Companies Customize Email To Data Demands Of Client Base

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Many email marketers continue to wonder just what it takes to get more appreciation within their companies for their role. They aren’t producing flashy 30-second spots. What about cooking up highly trackable, cost-effective, revenue-driving initiatives?

Sometimes, it can seem like colleagues only take notice when they need to swiftly plug a sale or burn off expiring inventory. Katherine Youngblood didn’t seem like she was playing for laughs when she said: “People think of our team as kind of like rich Uncle Bob. Everyone wants to go to them when they need money, but nobody wants to hang out with them.”

The senior manager in email marketing at the InterContinental Hotels Group said she has been working hard to avoid that sort of last-minute, go-to role by lobbying for a seat at the table, as a marketing program is still in the planning stages.

Youngblood joined several other email marketers Thursday on a panel at the MediaPost Email Insider Summit to discuss a wide range of issues. She emphasized how crucial it is in the hotel business to coordinate with the data management team -- partly to find customer segments ripe for particular messages across her company’s nine brands.

“You have to be lockstep with your data team to support a lot of the decisions that you make from the email front,” she said.

An interesting IHG effort is to move into the real-time in-box arena, where it added a countdown clock in messages for certain deals. (Youngblood conceded it wasn’t the first to do it.)

Also moving more aggressively in the space is Drew Price, director of email at IGN/ZiffDavis. On the panel, Price said the company used to have a rigid schedule with sending out newsletters related to its IGN.com video game site, but it’s looked to be more nimble.

“We’ve become a lot more reactive to the news and sending (a newsletter) out right away,” he said. “Our newsletter flagship product used to be twice a week. Now it could be two to 10 times a week -- going to different segments. And we’ve seen little to no negative impact and really only positive results because it’s always timely and relevant.”

That’s not to say that increasing frequency doesn’t always have some potential negatives. Alison Aguiar, senior manager in marketing operations at Barnes & Noble, said the company wasn’t on a path to meeting its goals last holiday season and turned to email to jumpstart sales. Messages began to go out more frequently and goals were met, but opt-out rates did begin to increase, so the frequency was dialed back come January.

As for content, Aguiar indicated on the panel that B&N has found through testing that it needs to stick to its basics to serve a customer base not looking for bells and whistles. “While testing product offers and subject lines and creative … what we’ve found is that there are some other companies that can get away with snarky or cutesy or whatever. For us, there’s a much more fine line, and we’ve found that trying to step too far outside the branding doesn’t really work,” she said.

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