A good marketing event always gets you excited to return to the office and apply what you've learned. The trouble, though, is few of us remember everything we heard. Many more of us do not make it to the event at all, and we're out of luck.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter
We've said goodbye to sunny Las Vegas and we're back in the office, digging through our notes from MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012. This year's event brought together the best in the industry -- from brand-side marketing managers with case studies, to email marketing insiders with in-depth knowledge of current and future practices.
Many speakers signaled the industry's drift away from "batch and blast" or "spray and pray" campaigns. Email marketers can no longer get away with sending a single email to a large database, hoping it will be relevant to enough subscribers to generate results.
Instead, in session after session, marketers described how they segmented their audiences, delivered targeted content, tested the best messages, and found ways to craft emails that spoke directly to subscribers' needs and interests.
For everyone who could not make it to this year's Summit, and for everyone who hates taking notes, we compiled the top five takeaways from Email Summit 2012 below.
"Social login" is an emerging feature in online browsing. Visitors can sign in or register for a site using an account from Facebook, Twitter or another social network. Email marketers can offer social logins when requesting opt-ins so visitors do not have to fill out a form. They can sign up with a few clicks instead of typing out their information. This removes a significant barrier to conversion.
Loren McDonald, VP, Industry Relations, Silverpop, noted that this tactic is being used by the political campaign supporting Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. During a panel session on emerging email tactics, McDonald also noted that Shazam, a music identification service, used a social login last year to significantly grow its email database.
"They brought their email opt-ins from about 700,000 to two million in the last year by using Facebook Connect as opposed to a regular registration form," McDonald says. (Facebook Connect is offered through the social network's API. See 'useful links' below for more information.)
An added benefit of using a social login is that the networks provide additional information about subscribers. For example, Facebook, McDonald says, provides between 30 and 35 data points, including:
Making it easy for subscribers to stop receiving your emails might have seemed counterproductive a few years ago. We spent so much time and money getting them. Now we’re just supposed to let them leave? Yes, says Joshua Baer, CEO and Founder, OtherInbox.
Baer contributed to the panel on emerging email tactics. He noted that too many companies have made it difficult to leave their email lists. This encourages irritated subscribers to take a simpler route to stop receiving emails: marking them as "spam" instead.
"You need to make unsubscribing easier than hitting the 'spam' button. If you don't, you're going to see the negative effects of that. It's going to affect your reputation. Your email delivery is not going to be as good," Baer said.
MarketingSherpa's research supports Baer's point. The second most effective tactic to improve email deliverability is to "provide an easy unsubscribe process," according to our 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report. With 56% of email marketers saying the tactic is "very effective," it is second only to maintaining an opt-in-only subscriber list, according to the report.
In years past, email marketers could get away with burying the unsubscribe link in the footer and disguising it as text, or removing subscribers from a single list when they requested to leave all lists. Today, in the age of sender reputation tracking, this approach is showing signs of wear.
Marketers can limit their results by failing to realize that emails bring readers through a series of short steps, or "micro-conversions," says Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS (parent company of MarketingSherpa).
In a keynote session on crafting effective emails, Dr. McGlaughlin railed against what he called "macro-distortion," a habit email marketers have of focusing on one or two aspects of an email while ignoring the others.
Instead of focusing on only the subject line or call-to-action, marketers should realize every email walks readers through a progression of steps, he says:
Readers have to figuratively say "yes" at each step, building a series of "micro-yeses," or "micro-conversions," that build to the ultimate "macro-yes" we're looking for: a click on the call-to-action.
"It takes an unbroken chain of micro-yeses to get to one macro-yes, but it only takes one 'no' to stop all progress," Dr. McGlaughlin says. "Part of our problem with macro distortion is that we are looking at two or three big yeses and we don't see all the little yeses necessary to winning the macro-yes, so we cannot optimize our message for the maximum yield."
When they click the call-to-action, another series of micro-conversions awaits readers on the landing page, starting with the headline, Dr. McGlaughlin says.
"They will have to say yes many times in the email before they're ready to click that button. And the same thing applies when they move from the email and into the landing page."
Setting the guiding principles of your program can help you keep it on track. You can refer to the principles to decide how to combat day-to-day challenges as they arise.
Paul Ramirez, VP, Operations, Eventful, boiled the most important aspects in his team's email program to four such principles. He described them in a case study session that outlined his company's email program, which sends about 1.2 billion emails each week to seven million subscribers worldwide, he says.
At the start of a panel on email deliverability, Sergio Balegno, Director of Research, MECLABS, noted that getting emails into subscribers' inboxes is a top challenge for email marketers. About 95% have some need to improve deliverability, and 54% have "great need." This puts deliverability ahead of segmentation and relevant content in terms of needed improvement, according to the MarketingSherpa 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report.
Ignoring your deliverability, or hoping that your ESP will take care of it, can lead to disastrous results. But with a few best practices, even a very poor campaign can climb its way to nearly perfect inbox placements rates.
Tom Sather, Senior Director, Email Research, Return Path, shared an example of his team's work with Dillard’s, a national retailer. The marketing team at Dillard’s did not believe it had a problem until an analysis revealed some frightening stats, Sather says. The company's email program had:
Even with this poor track record of deliverability, the team was able to establish best practices and pull its sender reputation from the dumps. Some of the steps taken:
After taking these steps, the team's delivery-related metrics improved. It achieved:
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