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Don't Always Listen to the Experts

  |  March 1, 2010   |  Comments

When considering the advice of experts, ensure that it takes into account your company's - and customers' - needs.

The world of e-mail marketing is a crazy place. If you are a consultant or an industry "expert" you have a tremendous number of great ideas that sound very compelling. However, as a marketer, determining which of those ideas will work for your brand can often be the biggest challenge of all.

For those of you who read my last column, "Getting Real About Results," you might remember that I have engaged the services of a company called Alchemy Worx to employ some out-of-the-box thinking for the e-mail programs I run with my digital magazine. Since then, they have been able to design and deploy a number of tests. Some have proven wildly successful, others not so much.

In the first example, we redesigned our weekly reader communication. We added animated gifs to share the excitement of the interactivity inside the digital magazine.

The next example represents a new e-mail that was developed to drive anticipation and excitement for an upcoming issue.

I have been pre-releasing many of the efforts we are testing to a group of industry experts for comment. Do these experts think these test recommendations will enhance results? Check out the results to see what happened.

Test Type Goal Industry Expert Opinions In-Market Results
Animated gifs Drive clicks Old, outdated approach; stay static Increased clicks 600%
Long subject line Increase opens Will increase deletes; bad idea Increased opens 500%
Day of delivery (Sat.) Reengage readers Weekends don't work well Engaged 5% of prior non-responders
Coming soon e-mail Build loyalty Could work, but generally a waste 2x opens of any other e-mail

Even I was a bit skeptical about a few of these at first, but wanted to see what would happen, as all of these suggestions came from a review of the data and prior results. While I was happy to see such strong short-term growth to what we were doing, this effort made me wonder how much of what we talk about in marketing columns should be applied on a general basis. What if the messenger's message doesn't make sense for your company or brand?

After thinking about it for a bit, I realized that often times industry experts are privy to state-of-the-art technologies and tactics. Some of the more simple best practices seem like they are a bit boring or old school. When was the last time you read an article about the length of your subject line compared to e-mail integrating with social media? Yet, as we innovate, we also must remember to respect the foundational elements that have built this industry into one of the most successful revenue generating industries ever.

The take away from this is simple but important. Don't ignore what you hear at conferences or read in articles. And don't discount what the experts say. Do listen to it carefully and determine exactly how what you are hearing can be personalized so it has the best impact on your efforts. But above all, make sure that your first focus is on ensuring your core/cornerstone efforts are valid and in place. Question everything you have done to this point and revisit each step beginning with some of the items listed above. You may just be surprised at the results.


Jeanniey Mullen

Jeanniey Mullen is the vice president of marketing at NOOK by Barnes and Noble, focused on business growth and customer acquisition. 

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