The Only Influencers Blog

The top thought leaders in email marketing share their insights and thoughts.

As email marketing experts, we all know that if the present and future direction of email marketing could be summed up in one word, it would be personalization.

There are an abundance of resources delving deep into the various means of email personalization. Read as many of these blogs, whitepapers, and studies as you can. Additionally, routinely test to find out the personalization tactics that resonate with your brand’s audience.

Although there are a lot of resources about personalization out there, I’ve noticed a gap that exists—it’s hard to find articles where marketers can read about the strategy behind personalization. I’m talking about the big picture: when you want to learn about an overarching framework for personalized emails that sticks with subscribers.

I’m going to address the aforementioned gap by telling you about the lifecycle framework—currently one of the top email marketing approaches that focuses on an approach to personalization that spans the email life of a subscriber.

If you really want your company to be considered a leader in the email marketing space, and you want to achieve the highest possible return on investment for your email marketing, a lifecycle email marketing strategy is a must.

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The proliferation of SaaS solutions into the massive and ever-growing cloud ecosystem has been godsend for digital marketers for more than 15 years.  The days of expensive, IT intensive, on-premise solutions are largely a thing of the past.  However, all the benefits of cloud solutions have not come without a significant negative side effect for data-centric marketers:  silos of information stored by cloud solutions have made it almost impossible for marketers to have a unified view of their customers.  For example, customer website activity may be stored with one vendor, email engagement with another, and on-line purchases with yet another.  Those organizations that can overcome this handicap to have a unified view of their customers will gain a significant advantage over their competition.  As always, technology continually evolves and improves, and there is a new breed of solutions gaining huge momentum across many industries.  Please welcome the hybrid cloud.


So, what exactly is the hybrid cloud?  Gartner defines it as a cloud computing service that is composed of some combination of private, public and community cloud services, from different service providers. Why is this a big deal?  Hybrid cloud applications can enable secure and seamless integration of the private resources of an organization with vendor services in the cloud.  Say goodbye to the silos.I can’t imagine an application that benefits more from the hybrid cloud than enterprise email marketing.  On one hand, email marketing is an extremely data-intensive application devouring information from all over an organization for segmentation and personalized content.  On the other hand, it also requires massive amounts of servers, bandwidth, and deliverability expertise that are best provided by an expert email service provider.  The hybrid cloud promises email marketers secure, seamlessly integrated solutions that eliminate the limitations of SaaS (data duplication, data security, and ETL).

In the end, the hybrid cloud is just common sense.  The all-or-nothing (on-premise and SaaS) solutions of the past simply can’t provide the performance, security, and convenience of the hybrid cloud.  It is ushering in dramatic improvements over pure SaaS solutions across the board, and enterprise email marketers will be some of the biggest beneficiaries.

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I have been in marketing for a long time – certainly before the advent of digital and the industry is and has always been about how we manipulate our audience in to buying what we sell and not buying what our competitors sell. Whether it done by broadcast or by being more relevant is to be frank irrelevant. What matters is that we understand and are comfortable with what we are doing, which is changing people’s behavior to favor our brand. The minute we cease to understand that or fail to quit the business if we ever do feel uncomfortable, will be a sad day.

My fear is that in many ways we as an industry are doing exactly what everyone else is doing but spend a lot of our time trying to pretend we are not. Worse still, we allow everyone else, such as Facebook, apple Samsung, Fitbit or indeed our own media departments, to do stuff we deny ourselves. To what end?

The point I would like to make is that there is a double standard being applied to the email channel and bizarrely this double standard is often welcomed by the email industry. We never seem happier than when someone else moves the goal posts or makes our lives difficult. We seem to think that overcoming obstacles both real and perceived (e.g. being blocked by blacklists creating email addresses out of common misspellings of email address and then blocking you when a clumsy consumer mistypes on registration, Gmail constantly changing the rules) are evidence of how committed we are to permission and privacy. They do not.

One of the things that I find truly surprising about the email industry in general and the Influencers (a group of people I hold in extremely high esteem) is how unconcerned we appear to be about the moral and ethical considerations that surround (the lack of) privacy and permission of the consumer – our customers.

Some of you might think that the opposite is true, that we email marketers are the most impassioned defenders of the consumer’s right to privacy and permission. To be honest I did too. However, events of the last year or two have led me somewhat reluctantly to the conclusion that we do not. What we actually care about and spend all our time worrying about is getting delivered/not being blocked. We also, to a lesser extent, spend our time worrying about being perceived as a spammer (something that I have written about extensively and call “Fear and Self Loathing in Email Marketing”). But that is not the same thing as caring about privacy at all. In fact, I would even go as far as to say the email industry does not give a rat’s ass about privacy and permission from the perspective of our customers.

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Here is what was on the Influencers' Minds Last Week:

 (Only OI Members can access the links).

1. Unroll.me: A number of folks were interested in the newsletter managment service Unroll.me and curious about their business model. Members can  read the full discussion go here and I've included some discussions on Unroll.me from 2012 as well.

2. Examples: Good, bad and ugly of cross-brand email promotions/opt-ins: Do you cross promote your brands in your emails? Check out some examples here.

3. From what devices do people signup/register for email? Do people sign up for your list more from a desktop, mobile device, or a tablet? Find out in this discussion.

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We’re almost there; Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and every other day from Thanksgiving to Christmas will fill up with online shoppers looking for those special gifts. Online businesses will ramp up marketing efforts and website optimization to capture all they can from floods of consumers scouring their inventories. Big and small companies, alike, will be looking for the advantage that makes them stand out this holiday season.


In the email marketing world, we’re all aware of the massive amounts of segmentation available. We frequently segment with time zone, the list activity, purchase history, account type, geolocation, and other CRM variables. All of that data usage is an attempt to figure out the recipient in order to create more revenues; it’s a way for us behind-the-desk marketers to understand our recipients and speak to them with relevance and accuracy, moving the needle on the bottom line.


But does it?


Yeah, sometimes. I get emails often that use my information to justify why I should buy or subscribe to a certain offer, and a small percentage of the time they do get me to react and participate. The widespread problem seems to be content creation. Many businesses are trying to sell products and services without consulting the real-time data they get from actual shoppers using their websites.


While CRM data is very valuable, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It just reflects on past actions to predict the future. It also requires the completion of purchases to triangulate accurately what consumers ‘may’ be looking for next. Conversely, site search data is realtime actionable insights being generated by shoppers as they interact with the website whether they purchase or not. If you sell products or services, this information is pure, marketing gold.

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Tagged in: Holiday Campaigns