March 09, 2007
We just got back from sunny Miami, where 800+ marketers gathered to talk about the joy of email at this week's sold-out Email Summit. And, boy, did they have lots to talk about!
Here are our top notes, including tips on segmenting, frequency, welcome messages and filters. Plus, see what VistaPrint, Rand McNally, CNET, Doubleday and Sprint had to say about the future of email. Hint: it's rosy.
From the opening bootcamp to the closing remarks, more than 800 attendees, speakers and exhibitors packed MarketingSherpa’s Email Summit '07 + Bootcamp, Awards & Expo in Miami earlier this week. The sold-out event brought together marketers from the US, Canada, United Kingdom, South Africa, Germany, Italy and other points abroad.
During Monday’s networking luncheon, a pair of European executives said they wanted to learn from US experts so they could return home and change the minds of prospective clients who think “email is just a cheap, blast-everyone technique.” Of course, North American marketers already know that legitimate, targeted email really, really works. Since dedicating five staffers to email, VistaPrint’s ecommerce sales -- not incidentally -- has grown by 67% to $150 million, said Trynka Shineman, VP Retention Marketing.
Summit attendees said their key topics concerned frequency, small lists versus big ones, micro-segmentation, auto-triggers, beating the filters and the impact of a simple-but-effective “Welcome” message, staffing, office politics and how to make email as localized as possible.
OK, let's get into the week’s major takeaways:
Tighter Segments, Smaller Lists
“Don't just use demographics to select names,” said Jeanniey Mullen, Director Email Marketing, Ogilvy One Worldwide. “You have to have a combination of demographics and predictive behaviors.”
Susan Baier, Esscentual Brands, Direct Marketing Manager, echoed Mullen’s comments as she explained how conducting surveys turned her campaigns into big winners. While sending email for Esscentual’s Vitabath and Claire Burke, she discovered that narrowing her offers to smaller segments had to be accomplished -- even though both brands reach out to a target demographic of educated white women in their 30s and 40s.
Baier’s post-survey lists was broken into nine segments, such as women who want their homes to look beautiful for visitors, women who love fragrance of the product, those who bought because their mothers did, etc. “We had to shift creative to target each segment, but if we would have only segmented by demographic and not the [actual] reason why the women buy, our email program would not have been so successful.”
Other marketers also raised examples of micro-segmentation. Denise Canniff, Senior Manager of Business Development, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, created a whole campaign after extracting names of New York-area college students. More than 2,500 students ended up arriving to enjoy a one-night-only sneak preview of “Americans in Paris: 1860-1900.”
And here’s advice from Doubleday Entertainment Director Online Marketing Christian Busch: “We do slow-buyer segmentation for people who respond quickly versus people who like to think about it for awhile.”
Rich Crossett, Newsletter Manager CNET’s Tech Republic, said the importance of relevancy in email marketing led his team to create 45 lists for the same general audience of IT professionals. Questioning recipients can help clean out names that find your content not relevant enough.
“We asked inactives why they remained on our list even though they hadn't opened or clicked in 90 days,” he said. “Some of them responded that they didn't want to hurt our feelings by unsubscribing.”
Underscoring the ongoing segmentation theme, a handful of repeat Email Summit attendees said they were pleasantly surprised at the emphasis on more-targeted lists.
“Those ideas are really helpful because it can be challenging to convince people in your company to put more emphasis into better targeting rather than simply building the biggest list possible,” said Courtney Marsh, Rand McNally’s Marketing Manager, National Products, Education. “They might have a hard time understanding why it may be beneficial to cut your list in half. There's definitely been a message here about quality before quantity.”
Avoid Junk Files
As seasoned marketers know, staying out of filters can seem as much of a mystery as it is a science. So, it was a big relief for many attendees to hear several speakers address the idea of keeping your hard work out of the junk bin.
Sujay Jhaveri, CEO, Flatiron Media, advised marketers to examine their names acquired through co-registration campaigns. “Segregate the names you buy by source on different IPs so you can evaluate the source based on delivery factors and complaint levels.”
*Welcomes* Back for an Encore
As was the case during the 2006 Email Summit, welcome messages were completely hot-button. Speakers coached attendees (sometimes enthusiastically) to dedicate time to hone their welcome strategies.
“They sell -- they REALLY sell!” proclaimed Kristen Barletta, Email Programs Manager, Sprint Nextel. “We get higher click and open rates with them compared to other campaigns.”
Ogilvy’s Mullen explained how she was using welcomes to segment her list. “Track new names by their response to the first welcome message -- which should contain an offer. If they are not responding, segment them into a different group and serve them different offers from responders.”
Find the Right Frequency
A great deal of talk about frequency came from prepared speakers with case study and test examples. Winning offers, though, varied greatly by demographic, product, price tag, country and other factors.
But everyone agreed on three clear-cut rules:
- Test it (big AND small brands!)
- Email-only offers work best if you normally sell via multichannel
- Facilitate urgency and make sure the landing page reiterates the deadline(s)
“Urgency matters most for email,” said Doubleday’s Busch, noting that 48- and 72-hour offer windows have thrived in his campaigns.
Essenctual’s Baier gave the intriguing example of a recent de-escalating promo in which responders received 25% off day-of for an email sent on Friday, 20% if they bought on Saturday and 15% if they waited until Sunday. “Blew the door off any other email we ever did.”
Use Images … or Not?
Testing images versus no images didn't make a big enough difference in the results, several attendees said, although relevancy may have been an issue. Others tested larger versus smaller images and found it didn't make a big enough impact either way as well, which could have been merely due to product line.
What’s the lesson? Don't just assume images will work better than messaging without them. And here’s VistaPrint’s rule of thumb -- for reasons dealing with marketing and deliverability -- no email can be bigger than 50K.
Localize Non-Ecommerce & B-to-B Messaging
Nine out of 10 sales reps reportedly give up on their individual leads after just two calls. So companies that depend on a strong offline networking have much to gain from email.
Getting field reps and store managers to buy into your email program so customers can be targeted with messaging from a local entity can reap huge benefits. The point also gives voice to another surprisingly hot micro-topic at this year’s Email Summit -- sometimes who the message is “From:” matters more than the subject line or copy.
“One thing I have taken away from a couple presentations is that I can do a better job of getting my field reps more educated and excited about what email can do for them as well as corporate headquarters,” said one B-to-B pharmaceuticals attendee. “We can also do a better job of featuring the local relationship they have with our customers via more-targeted images and copy.”
Get IT Onboard
One question some attendees were dying to have answered is, “How do you get your IT department to buy into your email needs?” Summit speakers certainly had suggestions.
Kristi Hadix, Direct Marketing Manager, See’s Candy, holds a quarterly meeting while inviting a rep from every department, including IT and finance, so they can see the great response generated by email. “You have to show them samples and get them excited.”
Meanwhile, an IT attendee from a Fortune 500 company, took Hadix’s advice a step further. “Tell them about the cool techie stuff that they’ll enjoy, such as multivariate testing. Also, inform them that the changes that make a big difference in sales don’t always mean a lot of tech work. For email, it can be about tweaking details and small changes. They need to understand those things.”
Several attendees discussed their staffing woes among each other and to various Sherpa. For instance, how many team members should they have? When so many emailers double- and triple-duty with Web, search and other multichannel aspects, how do you get dedicated staff?
Tough questions, indeed. What we can tell you is that larger firms and organizations tend to have a dedicated team that includes:
- analytics person
- database management techie
- general manager who coordinates with rest of company
- creative person and/or copywriter
Smaller orgs would have one person who often has other non-email duties. The best performers in this sector often have a creative vendor, either an agency or an ESP’s full-service arm, helping them. Email typically underperforms for firms that had absolutely no one solely dedicated.
One attendee from an Internet marketing-focused company said he had a marketing team of 12 -- eight writers and four “marketers.”
Useful links related to this article
Photos from the 2007 Summit and Email Awards gala:
MarketingSherpa's sign-up form for occasional news about our upcoming 2008 Email Marketing Summit (speaking gigs, dates/places, etc.)
MarketingSherpa's Email Benchmark Guide -- all the data and stats on email marketing your heart desires
Useful blog links about the Summit
Blue Sky Factory's The Thinking Inbox:
Christian Busch’s blog:
Datran Media's blog coverage:
DM Confidential’s blog:
Listrak's blog coverage:
Denise Cox's blog coverage: