Inspiration from the 2015 Email “To-Do” Lists of Leading Brands
I’m just back from the MediaPost Email Insider’s Summit at Deer Valley in Utah ski country. Boasting record attendance and the active participation of big brands, the event is always a nexus for email marketing growth, expansion and innovation ideas. With attendees from Wendy’s, Office Depot, Amazon, Bank of the West, Angie’s List, American Airlines and countless other marquee brands, this time didn’t disappoint. In short: everyone’s excited (and in some cases a little daunted by) the email marketing goals they aim to accomplish in the coming year.
Here’s what’s on the 2015 “to-do” list of top marketers and should be on yours as well:
1) Expand Audience Reach Beyond Your Own List
Sure, every company wants to grow its email marketing list, but many are finally waking up to why. The value of the email address as a contact point has been sorely under-recognized, but marketers everywhere are now at last seeing it for the gold it is for individualized, private, detailed, (even complex) communication. The struggle for most is not to grow their email reach (or what I refer to as “coverage”) of customers, but many also are investing aggressively in new customer acquisition with the email address THE key piece of data gathered right from the start.
In addition, the ability to reach new and existing subscriber audiences via display ads served in publisher email enables not only list growth, but powerful prospect and customer re-targeting, empowering frequency and optimization plays for savvy marketers.
Ask yourself: What are you doing to make it easy (if not effortless and desirable) for current customers who haven’t already done so to give you email addresses? Where, and how – other than your own email programs – are you then repeatedly making positive impressions upon them? Don’t under-estimate the power of making multiple impressions via email – both via your own lis and that of companies who allow outside advertisers – and even other channels like web and mobile display advertising.
2) Amplify Subscriber Data Intelligence
Getting a new email subscriber is great, but too many marketers take the “I don’t want to bother you” stance in both their online and offline sign-up efforts by asking ONLY for an email address without related data. Expanding opt-in/join forms to include only a few additional fields like first name, last name and ZIP code opens up endless possibilities for matching subscribers to marketing databases rich in consumer data and behavioral intelligence.
When paired with name and geography, email addresses can be appended with demographic data (such as age and income) household data (such as cultural and spending data) and psychographic or behavioral profiles and models (which predict spending, life stage, lifestyle and product propensities). As a career-long database marketing professional, I can tell you it’s crazy not to build your email opt-in strategy with insightful data gathering in mind right from the start, because trying to go after that rich information later with only an email address will surely be in exercise in frustration.
Smart marketers “get” this and are adjusting data gathering practices accordingly for 2015.
3) Expand Use of Marketing Automation and Behaviorally-Triggered Campaigns
No surprises here – everyone who isn’t already tracking online site visit, browsing and buying behavior and connecting it to email subscribers for targeted, 1:1 dialog programs is heading that way in 2015.
Thanks to ever-expanding marketing automation capabilities both on multi-channel platforms and traditional ESPs alike, we’re likely to see greater and greater volumes of email sent based on specific interaction points with customers and prospects. More brands are sensing and responding to individual customer behavior and increasingly customizing offers and content to the individual. The era of “one size fits all” broadcast email is rapidly crashing to a close.
With this approach comes the need to track, monitor and store behavior, then respond in relevant ways, all of which has implications for overall email message frequency. Savvy marketers are using rules-based technology, prioritization and frequency controls to make sure these highly individualized, targeted messages take precedence over generalized broadcast programs.
4) Modernize, Mobilize and Streamline Creative Templates
I love hearing case studies like the one presented by Kiva.org that illustrate how less can be more in email design. Not only are brands optimizing email templates for mobile viewing and accessibility through the use of mobile-friendly (if not fully responsive) design, they are also creating streamlined, simplified email templates which support “at a glance” osmosis of message content and calls to action.
This is evident in designs boasting shorter copy, larger font sizes, cleaner layouts, and fewer yet more prominently placed images.
Hand-in-hand with this approach, I believe, is that marketers are realizing they don’t have to “fire all of their guns at once” with lengthier packed messages, but instead can drip useful information out over a series campaign or divide a welcome/onboarding campaign (for example) into multiple, easily-digestible steps.
5) Test a (hell of a) LOT More
Finally, 2015 will be the year for greater experimentation into email response optimization via testing. Those who haven’t ventured into this arena are finally starting, so if that’s you, don’t be shy about creating at least some simple A/B split tests. Others who are more experienced are looking at multivariate testing, and expanding focus beyond testing in email to landing page optimization as well. There’s no excuse anymore not to learn what resonates best with subscribers and makes your efforts worthwhile and justifiable as well.
As they plan for the coming year, leading brands are realizing the incredible untapped power of the channel and laying the groundwork for going from “good” to “great”. So if you haven’t invested much time and energy in planning your email and related digital programs for 2015, here’s hoping this inspires you to re-charge and re-focus in January. And if you need a little help, let me know.
Tags: audience, automation, behavioral targeting, email design, email list, email marketing, email subscriber, engagement, mobile email, testing, triggered-email