than demographics. ESPs are already creating tighter integrations around dynamic customer lists and automatic feeds to custom/lookalike ad platforms.

Web

Go responsive, secure and load quick or go home. Lack of these features is certain death as more and more consumers search mobile so being mobile relevant is an absolute necessity in this age of retreating attention spans. If you do show in search but can’t load with speed you’ll be dropped as quick as if you were never on the radar.

Security

Data and fraud protection reforms are on the way for 2016. The email industry will see a noticeable shift in privacy and security reforms from both the sender and recipient sides. Websites will continue to move to SSL protection as well.

In closing:

New Year predictions are a lot like New Year resolutions. Both are made with great optimism and a bold look to the future. Only time will tell what holds true. We’re looking forward to all the possibilities for improvement this year and hope all the predictions crystallize.


Art by Jay Jacobs // Jay Jacobs Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries


 

10 Email Testing Pitfalls + 15 Pro Tips

Email Marketing Pitfalls

Email is a numbers game, and we have all kinds of numbers we can measure. But when it comes right down to what really matters, money is the most important metric. And the more of it you earn, the better your ROI, right? The challenge is, knowing how to make more of it. And that’s why we test.

However, testing is kind of like flossing your teeth. You know you should do it, but you oftentimes only do a poor job or skip it altogether…until your semi-annual trip to the dentist looms large on your calendar. Then you’re flossing daily, but you can’t really undo all the neglect from the days, weeks or months you skipped.

The takeaway here is that flossing should be a regular habit—and testing should too. And like flossing, testing should be done to maximize results. Unlike flossing, there isn’t one set way to test to get one predetermined result. We’ve performed thousands of tests in our 18 years in this business. We still don’t know what will work, because it all varies greatly depending user-base and company, and best practices are only temporary at best.

However, we have gleaned quite a list of testing do’s and don’ts over the years, and we present them here, both the common pitfalls to avoid and tips for better testing.

Above all, remember that testing only seems hard. It’s not.

10 common email testing pitfalls

Below are the mistakes we commonly see marketers making—marketers who are well intentioned and want to test, but who are also getting in their own way when they do so. We highly recommend you avoid these:

  1. Waiting for IT or others to help make the testing happen. This is the slow death of a successful promotional email.
  2. Doing multivariate testing rather than a simple A/B split test. Multivariate seems awesome but hard to decipher. Instead, use A/B split testing to find your diamond, and then perhaps multivariate testing to polish it.
  3. Using unequal data sets. Be they quantity or records and time periods.
  4. Focusing in inconsequential details, otherwise known as not seeing the forest for the trees. When marketers test for logos, footer text, and little things like that, they are losing the opportunity to test for what really matters, like offers.
  5. Testing the wrong thing. Like opens rather than conversions. Opens are easy but unreliable, even dangerous.
  6. Investing too many resources into a single test. This only leads to wasted time and effort, and time is critical in email.
  7. Testing too often.
  8. One-time vs. ongoing. Avoid the set-it-and-forget-it mentality. Create a culture of testing instead.
  9. Lack of segmentation: These are the marketers testing for the lowest common denominator. These tests won’t take you far.
  10. Not validating the results. Take into account difference times and regularly monitor gain.

15 Ways to Take Email Testing to the Next Level

These aren’t best practices, per se, rather ways to do testing better.

  1. Create a culture of testing: Be relentless. In this case, fast and steady wins the race.
  2. Be agile and streamline processes. Find ways to be fast and use fewer resources.
  3. Align goals with effort: What are your goals? Lifetime value? Quarterly revenue? Customer loyalty? Be clear on the goals of your program and be clear on the goals of individual emails and campaigns too.
  4. Start big: Test apples vs. oranges, not red apples vs. green apples. For example, test offers and subject lines before CTAs and body copy.
  5. Find your champion via A/B split testing.
  6. Then iterate your champion.
  7. Validate: Retest your champion twice annually.
  8. Focus on If those are unavailable, then the open-to-click ratio. If that’s not possible, look at opens and clicks.
  9. A/B test one element every X days. Then move to test next most important element.
  10. Name things appropriately, with the goal in mind, because it makes a difference in how you approach the testing and what you look for in results. For example, your Welcome email should perhaps be renamed your Upsell email.
  11. Test your “forgotten” pages, such as your thank you page, confirmation page, etc. If you’re not testing these, at least evaluate them.
  12. Optimize the post-click experience: This is the fastest way to boost ROI.
  13. Put some skin in the game: Use team incentives, like a Starbucks gift card.
  14. Invest 25%-50% of your production time into testing.
  15. Monitoring is critical, so do it. Organize and schedule reports. Use the tools available to you.

Testing doesn’t have to be rocket science, and really should be quite simple to do yet profitable too, when you make it a habit, and do it regularly and well.


Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries


 

How to Create a Fantastic Email Call-to-Action

narwhal-email

Marketers know the call to action plays a critical role in email marketing success. In a recent Ascend2 study, 65% of respondents said a meaningful call to action was THE most effective way to increase click-through rates.

Improving a call to action (CTA) can be a complex thing, however, especially on smart phones and other mobile devices where a CTA can easily get lost in the crowd of a cluttered email, or be too hard to click on within a small screen.

These are not insurmountable issues, however. Rather, it’s quite easy to create more compelling calls to action by, well, taking action. To help you take action on your calls to action, below we offer our tried-and-true tactics for creating calls to action that compel. Always remember, though: You need to test, test and test again to be sure you find the right mix for maximizing your CTRs and ROIs.

Use only one call to action, and in more than one place

With email marketing—and especially mobile-first email marketing—short messages usually perform better, and that usually means keep your message focused on one point—and your call to action too. Resist the urge to use more than one kind of call to action in your email. You can use different treatments and wording. But only have one end goal in mind for your email and focus your calls to action on that.

For example, you might have your CTA as a big orange button (BOB) but you might also have it as hyperlinked text as part of a sentence too, with different wording. It’s okay to have up to three different places where people can click, but make sure all three have the same goal and go to the same place. What you don’t want is three options with three different landing pages.

Start with a verb

Consider what the wording “call to action” really means: It’s a call to do something, like a call to arms. I think we sometimes forget the compelling aspect of just what the CTA is supposed to do because we are so used to it as a phrase or an acronym. But really, we are quite literally calling on people to act, not sit there. And that, also quite literally, requires a verb.

Lucky for you, verbs are almost infinite in number, so you’ll be able to find the verb that delivers the best results for you. Some of our no-brainer, obvious favorite verbs for CTAs include:

  • Buy now
  • Order now
  • Discover …
  • Start…
  • Watch…
  • Be…
  • Save…
  • Call…
  • Join…

You absolutely positively have to test to discover the calls to action that will work best for your audiences, so we can’t tell you the best verb to use, only to use a verb.

Use the word “your”

If you were to add the word “your” to some of the example above, you’d be on your way to a compelling call to action, because you’d be speaking directly to that recipient.

Use a big and colorful button

We are talking about best practices for calls to action across screens, but primarily mobile devices, since that’s where most opens happen. Only pick up your smart phone that’s sitting next to you right now while you’re reading this and test drive some of the CTA buttons in the emails you get. How many of them are a) big enough to be easily noticed and b) big enough to be easily clicked? Make sure your CTA button can be clicked by fat fingers but easily noticed by busy eyes too. Test to find a color that pops and attracts.

Use a P.S.

Back in the days before email marketing reigned supreme and people still counted on sales letters as marketing tools, the P.S. was a big deal because people would scan a letter and really only focus on what jumped out at them, which included the P.S. You can still take advantage of this tendency for the human eye to look for something that stands out (as opposed to blocks of text). Place a P.S. with hyperlinked text below your CTA button, and see what happens. It can’t hurt! And it just might catch those super scrollers who take a quick swipe through an email and then move on.

What NOT to do with your call to action

There’s a flipside to everything, right? While there are ways to better your call to action, there are also ways to worsen it, including:

  • A lack of clarity—No wishy washy wording aloud!
  • Using articles such as “the”—They only add clutter.
  • Image-only CTAs—Are you sure you want to risk an image only CTA, knowing images are sometimes disabled and not every recipient will see it?
  • CTAs that are too small—We’re talking tiny screens and fat fingers. Make sure your call to action is actually actionable.

As mentioned above, you have to constantly test each of these best practices to discover those that will generate the best results for you in your mobile email marketing. But discover you must, in order to create compelling calls to action that will generate the click throughs and conversions you seek!


Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries


 

Crafting Killer Email Subject Lines

Killer Email Subject Lines

Below you’ll find our collection of subject line writing wisdom, based on helping clients transition to effective mobile-first email marketing.

Be forewarned, however, that these are best practices based on our overall experiences and your results may differ. When it comes to mobile email marketing, that testing is even more important given the small screens and short attention spans of your subscribers.

Keep your subject lines short and sweet

  • In our experience, we have found that 28 to 36 characters deliver the best click rates.
  • And we have found that 6 to 10 words deliver the best open rates.
  • Medium length does not perform well, as far as we can tell.
  • Long subject lines sometimes work, but this can only be determined by testing.
  • In addition to keeping your subject lines short and sweet, you need to frontload your subject line since there’s a chance your subscriber will only see a couple of words at first. Put words with the most impact at the beginning, like verbs.
  • And always be running A/B split tests on your subject lines. It’s such an easy thing to test, and your subject line is such a critical step in getting an email opened and acted upon…if you have enough data…why wouldn’t you test every time?

Be visually different to stand out in the inbox

Have you noticed an increase in special characters in your inbox? From smiley faces to arrows to hearts. However, you don’t have to get that fancy to stand out. Even traditional characters such as pipes and parentheses and em dashes can work to catch someone’s eye as they’re doing a quick scan of their smartphone.

But do look into the special characters too. There is increasing support for emojis in subject lines, and quite frankly, we’re surprised we don’t see more of them. Granted, the use of such gimmicks needs to be brand appropriate, and of course you need to test everything, but if this is some uncharted territory that might work for you, try it!

Speaking of testing…

If you’re not sure what to test in your mobile subject lines, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Try being ultra-specific, stating your exact offer: “Save 30% on Your Annual Subscription”
  • Numbers almost always work, so definitely try those: “Master meetings in 3 steps”
  • Put your call to action in your subject line, like: “Upgrade Today”
  • Use a fear factor: “Claim your URL before…”
  • Use scarcity: “First 100 trial users get this..”
  • Ask a question “Prepared for your Trial Expiration?”
  • Awaken their curiosity: “Why selling $10,000 is easier than $250”
  • Be timely: “[Upcoming Calendar of Event]”
  • Create a sense of urgency: “24 Hours Left”, “Last Chance”

Proceed with caution!

Some habits die hard, even in email marketing. Below are some things marketers used to do that simply don’t work any more (if they ever really did), especially in mobile email marketing:

  • First Name personalization: This is just seen as gimmicky and spammy now. Subscribers would much rather get content that’s targeted to them in a very specific way than be addressed by name and served up generic content.
  • Adding FW: and RE: These might be the epitome of spam. Seriously. Check your spam folder and count how many times you see these.
  • Too many of the same type of special offers: Don’t keep touting the same deal in every subject line of every email you send.
  • Reliance on open rates: This is not how you measure the effectiveness of your subject lines, because a high open-rate does not always equal a high click-through rate or conversion.

The best and worst words to use in subject lines

We can’t give you the Holy Grail of subject lines, but we can tell you what we’ve learned works (and doesn’t work) in email marketing when it comes to mobile. As always, test and test and test again to be sure, but in general, we’ve seen good results from these words…

  • Upgrade
  • Just
  • Go
  • Better
  • Deserve
  • Your

…and poor results from these:

  • Miss
  • Deals
  • Out
  • Year
  • Learn
  • Register

Finally, how to do a subject line review

Once you’ve followed the best practices outlined above, take a good hard look at the subject lines you’re using and see if you can’t improve them even more based on the answers you give to these questions:

  • Is it useful or valuable?
  • Does it promise a reward?
  • Is it front loaded with the best words?
  • Can you make it more specific?
  • Does it trigger a strong emotion?
  • Does it contain something very familiar to the reader so that he immediately nods upon reading it?
  • Would the subject line be stronger if you add an action to it?
  • Could you can add an element of intrigue without misleading?

Mobile email marketing ain’t going away and the subject line will only continue to increase in importance when it comes to garnering the attention of busy people looking at tiny screens. Sure, it’s only a few words, but don’t ever downplay the importance of those few words in getting your email noticed and opened.


Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries