Email Marketing

How to Diagnose and Repair Rotten Lead Nurturing Workflows

This article is published in collaboration with HubSpot which we use for many of our clients at Indiemark.

Marketers “sent” emails in 1995. They were fresh and manually made-to-order. Today, marketers “set” emails. They’re pre-made, automated, and usually very effective. But these emails just aren’t as fresh. Sure, some pull fresh content from blogs or other regularly updated assets, but most also don’t. Instead, many marketers simply set up an email and use it for months.

This presents a hurdle for lead nurturing marketers. The challenge? Keep workflows fresh, or risk rotten results. As a result, they have to monitor and update campaigns to prevent spoilage. After all, no one will click a moldy-looking email. And whenever you need to update a lead nurturing workflow — or get better results from a few laggards — it’s best to start with the workflows that smell worst: the poor performers. Luckily, you can sniff them out with analytics. In this post, we’ll explain just exactly how you can identify and diagnose the source of those rotten lead nurturing campaigns — and how you can revive them!

Using Analytics to Identify Rotten Lead Nurturing Workflows

Identify your poor performing campaigns by checking the following four metrics using your marketing analytics tools.

  1. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): According to Forrester, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads. If a campaign earns far fewer MQLs than your average, then it likely needs a tweak or an update.
  2. Sales Accepted Leads: Use closed-loop analytics to make sure each campaign is contributing to earned customers. One that generates a lot of reconversions but few customers requires some attention. The cause may be misalignment between your marketing and sales teams , or a faulty nurturing strategy.
  3. Cost-per-Customer: Emails, webinars, ebooks, case studies, and other promotions cost time and money. A campaign that uses more resources on average to earn a single customer can benefit from tweaks to improve efficiency, perhaps by offering better/different content or adjusting its schedule.
  4. Time to Customer Conversion: According to Marketing2Lead, prospects nurtured in automated workflows have a 23% shorter sales cycle . Therefore, another gauge of efficiency is the average time it takes to nurture prospects into customers. Campaigns that fall short or require an increasing amount of time should get some attention.

Pinpointing the Source of Each Workflow’s Decay

Once you’ve compiled a list of rotten campaigns through investigation of your analytics, your next goal should be to locate the source of decay for each of your workflows. Here are five places to check.

Source 1: Delivery Time and Format

Email is a good place to begin your search for the apple that spoiled the barrel. Start with the open rate of each email in the workflow. An email that performs below average may have problems with its subject line, address, name, or timing. If your open rate is significantly lower than average, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you sending the email at the right time? Delivering an email at the wrong time buries it under a horde of messages that fill the inbox before a prospect can go through them. You may need to test new days, times, or frequencies for your campaign. Research from MarketingSherpa indicates34% of B2B marketers nurture leads on a monthly basis, and 22% nurture on a weekly basis. Furthermore, about 35% to 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first,according to research from InsideSales.com.
  2. Is it easy to recognize the sender’s name and address? People are inundated with spam. As a result, they hesitate to open email from unfamiliar senders. Make sure prospects can recognize the sender. It’s often wise to use your brand name or something else the prospect is familiar with.
  3. Does the subject line grab attention and spur interest? Even if prospects anticipate your email, you need to clearly communicate: “Hey, you’ll love this!” The subject line needs to be clear and direct and specifically convey what prospects will receive.
  4. Are your emails often marked as spam? Companies who send emails that are often marked as spam are frowned upon by the guardians of email — also known as ISPs. If those guardians think you’re a spammer, they will send your messages to the junk folder, which will bury your emails and open rates.

Source 2: Message and Call-to-Action

Even an email with strong open rates can struggle with low clickthrough rates. This can signal a problem with the message’s copy, layout, or call-to-action. Here are some questions you should ask yourself if your email has an abnormally low clickthrough rate:

  1. Is the message closely related to the subject line? Your subject line should not mention topic A if the email discusses topic Q. The email’s subject line should directly refer to what’s inside, and the email itself should fulfill that promise.
  2. Is the message short and direct? The lead should be able to see the value offered in the email within five seconds. As such, the call-to-action should be very obvious.
  3. Is the message personalized with information in your contacts database? According to the Aberdeen Group, personalized emails improve clickthrough rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10% . Use details and information in your marketing database — such as personal information or activity/behavior — that you’ve already collected about your leads to personalize your emails and give your messages more impact.
  4. Is the call-to-action obvious, direct, and compelling? Do not merely suggest the action you wish prospects to take? Be more direct, by using compelling verbs and creating a sense of urgency with such verbiage as “download now” or “sign up today.” When they open the email, the CTA button or link should scream for attention.

Source 3: Landing Page

An email with a strong clickthrough rate but poor conversion rate usually signals a rotten landing page. A landing page can go bad in many ways . Here are some common causes.

  1. Poor Continuity: Your landing page must mirror the message delivered in the email’s subject line and copy. This should be true of the copy on the page as well as its fonts, colors, and images. Your goal is to convey, “Yes, you are in the right place.”
  2. Lack of Clarity: Your landing page also has to clearly show visitors how to convert. If they clicked “download” to receive your whitepaper, then the landing page should make it very obvious that it exists for this very reason. Use images and clear instructions about how to redeem the offer the lead was promised to decrease chances of landing page abandonment.
  3. No Explanation of Value: Companies often describe what is offered without describing why the prospect should want it. Be sure to emphasize how the offer will help prospects improve something they care about, whether it be revenue, time management, health, beauty, etc.
  4. Intimidating Forms: Be careful that the form on your landing page doesn’t ask too much of your leads. Insanely long forms will push people away, particularly if they’re already leads in your database. Furthermore, the call-to-action on the form submission button should also be clear and direct, such as “Download XYZ.”

Source #4: Content Quality and Freshness

Your lead nurturing content should be high-quality, relevant, and fresh. But even the most grandiose wedding cake turns into cement when neglected. Content can go stale for many reasons, such as:

  • Advice does not account for new developments in the topic.
  • Research and data provided is old and out of date, losing credibility.
  • Companies and products referenced no longer exist.
  • Target audience is no longer interested in the topic.

I’m sure you can understand why old content would discourage prospects. They went through the trouble of converting, and now they’re stuck with stale bread. As a result, they may disengage with you in one of several ways. Any of the following behaviors can signal a content problem:

  • Spike in Opt Outs: Unsubscribe rates should be 1% or less for nurturing emails.
  • Increased Complaints: Have you noticed an increase in your emails’ spam rates?
  • Lower Open & Clickthrough Rates: Are people straight up ignoring your emails?

Put time and effort into making sure the content you’re offering is still up-to-date, relevant, and high quality. If it’s not, update it so it is, or swap in offers that are fresh.

Source 5: Audience Segment and Behavior

There are two main factors that must align in order for an email to achieve relevance and engagement: the message and the reader. This is why even the best email in the world will fail if delivered to the wrong person. A high unsubscribe rate can indicate a problem with the segment you’ve targeted. As we mentioned before, normal rates for nurturing campaigns are 1% and lower. A higher rate can indicate:

  1. Partial Relevance: This indicates that a portion of the audience might not be interested in the content of the campaign. This problem requires a review of your opt-in and segmentation strategies. You need to identify these prospects and determine how they are different, how they got onto the list, and how you can better accommodate their needs and interests.
  2. Shifts in Behavior: This shows that the audience you’re targeting is now interested in new topics, or different content types and channels.
  3. Bad Content Mapping: It’s possible you’re offering content on the right topic , but that it’s ill-suited to the prospect’s position in the sales cycle. For example, if you’re sending content about your products and services (which is better suited to prospects in the middle of the funnel) to brand new leads who are just learning about your company, then you might want to back up and test sending more top-of-the-funnel, educational content that helps solve the audience’s problems and spur initial interest in your business.

For tips about achieving better email segmentation, check out this list of 30 ways to slice and dice your email list .

Building a Better Workflow

Sometimes a campaign needs more than just the little tweaks we’ve covered in this post. Here are a few other ways to update a campaign by modifying its overall strategy:

  1. Extend Its Duration: Consider that prospects might need more time and information before engaging in a conversion with Sales. Talk to your sales team to get a sense for any trends they see in leads that derived from particular workflows. What types of content do they think would make them more sales ready? Dig into your content and tap your content creators to offer something Sales indicates would be a valuable addition for this audience. Then work the offer into the workflow to extend its duration.
  2. Expand Your Lead Nurturing Channels: Remember, email isn’t the only way to nurture your leads. Encourage leads to connect with you in social media, and then use social media lead management tools to segment and nurture social media followers. For example, you could create a workflow that caters to leads who mention your brand on Twitter, or which targets followers who have clicked on a certain number of your social media updates.
  3. Emphasize High-Performing Offer: Conduct an audit to identify your best converting marketing offers. Once you’ve identified which offers are your high-performers, you can use this intelligence to craft lead nurturing emails that place more emphasis on those influential offers.
  4. Refine Segmentation Criteria: If you only have two or three nurturing campaign for your leads, then it’s definitely time to refine your segmentation and targeting criteria. If you have a sophisticated marketing database that is integrated with your email marketing tool, then you’re collecting a lot of information about your leads. Use it! Create specific segments of your audience using the information you know about their interests, needs, and behaviors. To start, create segments based on your various buyer personas. Then craft workflows that offers content that speaks directly to these different groups’ needs and interests. Even if you already segment prospects, you may find a splinter group is developing. This may warrant a new nurturing workflow for the breakout group that targets a new profile. You can always get more granular in your targeting criteria. This will only lead to more personalize workflows … and better conversion rates!

Remember, segmentation and personalization make lead nurturing campaigns more effective, but they don’t mean you can adopt a “set it and forget it” strategy. Content and emails will always get stale over time, so revisit them on a regular basis to keep them fresh and ensure they continue to deliver more qualified leads and customers.

In what other ways can you improve a faulty lead nurturing workflow?

 


About the author: Pamela Vaughan

Pamela is a Principal Marketing Manager, Website CRO & Copywriting at HubSpot. She is best known for introducing the concept of historical optimization, which increased organic search traffic and leads for HubSpot’s blog by more than 200%.

Are You An Email Marketing Freelancer? Meet Us in Savannah!

eec-2019

We’re long time supporters of the Email Experience Council (EEC), and this year, we’ll be at their Email Evolution Conference in Savannah, Georgia on April 24-26.

Email Evolution is perhaps best known as the conference for #emailgeeks and for Indiemark, the world’s most trusted collaborative for email work, it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and reconnect with partners.

If you’re an independent email marketing services producer or a small agency with serious email chops, we’d love to meet with you there. Feel free to schedule a meeting here.

We hope to see you Savannah!

Spam Traps and How to Avoid Them

If you send a lot of email, odds are you’ve hit a spam trap and consequently felt the sting of being blacklisted. If not it’s where email senders quite literally falls into a trap which often brings many negative consequences to a business or at the very least to their mailing reputation.

How does a spam trap get on your list?

Some spam traps are intentionally set to catch bad actors or irresponsible senders.

They end up on a list when a marketer buys a list.

Some spam traps are old email addresses that have gone inactive, and ISPs re-activate them to catch spammers or senders who don’t practice list hygiene.

Inactive domains can also get you in trouble, if you’re continuing to send emails to a domain that’s gone dead.

Some spam traps are the result of users quickly typing email addresses so they enter the wrong email for them, but it’s an email address associated with a spam trap.

Some users will enter a bogus email address to get something they want (but not enough to hand over their real email address). That bogus email address can be a spam trap.

If you want a more comprehensive list of spam trap classifications, check out Laura Atkins’ list of types of spam traps.

What happens when an email is sent to a spam trap?

It’s not only the sender who takes a hit when an email goes to a spam trap, potentially getting blacklisted by an ISP. So does the ESP used by that sender. And that in turn can affect the deliverability of all of the other clients of that ESP.

What can you do to protect yourself from spam traps?

You can proactively take steps to decrease the chance of sending email to a spam trap:

  • Make sure you are educated on deliverability best practices.
  • Practice regular list hygiene to identify and remove spam traps on a set schedule.
  • Segment out inactives and run re-activation campaigns, deleting any emails that don’t respond to that effort after a set period of time.
  • Use double opt-in to ensure you’re getting the correct email addresses from real life people.
  • If you’re getting a lot of bogus email addresses in reaction to an offer, suggest they not gate whatever the content is and offer it without asking for an email.

Hitting a spam trap is a serious offense, even if an unintended one. So take what steps you can to prevent it from happening.

 

Analysis of Nearly 200 Email Marketing Predictions (2019 Edition)

For the fourth year we present a meta data analysis of the predictions made for the coming year by industry experts.

This year we gathered 195 predictions and categorized them as presented in the chart below. For charting purposes, we normalize volume to 100% so we can determine which are the main areas of discussion.

The main topics of discussion this year were Content, Segmentation, Emails and ESPs, and Data Analysis.

We will discuss each category in more detail below. The link below the chart provides source information for the predictions.

2019-email-predictions

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1H1ZaVd-vQWIAT23Mil55zdRUUH-Z9iepgr1eeZC8dh4/edit?usp=sharing

Emails and ESPs

For emails its predicted that the channel will see greater usage as the distrust for social media effectiveness continues to loom large over the events of the past year.  Emails will be more interactive for consumers and the main tool for ecommerce to engage customers and grow sales. If marketers stick to the privacy sensitivity highlighted by GDPR, email will continue to receive the respect it deserves.

For ESPs it is good to recognize the shifts in consumer demands and the segments that are focused on by marketers. Winners will be those that provide means for easy interactions with direct to consumer subscription models, the consumer desire for video consumption and tools for account-based marketing.  ESPs with CRM functionality for advanced segmentation, pre-built segments, and cross-channel communications are the order of the day.

Content

Content from brands is expected to be more authentic with a low-key tone to the verbiage. Storytelling and interactive content will keep your subscribers engaged for 2019. There is an expectation for quality over quantity and humanization of brands.

Although there will be a proliferation of video use and interactivity with emails, there is also an expectation that more plain text email will be used for communicating with customers.

Data Analysis

Marketers will need to be good data managers to be successful, but thanks to AI and predictive analytics, success is easier to obtain. Predictive analytics are becoming the keystone for predictive automation and email campaigns. Chatbots are utilizing AI and machine learning to assist in answering routine questions for website visitors and decreasing the overall sales cycle and increasing customer satisfaction.

Segmentation

AI is also making it easier for hyper segmentation and the increasing use of personalized dynamic content which has created the mantra that 2019 will be the year of Customer Experience for Email Marketing. Special care in utilizing 1st party customer data will still be needed to develop trust while delivering an excellent buying experience.

Automation

Automations will become less clunky and more natural in their flow with the help of AI. Triggered automations will increase in use and become the backbone for a more personalized experience for the individual. There is a realization that the sales funnel is non-linear and unique for each visitor, so the brand story will be built in the same manner.

Ads

Curiously there was not a single prediction that focused specifically on ads.

Security

Sensitivity to data protection and individual privacy remains high. First party data acquisition takes precedent. Respect for the subscriber’s privacy rights and control of their data will be shown by an increased use of preference centers so the subscriber has complete control. Brands will make greater use of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to create a more harmonious email ecosystem. This will also allow for the use of branded emails in Gmail.

Social

Micro influencers and local influencers are becoming more important. Brands need to bring the social back to social to build trust. Brands must also lean in to controversy and take a stand when necessary. Augmented reality video is also expected to disrupt social media video in 2019.

Mobile

There is a continuing call to optimize the mobile experience. More mobile, more mobile, more mobile please! Mobile trumps desktop use.

Web

More brands will be using website personalization. According to a recent survey, 43% of shopper prefer a tailored shopping experience. As part of this, there will also be more bespoke landing pages to satisfy potential customers.

Voice

Voice navigation and command is becoming prevalent in many applications. Email is not immune to this trend. Its expected that voice will enter the email platform in some manner in 2019.

Conclusion

2019 appears to be the year of the individual, where if their cards are played right and they allow for the use of their personal data, they will get the shopping experience of their lifetime.

A Curated Look at 100+ Email Predictions

This is the third year we have collected and curated email marketing predictions. It looks as if it’s the year of the platform, the emails sent, and the details/design of their content.

The top 4 categories for 2018 are emails and ESPs, content, data analysis, and segmentation/personalization. This is the same top 4 categories as 2017, but in a different order. Data analysis slips from 1st to 3rd place and is surpassed by emails and ESPs for the number one slot.  

We have summarized the predictions by category and charted all 3 years on the first tab of this spreadsheet, the second tab provides the prediction details, the prognosticators and links to the references.

Emails and ESPs

It’s the end of ESPs as we knew them. No longer do ESPs just talk about sending newsletters. Over the past year we have seen a multitude of deep data integrations with ecomm store data, Facebook and Google ad serving, the inclusion of web based behavioral triggers, landing pages and native CRMs taking the place of simple email lists.

ESPs are becoming command centers for digital outreach on all levels. We will see omnichannel commerce become unified commerce. And with the barrage of emails and other digital communication at an ecomm cadence, the concern becomes the passive opt-out.

To keep consumers engaged, email content will become shorter, more relevant, and easier to act upon.

Content

Content will be the answer to engaging the consumer in 2018. Every trick in the book will be used to get emails open, including typography, interactive features, video, text only emails, and yes, emojis! 🙂 

In the end, what will really succeed, is speaking (writing) in a natural voice, being sincere and consistent with your message, and sending shorter, one goal communications.

Data Analysis

So why has data analysis slipped to third? We think its because the conversation is switching from analyzing data, to the real world application of making platforms more inclusive, content more relevant and moving us forward toward 1 to 1 communications.

Data analysis will continue to improve how we relate to our customers and predictive analytics will lead customers down paths that are yet to be discovered by them. Machine learning and AI are already beginning to handle more of the complex interaction we are taking for granted.

Chatbots will continue to supplement customer service and support. This year they will begin to evolve beyond the hype of machine learning and actually become useful in helping grow sales.

Segmentation

With all the deep data integrations and use of machine learning, hyper-segmentation is possible on a grand scale. Tying this all together will create better personalization and a deeper understanding of customer evolution. A better understanding of our customer’s behavior will create a longer lifetime value.

Automation

Marketing automation evolves beyond just a welcome series or a bunch of emails just to keep the sales funnel full. Automation will be used to keep customers once you get them.

Automation using AI technologies will make emails more human. It will also make automations easier to use for small businesses.  

Ads

Brands will continue to use Facebook for advertising, but will need to fine tune their messages for higher quality as Facebook puts priority back on the individual and away from brands. Influencer marketing will gain greater attention within the FB walled garden as an influencer’s profile is closer the a friend’s and may be more prominent in a user’s news feed.

Messenger ad testing will become more prevalent and retargeting spends will be optimized.

Security

Security issues for email lists have been somewhat quelled by instituting SSL certificates on web pages and Captchas on signup forms. The conversation is shifting more towards privacy and personal data protection as the implementation of GDPR nears.

Social

Social influencers will continue to play a significant role in marketing, but we will also see a shift toward a more constrained and thoughtful use of these influencers as the political and behavioral missteps of the past bring light to ramifications of poor choices.   

Mobile

Mobile purchasing will reach a tipping point. While mobile shopping has already reached a tipping point, in the coming year we will see mobile shopping sales come closer to that of desktop.  

Web

Sales will finally realize the importance of a homepage.

List Growth

List growth didn’t even make the cut this year. It seems the conversation this year will revolve more around how to keep your list fresh and engaged, rather than just the size of your list.

Summary

We look forward to seeing how these predictions unfold through the year.  Although blockchain technology and email tokens didn’t enter the picture in this year’s predictions, you can bet your last bitcoin this year will see some innovative attempts of trying to use the technology in email marketing.

 

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.

 

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!