100 Years of Email Marketing Success with These 2 Timeless Tips

Clock close to midnight at new year‘Tis the season of marketing predictions. Now that 2013 is over, what will 2014 bring? Next year, once 2014 has passed, the question will become: what will 2015 bring?

While I respect the importance of looking ahead and thinking about what’s next – and the natural tendency to do so around January 1st every year – too many marketers are still missing the strategies that are core to effective campaigns. These strategies will make marketing effective not just in 2014, but for the imaginable future. Here are the two most important evergreen strategies that will stand the test of time.

1. Make Your Messages as Relevant as Possible

The more a message triggers the motivations a customer has at any moment, the more likely that customer is to take action. This was true when the first billboard was rented in 1867, it’s true now, and it will be true in 2114.

Relevance means understanding:

  • Customer history
  • Customer profile information (age, geographic location, etc.)
  • Current customer needs
  • Current world context (weather, stock prices, etc.)

Being relevant means leveraging all of that information intelligently to present your goods or services and communicate how can they help that person in his or her specific situation at the moment.

Advances in technology allow us to be more relevant, but they don’t force us to be. Marketers must still focus on driving relevance for new tools, channels or approaches to have any meaning.

Note: This doesn’t necessarily mean you should make your message as personalized as possible. It’s possible to make your emails too personalized. For example, an email that says, “Hey, we noticed you came into the store or Oak Ave, looked at those 38 in waist dark wash jeans, then decided against them. Would a $5 coupon change your mind?” is much too personal, almost creepy.

Put another way, compare the two following scenarios:

Scenario A: Your significant other gives you a book for Christmas that you’ve had your eye on. He says, “I thought you might like this.”

Scenario B: Your significant other gives you a book for Christmas that you’ve had your eye on. He says, “I went on your phone’s browsing history and noticed you look at this book four different times over the past month. I thought you might like this.”

No matter how desirable the result (the book), the presentation matters. Scenario B is too personalized.

2. Know Where to Reach Your Customers

In the 1950s, Brownie Wise was responsible for marketing a product to family women who, at the time, were primarily responsible for the home. Rather than simply placing the product in another shelf at another store, Wise knew that her customers’ opinions were largely formed in the very homes they managed. So she came up with a new strategy, one that was largely responsible for the growth and long-term success of her company-Tupperware.

It’s not enough to have relevant messages. A marketer must know which channels are the most influential for their customers. This was true in 1950, and it will be true in 2150.

These days, it seems like every year brings a new potential “channel” for marketers to leverage-Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Many marketers are attracted to the sheer newness of each new channel, throwing messaging in as quickly as possible. But it’s not the newness that matters. What matters is your customers’ use of the channel.

It’s not the oldness that matters, either. With each new channel, a slurry of proclamations herald the death of this or that “old” channel. Email marketers are fond of poking fun at all those who have repeatedly proclaimed email as dead, but are we equally contemptuous when someone suggests that radio advertising or direct mail are dead?

While the percentage of total marketing spend has decreased in those channels, they remain. Why? Because, for some customers, that’s still the place where they make up their minds. (A client recently revealed that their catalog sales are still their number one source of revenue. If you worked with this company, would you try to convince them not to mail catalogs, just because it’s “old”?)

So enjoy the reviews of 2013. Enjoy the predictions of 2014. But then get back to the task of sending relevant messaging in the channels where your customers are influenced most.

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