10 Ways To Improve Your 2013 Email Program

Even though we are just entering the 2012 holiday season, it isn't too early to think about changes you should make to your 2013 email-marketing program.

For many marketers, this will mean some significant shifts in direction. But, as I've written throughout 2012, the right changes can help you move the needle farther in the right direction more than endless loops of tweaking and twiddling.

Following is my list of program shifts that can help take your email program to new heights of success:

1. From "Welcome" messages to an onboarding program: This shift moves your one-off "welcome" email to a series of dynamic messages that differ for recipients according to their pre- and post-opt-in behavior, demographics and preferences.

Onboarding programs respond dynamically based on whether a new subscriber has taken certain desired steps, provided specific preferences or visited specific Web pages before opt-in.



2. From "opt-in online" to "opt-in everywhere:" Your customers and prospects are interacting with your brand across multiple channels, including mobile, social, print, in-store and beyond.

Use technology such as SMS-to-email opt-in, QR codes, tablets and Facebook opt-in pages to acquire additional email relationships with these engaged customers.

3. From preference centers to behavior databases: Preference data helps you create meaningful segments for targeted messages, but it doesn't capture what your customers are actually doing.

A behavior database is a warehouse of information you can use to trigger relevant messages that relate directly to what your customer does on your website, social networks, in your emails or wherever they encounter you. Behavior is the ultimate driver of "right time, right message."

4. From broadcast to "one to one" messaging: Broadcast email will always be part of a well-rounded email program. However, a highly successful email program also includes automated messages that are triggered on the behavior, preferences and events relevant for each individual. That's where the behavior database comes into play.

5. From one-off campaigns to series or tracks: Whether it's a broadcast, segmented or one-to-one triggered message, sending only one message for a specific campaign or goal simply leaves money on the table.

A three-part birthday or cart-abandonment series, or one that slots subscribers into message tracks triggered according to "if/then" behavior will always significantly outperform a single email.

For example, one client averages conversion rates of 22%, 15% and 24% with a three-part cart-abandonment remarketing series. How much money would it have lost if it had stopped after the first message?

6. From static email to a dynamic content platform: Sophisticated marketers leverage all the data and technology systems in their organizations to deliver real-time dynamic and personal content.

A retail post-purchase email could include several content blocks that incorporate data and content from your ecommerce service, recommendation and product review software.

7. From scheduled to triggered: Frequency questions will always haunt broadcast messages. But as you automate more parts of your email program, subscribers themselves will determine much of their email cadence through their own behavior and interests.

8. From reactivation to early activation: Most companies' databases have somewhere between 40% and 60% inactive subscribers/customers. Ouch.

Most marketers wait six months to a year or longer before trying to reactivate subscribers. Too late, folks. These campaigns might get re-engagement of 1% to 2%, while a few outliers might see 5% to 10%.

A better approach: Move inactive subscribers after only a few months of no engagement into an "early activation" track designed to wake up these people before they fall into permanent sleep mode.

9. From corporate-speak to content that delights: Social media has changed how customers expect companies to communicate to them. This expectation calls for a different approach to many emails, including content that educates, informs, helps, entertains -- and, most of all, engages.

This doesn't mean that promotional and sales copy is dead. Simply, customers want you to get real and be human.

10. From mobile optimization to "mobile first" design: Given that more than one-third of email opens for most brands now happen on mobile devices, simply optimizing your standard email message for mobile devices is becoming a quaint notion.

While optimizing message design for mobile is now critical, don't forget that context is just as important in a world gone mobile.

A "mobile first" approach means that landing pages and your Web site are also designed to convert mobile readers of your email. This is vital to your email success.

Do you agree with my list for 2013? If not, what shifts are you planning or recommending that clients take next year?


Until next time, take it up a notch!

1 comment about "10 Ways To Improve Your 2013 Email Program".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, November 16, 2012 at 5:08 a.m.

    All good points, but the whole is far too labour-intensive and expensive for any but the biggest online businesses. SMEs should go after the lowest-hanging fruit and start with cart abandonment. Then integrate their browse, cart, abandon and purchase data into their ESP, so they can personalise and target emails properly. This approach takes almost no time and pays for itself in a couple of months.

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