We've just returned from sunny Miami, where MarketingSherpa held its 2008 Email Marketing Summit earlier this week at the Intercontinental Hotel. More than 800 marketers and vendors from across the US, Canada, and Europe -- including executives from companies like Expedia.com, Insurance.com, Dell, the Boston Celtics, Adobe Systems, and TaxBrain.com -- spent three days at the third annual Summit. They listened and learned from Case Studies and presentations, attended a copywriting boot camp and an inaugural certification program and did plenty of networking on their own.
Here's a recap for those of you who couldn't attend, including a quick look at two of the Summit's highlights:Highlight #1. Summit Goes on Despite Blackout
There probably wasn't a better representation of the stick-to-itiveness of the email marketing community than when southern Florida lost power in the early afternoon on the last day of the Summit.
Even without electricity in the hotel for a while, hundreds of marketers gathered in the front of a darkened main ballroom to listen to Insurance.com's Karen Imbrogno and Mark Majers. They talked about how they used what they learned from the 2007 Summit to transform their email programs and increase opens, clickthroughs and conversions. Working without PowerPoint projection and no microphone, everyone continued on.
The power eventually came on during the presentation. "It was definitely refreshing in this day and age to see everyone make do of the situation," one marketer said after the session finished.Highlight #2. Marketers Reigning in Office Politics
Marketers are smartening up about office politics. There was a lot of great discussion about the importance of using metrics to make your case for marketing investments and resources, as well as defending departmental strategies in executive offices and boardrooms.
More on this later. But, it was a major confidence builder for people who care about the email marketing community as a whole and have been to past Sherpa Summits -- when the interoffice quagmire was still being realized and sorted out. 12 Primary Takeaways
The Summit was packed with far more relevant data and useful tips than can be fit into one article. Not to mention the brainstorming and problem-solving during meals and cocktail hours and the networking gala at Gloria Estefan's Bongos Cuban Cafe.
"Everyone is trading tips, secrets and success stories," said Miko Bird, Email Marketing Manager, TaxBrain.com. "They talk about companies they work with -- what they like and don't like. So, the lunches and other networking situations are really valuable."
Here are the top dozen takeaways gathered from participants:
Takeaway #1. Become more than a marketer
The days of simply dedicating yourself to designing email or multichannel campaigns and then testing them are over. Marketers now have to learn how to think like their IT people, their financial officers, and their other top execs.
Why should you put on "the hats" of people who have other jobs?
- To pre-empt IT-related gaps in the production pipeline. Many email directors brought IT people with them to get them on the same page.
- It's not only *you* who should understand why your company must invest in certain areas of email. You should also to be able to sell it to your CFO.
How would you think about email if you were a CFO? Ask your CFO as many questions as possible to help yourself. Get to the point where you comprehend his or her email concerns.
- See above for your CEO, too. They have their hands on the purse strings, as well. And is there a better person to have on your side? Get to know your CEO and other execs in terms of how *they* need and want your ideas presented in a crucial meeting.
Takeaway #2. Email marketers get religion on landing pages
It's official: Every marketer is now at least thinking about landing pages.
We spoke to people who wouldn't even consider going into a campaign without significant landing page tests. But a surprising number admitted they were just beginning to dip their toes into these waters.
Many marketers are still sending clickthroughs to the homepage, but they realize that must change soon. Designing separate pages for every campaign is a lot of work, but the fruit of this labor is what builds companies and careers. There was much discussion about people taking their email marketing to the next level.
A key tip: After finalizing the crux of the offer and message, try building your landing pages first and *then* construct the other campaign parts. If you get the landing page done, at least you know that you are going to have one when the campaign does email. This way, there's no skipping it.
Note to vendors: It may be time to revisit your clients with the idea of doing some A/B split testing. In the day-to-day lives of email marketers, they are often putting out brush fires. They may appreciate the "nudge" to take the next step.
Takeaway #3. It's all about the message
People are still coming to grips with how to keep a campaign on message. For instance, the copywriting base camp on Sunday -- where landing pages were critiqued -- showed that people are getting off message in the transfer from subject line to email body to landing page.
It may feel painful at first, but do NOT overpopulate your landing page with various navigation options. They only distract and confuse recipients on what's really important about the offer.
More specifically, do not give in to the temptation to inform them about everything you offer. Stay on message and resist asking yourself this type of question: "But what if they do not realize I offer electronics, too?"
Key tip: Do not use your website navigation on your landing pages. Landing pages should be unique and, once again, targeted to the offer.
Takeaway #4. Deliverability anxiety fades
At last year's Summit, attendees -- and people in the email community at that time -- were deeply worried about deliverability. This year, the number of one-on-one clinics for deliverability was noticeably lower.
"Deliverability hasn't been a big topic," said Bird from TaxBrain.com. "Relevancy is really what is on everyone's minds. ESPs seem to be doing their jobs."
Takeaway #5. Segmentation grows on emailers
With marketers feeling better about getting their emails into in-boxes, it wasn't surprising to hear them talk more about the next steps of executing successful campaigns -- like subject lines, body copy and segmentation.
The issues of segmentation and relevancy were -- by hook or by crook -- party to nearly every discussion heard during the three days. And an increasing number of marketers are splintering their lists into up to 12 or 14 different files.
"The focus has shifted to relevancy and the importance of segmentation," says Jayne Lytel, Executive Director, The Early Intervention Network. "It's almost more important to have a smaller list than to have a huge list that is not performing as well. I plan to go back and clean our lists and segment it better, while not taking the one-size-fits-all approach."
Takeaway #6. Email is not dead
The death of email is premature. Some people think it is stagnating or withering rather than growing, but it seems exactly the opposite.
Indeed, Summit attendance -- participants and vendors -- jumped 20% from 2007, showing the continued reliance on and infatuation with email. And many emailers predict that the phenomena of text messaging will eventually be usurped by email as smart phones like the iPhone and BlackBerry continue to grow in sales and get better at rendering HTML.
So, don't believe the hype about email being dead. It's growing in terms of both marketers' awareness levels and sophisticated executions. People care about it more than ever.
Takeaway #7. Be interesting
Multiple presenters said that if you want to get your email opened and read, you need to quit "mailing it in." In short, you have to test the idea of taking chances with subject lines, overall messaging themes, body copy and images. A few great tips:
o Write targeted emails to each segment.
Kimberly Talbot, Relationship Marketing Manager, Adobe Systems, Inc., says that being creative with your segments can be key to a campaign's outcome. For a campaign that saw stellar results to her 'designers' file of targets, she used the provocative subject line, 'Today Everything Can Change.' "It was a time where we could use that without sounding too self-promotional," she said.
o Test headlines that test curiosity.
Jeff Greene, Director of Marketing, Coast Federal Credit Union, talked about how they have greatly succeeded with playfully personalized headlines, such as, "Jeff, Go Fetch!" In this example, the headline was accompanied by an image of a dog leaping in the air to catch a dollar bill.
"You have to grab their attention. It can be a good thing to make them wonder what you are up to."
Takeaway #8. Are we really "post-open"?
No, this is not a "subject lines are dead" takeaway. However, there were a number of presenters who said that while open rates are hugely important in the grand scheme of things, some marketers take their eyes off the prize(s) -- clickthroughs or sales, depending on their niches.
Stephen Wellman, Director of Email Newsletters, CMP Media, talked about the importance of engagement metrics like post-opens data -- after people look at your newsletter or go to a landing page (or Web page).
"This is the real meaty data, as opposed to the typical newsletter obsession with open rates," he said. "I think managing to open rates is antiquated."
Takeaway #9. B-to-B emailers are playing hard at catch-up
On the whole, B-to-C emailers are still ahead of their B-to-B counterparts. But the field is leveling. And it was clear at the Summit that B-to-B marketers are taking their email more serious than ever.
"I saw that trend starting last year," said one rep from a so-called 'soup-to-nuts' B-to-B services provider. "With big companies like IBM, teleservices are being augmented and supported more and more by email."
Better yet: B-to-B marketers appear to be finally getting serious about what superb personalization can do. For instance, Dave Wieneke, Manager for Interactive Marketing, Thomson CompuMark, presented a Case Study on how his company started sending newsletters and service emails to clients that included a photograph of their sales rep and a note from them. Results turned around dramatically.
Furthermore, Wieneke said, many companies tend to go about personalization the wrong way by writing lame copy like, "We here at company strive to provide the best service we can ... blah, blah, blah."
"Any sentence that starts with 'we' isn't really about your customer," Wieneke said.
Takeaway #10. Ask your customers questions
Sherpa's recommendation of using surveys to better target your audience was well-represented in the Case Studies. Some folks are emailing surveys, while others are including them at various points on their websites.
"I survey the living daylights out of our customers," said Tara Zanecki, Director, Online Sales Channel, Workshare, Inc. "Surveys are invaluable in drawing assumptions before a campaign."
Marketers talked about how showing customers that you care what they think is worth doing a survey unto itself. Others pointed to focus groups as excellent places to start before going into a campaign or a series of initiatives.
Takeaway #11. Mobile is 'new deliverability'
There was definitely more talk about mobile email this year. Until the US catches up with Asia and Europe on this front, however, marketers seem like they are still going to be only dipping their toes for a while.
There seems little doubt that the marketer who are paying attention now will be cashing in first. As more people migrate from standard cell phones to the constantly evolving smart phones, the marketplace is going to be there big-time for both B-to-C and B-to-B firms.
"It's kind of like deliverability was two years ago," said Annette Promes, Director, Email Marketing, Expedia Inc. "They were saying, 'Hey, there's this new thing that's going to change everything.' I think you are going to see the same thing with mobile over the next year or so. Mobile is 'the next deliverability.'"
Takeaway #12. Test, test, test
Testing will always be a key to successful email and interactive marketing. The most important reason why: You will never truly understand what each segment of your audience is looking for until you crunch and analyze the numbers. Everything comes down to testing.
"I saw some data here that dramatically contradicted what we have seen," Promes said. "Different businesses perform very differently -- even if they are competing in the same space sometimes. And what it tells you is that research can be informative, but you still have to test."
Useful links about the Summit
Bloggers who covered the Summit:
MindComet's Email Marketing Voodoo:
Duct Tape Marketing:
Sherpa Wrap-up about last year's Summit:
Companies in this article:
Early Intervention Network:
Coastal Federal Credit Union: