Is Your Program 'Out Of The Box'?

Is email marketing an out-of-the-box marketing activity?  Has it become so cookie-cutter that it’s hard to distinguish the great program from the baseline?   Are you using the same tactics across the board?  Some might say, “That’s marketing” -- you take what you know and rinse-repeat and iterate.

In the age of Software-As-A-Service (SaaS), standard software for digital communications makes it easier to do the complex. Yet are companies really capitalizing on the tools, techniques and lessons to be more than “at parity” with others?  Is the dry cleaner with 500 customers and an email newsletter different from a multinational, premium brand mass retailer, outside of budget and file size?

Let’s start with what is “parity” in email and digital communications.

1.     Opt In/Registration: Standard forms, registrations and links to online registrations are the norm.  It’s not just opt-in anymore, the average have member and preference centers and link top subscribers from their social brand experiences.



2.     Trigger Messaging:  Everyone that has a commerce presence online, has triggered messaging from their site, shopping cart, and registration event.

3.     Social Publishing (Share to Social):  Again, fairly standard to enable recipients to share email and promotion content to social sites.

4.     Early Lifecycle: Most everyone has figured out that after a new customer activity, it’s likely best to capitalize on that lifecycle stage to communicate more than less.

5.     Newsletters: Most have recognized that while consumers get more email and there is more competition for the inbox, they must get “into” the inbox as frequently as possible with relevant, interesting content.  Anyone who is anyone has some form of content syndication method enabled through email, vs. promotion-only approaches.

6.     Testing: Many used to say, “I don’t have the time or resource to do great testing” -- but today, I don’t know an email marketer alive that doesn’t do some form of testing, even if just simple promotion-based-offer testing.   The tools simply make it too easy not to try it.

7.     Deliverability Management:  The tools are available for everyone to do their own deliverability services.

8.     Reporting:    Everyone looks at open rates and clicks. The standard SaaS platforms offer baseline reporting that most look at  -- but  few understand what to do with the information.

If everyone doing email marketing is doing the above eight, what are the other things only the privileged few are taking on?

1.     Mobile optimization: There seems to be a bit of a debate about the efficacy of responsive design for the mobile device.  Is it worth the time and effort?  My belief is “of course” it’s worth it.  Customer experience is top priority and if you can do anything to deliver to the emerging mobile inbox better, you should be stretching yourself.

2.     Video, Real-Time and Social Integration:  Content, channels and online experience are blurring the lines.  Email and social are so connected.  Web/Social and user-generated content are synonymous.  The email of today is much more “functional” than it ever has been, and the most progressive are taking advantage of this to drive relevance.

3.     Remarketing – Re-Engagement: The average have “dormants” and churn rates above 1.2% per month.   The progressive are ones that are continually looking for other means to engage their email community through any channel available.   The old saying is, “retention is the best acquisition tool” – and in fact, non-activity through one channel doesn’t necessarily correlate to no interest in a brand.

4.     Automation:  The experienced have learned to automate as much as possible. They are sending more email -- and with more email and more human interventions, there is a higher probability of errors.  The experienced have learned it’s about accuracy over efficiency.

5.     Analytics vs. Reporting:  The progressive seek to look at behavioral clusters, engagement scores, RFC , and to look for correlations to channel behavior and other propensities.  Not arguing about attribution, rather sharing and recognizing that weighted attribution is simply a brother-sister diner table argument.  Those stepping up to the adult dinner table recognize that email is more valuable than attribution can ever demonstrate. 

I’ve found over the years that separation between the average and the really successful in this business is how aggressively you can promote your success and innovative ideas internally to create momentum.  If you are still struggling to do the same things over and over, you may be fighting the wrong battles and asking the wrong questions.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.”  -- Albert Einstein

1 comment about "Is Your Program 'Out Of The Box'?".
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  1. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, June 10, 2013 at 1 p.m.

    Nice post Mr. Baker. Especially when it comes to things like automation, it actually often requires "change management" and a different way of thinking to move to the next level. Lack of budget, resources, time and challenges with internal IT resources are often sited as reasons for not getting certain things done (all true) - but automation requires that you think "outside of the box" and beyond the 3-5 emails a week mindset. Nice use of numbered lists in your column BTW. :-)

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