A colleague on an email discussion group posed a version of this question recently: "Who is responsible for educating email marketers?" Is it their email service providers (ESPs)? Their employers? The more knowledgeable marketers are about the specialized approaches required for success in email marketing, the better for their company and the industry as a whole. Here's my list of essential areas that email marketers need to grasp in order to run successful programs.
It's definitely not the most elegant collaboration tool, but email is the most widely used for sharing thoughts, documents and other communication essentials. So it's surprising it has taken this digital medium over 40 years to evolve from plain ASCII text to a soon-to-be social application for managing relationships and efficient collaboration on business documents. Get ready for Email 3.0, a one-inbox mix of social media, instant messaging, text messaging, news feeds, widgets and other mash-ups all swirled together creating a better organizational environment for the user -- and greater challenges to the email marketer.
A solid, well-branded, flexible template is a must in today's email marketing world -- vital to recognition in the inbox, consistent rendering, and communicating an air of professionalism worthy of subscribers' trust. However, templates can also become mind-numbing to subscribers over time. Every once in a while, it really pays to shake things up by skipping your usual template and doing something surprising -- perhaps even radical. Here are four email design best practices that I've seen successfully discarded to create a standout creative:
The foundations of strategy don't change, but transferring it to email require a different level of thinking these days. I was teaching my daughter backgammon and talking about the strategy of the game. She very simply said, "My strategy is to win." After laughing, I said "Winning isn't a strategy, it's a result." But she had a good point; we seem to think very cause and effect in our business. We either think too narrowly in determining what winning means -- or we think so long-term that we lose sight of the strategic things that really worked.
Like many of you, my inbox is filled with the latest research on social media and how it will soon change the world for many email marketers. Unlike some of you, I happen to be a true believer that social media will become a critical part of not only direct marketing but email marketing specifically.
Despite the debates that have surfaced about the viability of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube or the future of publishing, there is consensus about the digital age having ushered in an era where information and ideas are abundant. Regardless of whether these companies can develop sustainable business models, the fact remains that there is more free information available to consumers than at any prior point in history. I dare not attempt an exhaustive list of the implications the information abundance era will have on email marketing, but here are a few of the things that I believe we are already seeing ...
Imagine losing all the sales generated by your email marketing program during the first week of December -- plus the distraction and expense of getting your email unblocked during the heart of the holiday season. That's what some email marketers are risking if they increase their broadcast promotional email volume like they did last year.
I've been on a Greek island for the past three week, with little access to email, mobile or the Internet in general. Once you wean yourself off grabbing the laptop in the morning as you grab a coffee, you begin to see the simple ways businesses market and build relationships with their customers. Now, I don't intend to hold our U.S. standards to that of a very intimate Greek Island view, but I do think the principles of great customer relationships don't change, while your tactics and intimacy do as you scale your business.
Consumer marketers have traditionally led in marketing innovation with their larger budgets and resources, use of agencies and direct sales models. However, B2B marketers are catching up to their B2C colleagues and, in many cases, surpassing them with the breadth and depth of their email marketing programs. They're finding ways to deliver greater utility and value without risking channel burnout, as we've seen on the consumer side.
From time to time we run into marketers who think that they have deliverability covered because they have signed up with an Email Service Provider (ESP). You've probably even seen some ESPs that are promoting their very high delivery rates. This is confusing and misleading, because the ESP fully controls only one of the five major drivers of deliverability failures. Major consumer mailbox providers and business filtering applications look at five key data points to evaluate the trustworthiness of incoming messaging streams. They are