Email marketing is undergoing a radical transformation, as evidenced by the host of experts offering advice on how to deal with the profound changes taking place. As pundits try to wrap their minds around email marketing’s new directions, they are formulating new sets of rules and best practices they believe marketers must adopt going forward.
Hence, we see Simms Jenkins’ “The New Email Marketing Rules,” Ryan Deiss’s “The New Rules For Email Marketers,” Heike Baird’s “The New Email Rules for CMOs,” Loren McDonald’s “Shifts of Change: The New Email Paradigm,” Brennan Carlson’s “The Future of Email Marketing,” Brendan Dell’s “The New Rules of Content Marketing” and Marketo’s “Evolution of Email Marketing.”
What these experts are grappling with are the changes being imposed on email marketing by a number of converging trends: the deluge of data spawned by the Internet, the rise of the mobile and social channels and the collapse of the traditional marketing funnel-all contributing to what is called the new buyer’s journey.
Out with the Old
As Ryan Deiss says, “This ain’t your father’s email.” The rules of engagement are changing rapidly, he explains, adding that marketers might be surprised at just how different some of the new best practices are.
One major theme is that the days of batch and blast are over and that email marketing today needs to be targeted, segmented and personalized. Marketo, for example, says “it’s time to abandon the idea of batch and blast and enter into a relationship-oriented mindset that continuously builds engagement with consumers, one by one and over time.”
A related practice that must be discarded, the experts say, is the idea the larger your email list, the better. Today, says Deiss, “that kind of thinking can hurt deliverability and quality scores.” Your list today should be “mean and lean,” says Deiss, and you need to be efficient with how you manage it, including building the most relevant list you possibly can.
Heike Baird cites a number of obsolete rules he sees being replaced. One old rule, he says, is that email should be used to drive sales. The new rule is to use email to provide excellent content to your customers, and sales will follow. Another old rule, says Baird, is sending automated emails from a no-reply email address. The new rule is sending emails from an open email account that your subscribers can actually contact.
Take It to the Next Level
A major theme among the new rules setters is the need to segment prospects and personalize the communications you send. As Mike Veilleux of Dyn notes, “With modern technology and social channels merging, real-time, relevant information is becoming the new normal.” As a result, he explains, you need an email solution that is segmenting your email lists into the most narrowly focused segments possible and providing content that is up to date and specific for each recipient.
Loren McDonald describes how email marketing practices are becoming more sophisticated as the market advances. Among the changes he sees are traditional email lists being replaced by behavioral databases and email content moving from fixed to dynamic messages built on-the-fly in real time.
Smart email marketers also are using deliverability as a competitive advantage, says McDonald. Rather than bemoaning obstacles such as block lists and spam traps, he says, these marketers are becoming proactive and deploying practices to stay ahead of competitors in inbox placement.
Overall, the chief new rules and approaches the experts believe email marketers must adopt to stay current are:
- Engage prospects with relevant content rather than marketing spiels.
- Gather and utilize demographic and behavioral data to segment and target.
- Integrate email with other channels and conduct integrated channel marketing.
- Monitor online activity to profile, track and engage prospects in real-time.
- Rethink metrics like opens and clicks and align metrics with engagement and revenue criteria.
- Master the mobile channel and incorporate it into the marketing mix.
- Design emails for viewing on a variety of devices and screens.
- Integrate email and social media.
- Practice list hygiene to optimize deliverability.
End Email in Isolation
A change championed by many experts is the need to expand email marketing’s scope and integrate email with other channels as part of a larger cross-channel strategy. A big proponent of a cross-channel, customer-centric approach is Selligent, which likens this change to the Copernican revolution.
While traditional forms of email marketing, such as e-newsletters, still have their place, says Selligent, it’s time to gradually move toward a new marketing approach whereby marketing engages the prospect through integrated dialogues that are keyed to the buyer’s journey, preferences, triggers, signals and behavior.
Rethink Email Metrics
A number of experts believe the metrics being used by most email markers are inadequate. Among them is Dela Quist, who argues the problem with open rates is they are a campaign measure rather than a customer measure. The irony of open rates, he says, is that the harder you try to optimize open rates, the fewer customers you’ll drive to your site. Rather than optimizing for high open rates, says Quist, optimize for sales and total opens.
Of like mind is Ryan Deiss, who asserts that while clicks and opens are useful, you can learn a lot more by looking one level deeper. “Focusing on earnings per click and earnings per user,” he says, “is a great way to see what enticed a prospect to click and what they did afterwards.”
Ignore at Your Risk
Altogether, these developments are introducing more complexity into email marketing process, requiring email marketers to master new techniques and develop more creative content strategies. However, companies that fail to modernize will be left behind, say the experts.
Chad White, author of “Email Marketing Rules,” says there’s a growing gulf between the less sophisticated marketers who tend to think of email as a cheap channel and the more sophisticated ones who think of email as a high-ROI channel worthy of ever-more attention and investment. In a few years, he warns, “that gulf is going to be huge, and you definitely want to be on the right side of that chasm.”
Similarly, Loren McDonald argues that companies that ignore the new rules “could get passed up by more forward-thinking and nimble competitors, leaving significant revenue on the table, under-serving customers and undercutting your other marketing channels.”
Learn other ways to modernize your email marketing in “3 Ways to Use Subscriber Data to Modernize Your Email Marketing.”
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