Here are five frequently asked questions about email marketing and the email channel along with helpful answers for those in the email marketing ecosystem.
At the same time that the email marketing channel is perpetually in flux, it also is staying the same...and in some cases reverting back to the "way it was." During the course of the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of brands, answer a lot of questions, and dole out a lot of advice. So today, I thought I would share with you the five questions about email marketing and the email channel that I field most frequently. Feel free to share any other questions you might like answered by tweeting to me at @ktrivunovic. I am always happy to respond, and will address them in my post here next month!
Q: What are the biggest/newest considerations or trends for the email channel this year?
A: Clearly this answer changes from year to year. This year I believe that it is a real focus on email logic. Big data has been a source of conversation for quite some time now, but I truly believe that, as it relates to email, it isn't about big data, it's about big logic. Most brands can easily identify 10 to 20 data points that will effectively drive conversation inside their email program, create the relevance and interest necessary to keep subscribers engaged, and drive the desired results. So in 2014, I believe the trend is toward applying big logic to the right data.
Q: What value or integration do you see between email and social?
A: How these two channels complement one another is going to be driven by the unique characteristics and requirements of each business. Some brands are social by nature while others don't lend themselves to social marketing in some of the more obvious applications. The one element that holds true across any brand is that with social channels comes data. The insight and understanding that can be learned and applied from customers' social engagement is a valuable consideration for any brand and shouldn't be overlooked.
Q: Do I need to code my email using responsive design?
A: Email doesn't necessarily have to be "responsive," but it does need to be mobile friendly. Open activity on mobile devices has surpassed that of open activity on desktops now, making the "mobile-first" mentality very applicable to the email channel. Research by BlueHornet shows that 80 percent of subscribers will delete an email marketing message that doesn't display well on their mobile device and more than 30 percent will actually unsubscribe. The one thing to remember is that the experience after the email click - such as a business's website or commerce store - also needs to be optimized for mobile so mobile users can easily complete the desired task or engagement.
Q: I see a lot of commentary and advice that advocates for brands to "just send more email." Is this a viable approach to the channel?
A: The ideation behind the "send more email" mantra is not without some logic of its own. There are a number of situations and relationship moments with your customers that allow you to "send more email," such as during certain seasonality, purchase, or life cycle behaviors, for example. You also have to consider the value of your content. If you are sending information that the customer is uninterested in, then the sheer act of sending even more irrelevant information is not going to drive your revenue through the roof. Another consideration is subscribers' level of engagement, or length of engagement with your brand. Loyalists and long-term subscribers are often more tolerant of increased email volume.
You need to determine, for your specific audience and at various moments or stages during their engagement with you, where the law of diminishing returns impacts the performance of your emails or email program. Is it possible that you could be sending more email and making more money? Sure is; but approach the frequency of your email marketing cadence in a thoughtful and strategic way. Otherwise you could be shooting yourself in the foot.
Q: Should I always suppress my non-engaged subscribers after 90 days of email inactivity?
A: Deliverability folks are going to hate hearing me say this, but...NO! As a brand, you have worked hard to acquire those subscribers. Simply because someone hasn't opened or clicked in 90 days doesn't mean you drop 'em like a hot potato. You certainly need to pay close attention to subscribers that are waning in engagement, especially if they had demonstrated previously high levels of engagement. But unless you are experiencing deliverability challenges, I would not drop them from your list. I would, however, alter your mailing behavior. Clearly what you are doing in that moment is not working for a subset of your audience, so it would be beneficial to examine them more closely to determine if there is a meaningful way in which you can motivate them to re-engage with you.
Though the list of questions I often am asked goes on - and some would make you scratch your head in wonder - these are the ones that come up most frequently. Even if the questions themselves seem pretty common or basic, I hope that my responses offered a different perspective about some of the challenges that email marketers face on a daily basis. As I noted earlier, I would love to hear from you so feel free to tweet me @ktrivunovic with your own questions. I will do my best to respond in my post next month!
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As an email marketing veteran dating back to 1999, Kara Trivunovic has been actively involved in programmatic email development, execution, and strategy in a variety of senior positions on the client, agency, and provider side. She was founder and principal of The Email Advisor, a respected email marketing consultancy focusing on email strategy and channel optimization that was subsequently acquired by an enterprise email service provider in 2009. Over the course of her career, she has had the opportunity to work with a variety of brands and global organizations structuring a variety of custom email education programs, conceptualizing and implementing new and innovative email programs, optimizing contact strategies, and developing staffing and budget plans. Kara currently serves as the vice president of digital solutions at Epsilon.
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