Email Marketers' Concerns Becoming More Sophisticated

What are you focused on right now? What are the Big Kahuna issues that you are spending serious brainpower thinking about?

In the last few months I've met with about a dozen companies, mostly in B2C industries, and, somewhat to my surprise, the topics we discussed were amazingly consistent from company to company.

Not a single company wanted to talk about list/database growth. Rather, every issue or topic of concern revolved around approaches to maximize engagement and conversion among existing contacts.

I'm not suggesting that list growth is not important. However, maximizing the ROI on existing customers has become Job No. 1 for the marketers I'm speaking with.

What's driving this change? I believe a major part of it is the accessibility of marketing automation tools that enable one-to-one messaging.

Marketers are exploring the possibilities that these tools offer as they seek to do more with their finite resources, including budget, database and personnel.

Following are the issues that I'm hearing marketers raise, or Im uncovering, in meeting after meeting:

1. Cart/process abandonment: It seems as if we've been talking forever about how important it is to capture the potential revenue lost when customers abandon shopping carts or don't complete an online process.

But now, almost every marketer I meet with is becoming razor-focused on remarketing to customers who are just one step away from conversion.

2. Marketing automation: Marketers are moving past an email marketing strategy that relies mostly on broadcast messages. They increasingly want to take advantage of marketing automation functionality that combines multi-track programs with behavioral data to deliver one-to-one messages in real time.

3. Onboarding new subscribers/customers: For many companies the beginning of the relationship is critical to engagement, revenue and usage of a service. If you don't get new subscribers to use your online service, activate an account or make an initial purchase, you might never convert them.

So, companies are moving away from traditional welcome emails to multi-step onboarding programs based on demographics and behavior at the individual level.

4. Inactive subscribers: If 40% to 50% of your database is inactive, it's time to do something about it. What I'm preaching to marketers is not "We want you back" emails when it is already too late, but activation programs early in the unengaged relationships.

5. Designing for mobile: The rapid adoption of smartphones, tablets and touchscreens has reached the point where marketers realize they have to get in front of this fast-moving train. Do we design mobile-friendly versions of our emails just for frequent mobile openers, or for everyone? What does touch-friendly look like? Can we use CSS to solve the challenge?

6. Content: Automated messaging has content implications. Namely, you need more content upfront for those multi-track, multi-message nurture programs, five-part onboarding programs or three-part cart abandonment remarketing series.

It requires a shift in thinking and process from on-the-fly one-off messages to creating multiple messages in advance, all at one time.

7. Integrating email with other systems: Often I discover that the email-marketing team is not aware of Web analytics or Web personalization technologies that other departments in the company are paying for and using.

For example, the opportunity has existed for months or longer to trigger cart-abandonment emails using a company’s Web analytics provider, but no one connected the dots.

8. Advanced segmentation and modeling with third-party data: More companies want to combine data they have on existing customers with third-party data, and leverage predictive modeling and analytics to create segments based on factors such as likelihood to buy.

These capabilities used to be the purview only of large enterprises, but now a growing number of software-as-a-service providers are making them affordable to middle-market and fast-growing small companies.

How Do Your Top-of-Mind Issues Compare?

Do your concerns sync up with this list? Or are you facing other major battles? I'd appreciate hearing about the big issues you're tackling now, and which topics I should discuss in future columns.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

Tags: email
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6 comments about "Email Marketers' Concerns Becoming More Sophisticated".
  1. Terry Nugent from MMS , May 3, 2012 at 4:23 p.m.
    Great post Loren. Can you share the SAAS providers that are making #8 possible for smaller companies--email is t-nugent@mmslists.com
  2. Loren Mcdonald from Silverpop , May 3, 2012 at 6:29 p.m.
    Yes, the two I'm personally most familiar with include Agilone and Connection Engine - but I'm sure there are many more also. And the two I mention are pretty different.
  3. Tourism Tim Warren from Travel Business Success , May 4, 2012 at 9:32 a.m.
    The list of Email marketing challenges is very familiar and a bit overwhelming. Please take the same list and provide provider solution options and case study solutions. That would be very helpful.
  4. Loren Mcdonald from Silverpop , May 4, 2012 at 11:21 a.m.
    Tim - thanks for your feedback and suggestion. I've written on some of these topics in previous columns, but definitely plan to delve into them in future columns...and I'll have several case studies I can share in the coming months.
  5. Eric Kirby from Connection Engine , May 4, 2012 at 7 p.m.
    Hi Terry and Tim - I'm the CEO of Connection Engine, the company Loren mentioned in his comment. Here is a link to a client case study presented at the Email Evolution Conference that covers topics 4 and 8 from the Loren's article. http://www.slideshare.net/vivastream/inactive-subscriber-strategies-11793578
  6. Scot Catlin from Windsor Circle , May 7, 2012 at 5:28 p.m.
    Terry and Tim, You guys might want to check us out at Windsor Circle. We do much of what Loren listed aside from abandoned cart. We do the data integrations and analysis necessary to properly segment and then target existing customers.