February 01, 2011
Event Wrap-up

Email Marketing Summit 2011: 7 takeaways to improve results

SUMMARY: That's it for this year -- we're capping off another great Email Marketing Summit and passing on some of our favorite insights from 45 presenters to our readers.

Check out these seven takeaways pulled from the hundreds presented last week. Here’s a good recap for attendees and some helpful insights for those who couldn't make it.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

We're back from Las Vegas, and although we did not strike it rich on the blackjack tables, our pockets are busting with new and proven email marketing tactics.

More than 750 marketers heard the industry's top experts, as well as case studies from client-side marketers for three days at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011 in Caesar's Palace Hotel and Casino.

Trips to Sin City are often shrouded in silence -- but Daniel Burstein, Director, Editorial Content, MECLABS, made it clear in his day-two introduction that sharing knowledge is what makes the Email Summit great.

"What happens in Vegas does not have to stay in Vegas," he said.

In the spirit of Burstein's quip, we are sharing seven of the best takeaways from three days of inspiring sessions.

Takeaway #1. Relevance is king

We've all heard that content is king -- but content means nothing if it's in front of the wrong audience. Marketers showed us again and again last week that improving relevance improved results.

The word "relevance" has been tossed around email marketing for years -- but its definition continues to evolve. Ten years ago, it meant sending subscribers the information they asked for. Today, relevance is increased with:
o Triggered messages based on subscribers' actions
o Database segmentation and targeted messaging
o Detailed subscriber preference centers
o And other tactics

The many examples ranged from the simple -- such as adding only the most relevant social-sharing buttons to your emails -- to the complex -- such as the real-time "dynamic content on steroids" system used by Ben Day, Group Marketing Manager, Microsoft Corporation.

Takeaway #2. Internal challenges can hobble performance

During an expert panel, Jeff Rohrs, VP, Marketing, ExactTarget, quickly categorized into three groups the top challenges to improving email marketing performance listed in the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report:
o Technology-based challenges
o Content-based
o Interpersonal-based

He asked the audience for a show of hands on which category was the biggest roadblock. Interpersonal challenges -- those that stem from the relationships and needs of a company's team -- was the clear winner.

"We have a challenge with the people we work with that rarely gets discussed," Rohrs said. "We haven't done a good enough job trumpeting email's success."

- Combat with ROI calculations

One way to shift your email marketing from "office zero" to "office hero" is to calculate its ROI and show it to your team. The numbers often reflect that marketing to a house-list is remarkably efficient.

Jeanne Jennings, Independent Consultant and MarketingSherpa Trainer, Email Marketing Strategy, provided a wealth of proven tactics in a range of areas -- including on ROI calculations. Even rough estimates of net-revenue divided by cost, or net-revenue divided by the number of emails sent, will help she said.

"It's great to get absolute, but as long as you can compare in an apples-to-apples fashion, that's enough to get started."

- The executives will care

Philippe Dore, Senior Director, Digital Marketing, ATP World Tour, described his team's email strategy to sell tickets to professional tennis events. The overall email campaign generated about $1.5 million in revenue. Suddenly, ATP's executives were interested.

"We have our CMO talking about email marketing and subject lines," Dore said.

Takeaway #3. Emails should sell clicks, not products

Marketing emails should have one goal: to capture clicks, said Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director (CEO), MECLABS, in his session.

"It is important to distinguish the difference between the product offer and the clickthrough offer. In many cases, we conflate the two."

Landing pages sell products, Dr. McGlaughlin explained. Emails capture clicks that bring people to landing pages. Emails get clicks by clearly explaining offers, offering incentives, and reducing friction and anxiety.

- Conversations before offers

Putting an email's call-to-action above the fold is like a man walking up to a woman in a bar and kissing her on the lips, Dr. McGlaughlin said. The intended audience is not ready. A cheesy pickup such as "kiss me, offer expires soon!" won't work either.

"He has to get her in a conversation," Dr. McGlaughlin said. "From that conversation, a relationship develops…The pickup-line's job is not to get the kiss -- the pickup-line's job is to start a conversation."

In email marketing -- "a pickup-line is a headline."

Takeaway #4. 'Social email' is more than 'share this' buttons

Many email marketers have integrated social sharing buttons in hopes of getting subscribers to share messages with contacts -- but a relative few have realized strong results.

Sergio Balegno, Director, Research, MarketingSherpa and Jeff Rice, Research Analyst, MarketingSherpa, presented research showing that most social marketers find "social sharing" to be only "somewhat effective" at achieving email marketing goals so far.

- Engagement via email

Several marketers underlined the point throughout the event, including Matthew Caldwell, Sr. Creative Director, Infogroup Interactive, that "the ability to engage in social media is not as easy as putting the buttons on. It has to be a more combined effort to engage the users," Caldwell said.

Caldwell noted Overstock.com's effort last Mother's Day that asked Twitter followers to tweet their moms' best advice. Overstock later incorporated the tweets in an email to engage its house list.

- Recruit a fresh set of eyes

Liz Ryan, Manager, Email Marketing, Threadless, mentioned that engaging Threadless' email audience in ‘social media’ requires a balanced approach that incorporates elements from both channels. To find that balance, she sometimes seeks advice.

"I've been writing subject lines for ten years and I always default to [Threadless Editor-in-Chief Colleen Wilson], who knows how to connect with our audience."

Takeaway #5. Deliverability, performance and relevance are interrelated

Gmail's Priority Inbox and Facebook's Messages had marketers talking last week. One key theme emerged: your emails' performance will be increasingly used to help determine their placements.

Email service providers' spam filters are getting more sophisticated -- and are likely to continue doing so. Marketers who create relevant emails that subscribers consistently open and click will be more likely to avoid the junk box in the future.

Several sessions dealt with the nuts-and-bolts tactics of improving attendees' deliverability. Here is one of the many insights we heard:

- List hygiene matters

Jack Hogan, CTO, Lifescript Inc, and his team found at least 500 different misspellings for "@yahoo.com" email addresses in their database -- such as "@yahoodotcom" and "@yaho.ocom".

Sending emails to mistyped and false addresses (such as notsharing@email.com) hurt the team's email deliverability. Also, subscribers who did not realize they had mistyped their email addresses could have been irritated by never receiving Lifescript's emails.

The team's comprehensive plan repaired mistyped addresses, deleted false addresses and incorporated other tactics that cleaned up Lifescript's list and dramatically improved deliverability.

Takeaway #6. Mobile email is on the rise

Several sessions noted that U.S. smartphone adoption is on the rise and reading email is one of the top mobile activities. Email marketers need to understand how their messages look on handheld devices to avoid being left in the dust by competitors.

Karen Rubin, Project Owner, Hubspot, showed some scary examples of what marketing emails can look like on popular mobile platforms. She also provided quick advice for getting your messages ready for an on-the-go audience:
o Avoid large images
o Avoid tables and columns
o Shorter messages are better
o Use formatted text

On the last tip, Rubin emphasized that, for mobile audiences, marketers should use formatted text for calls-to-action instead of image-based buttons.

"If I can't see the call-to-action because the button has not downloaded, that's not a great experience," she noted.

Takeaway #7. Real-time marketing for big-time results

Keynote speaker David Meerman Scott, Author, Real-Time Marketing and PR, challenged many commonly-held marketing beliefs in his keynote session -- particularly those around planning and scheduling. Rather than always setting one-month, six-week or six-month schedules -- marketers should test adding the power of "real-time" to their marketing.

Scott cited marketing automation software provider Eloqua, whose competitor had recently been acquired by Oracle, a larger business software and hardware provider.

Oracle released a brief and impersonal statement about the acquisition, Scott said. Eloqua's marketers quickly crafted a blog post "Welcoming Oracle to the Party" and noting that this was a positive development for the industry.

Eloqua quickly emailed the blog post to subscribers and promoted it through other channels. The result: much of the press coverage mentioning Oracle's acquisition also mentioned Eloqua's real-time response. The announcement also brought some Eloqua subscribers into its sales process.

"If you can get that information out literally in hours you can beat the competition and beat their pants off," Scott said.

Useful links related to this article

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011 One-on-One Case Study

Live Optimization with Dr. Flint McGlaughlin at Email Summit 2011

Email Summit 2011: Your peers' top takeaways about email content, enhancing deliverability and optimizing swag

Email Summit Case Study: National Education Association's Member Benefits Corporation

Real-Time Marketing: David Meerman Scott at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011

Email Plus Facebook Marketing: Fresh ideas from FreshPair

Email Marketing: A customer-focused mindset at ATP World Tour

Social Media Marketing: Turning social media engagement into action at Threadless

Maximizing Email List Growth: How the New York Public Library drove a 52.8% lift in newsletter subscriptions

Social Media Marketing Optimization: Start small and test

Members Library -- How and When to Use Content in the B2B Sales Process

MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Essentials Workshop Training -- Taught by Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings



David Meerman Scott

ATP World Tour


Microsoft Corp.



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