Your email marketing strategy shouldn't be an afterthought. It should be planned and executed in the same way as other channels in order to achieve a successful overall marketing strategy.
During a recent conversation with a brand, we talked in depth about the ideal time to involve the email marketing team in marketing planning. The question seemed odd, since the answer was very apparent to me - at the beginning, like every other channel. But as I thought about the conversation more, I realized that for many brands, email marketing is still viewed as a "bolt-on" channel...even though it is the channel that often leads the charge and most often is at the top of the leader board when it comes to posting successful conversion and return on investment (ROI) metrics.
Too often, when the time comes to plan the marketing calendar and strategy, email marketing is an afterthought. It is thought of as the channel that can accept a "translation" of the strategy from other channels. While email is a very versatile medium, it should be afforded the opportunity to carry its own strategy. The best approach is for brands to determine the goals and objectives for the over-arching marketing strategy (for the month, the quarter, the year) and then leverage each supporting channel to highlight the strengths of the larger strategy.
When considering where email fits in, and complements other channels, consider these key points:
Display Advertising and Retargeting
Both display advertising and display retargeting are digital mechanisms that allow content to be presented in a visual and interactive way. However, display ads are small in size and often serve as a teaser for additional content rather than presenting the content itself. Combining email marketing with display advertising and retargeting can leave a meaningful impact on your marketing programs. By identifying customers who may not be fully engaging with your email program and then applying retargeting campaigns elsewhere on the Web, you can warm up the relationship and keep your brand top-of-mind.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing (SEM) insights can promote proactive interaction between consumers and your email program. While the correlation between the email marketing and SEM channels is not something all brands consider, knowing your brand's key search terms can absolutely help direct the content of your email program - especially if your brand offers a variety of products and services. For example, if your website features multiple brands of shoes, and you find that a search on a specific brand drives the majority of site visits, it may be prudent to showcase that brand more prominently in email communications - including your subject lines.
Many of the foundational tenants of email marketing were borrowed and grown from direct mail practices - including testing, measurement, and creative approaches. But the link between email and direct mail goes even deeper. Leveraging direct mail to re-engage customers in your email marketing program can deliver a powerful one-two punch. (Using email to persuade customers to re-engage with your email marketing program can be a difficult feat to accomplish - they aren't engaging with you via email in the first place.) But sending a postcard to your disengaged customers to drive re-engagement, or other desired behaviors, is a viable alternative. In fact, there are a few organizations that have done this quite successfully. Providing some offer or reminder about the email program and its value proposition can successfully spur re-engagement - while demonstrating to your customers that they matter to you enough that you are willing to reach out to them using a different path.
Among the many programs and tools in the digital marketing portfolio, email continues to be a powerful ally for marketers, yet it still often plays the unsung hero role. Its strengths in driving, supporting, and complementing other marketing channels continue to evolve - as evidenced by the fact that there still are questions about when email should be considered in the marketing planning process. If email is still a "bolt-on" for your brand's marketing approaches, it's time to give the channel and the expert email marketers inside your organization a seat at the table.
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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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