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The Only Influencers Blog

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

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I’ve been lucky in my career – I’ve been brought in three different times to turn around and/or grow an email program. Two were (and are) rousing successes. Let’s just call the other one... a valuable test.

In looking to maximize the utility of an email program, there’s a plan you can implement to make sure ANY email program is delivering on the substantial promise that email provides. It’s not overly complicated in theory – it just takes a bit of art to deliver successfully. Follow these four key steps and you’ll be well on your way to a rousing success.

Step 1 – Fulfill your brand promise

The key weakness I’ve seen in email programs is a failure to properly align with the brand promise. I’m not talking about look and feel – I’m speaking about a more fundamental lack of alignment. The key question is, what does your brand stand for and how can email help make that real? While brand and digital marketers can occupy opposite camps, it’s critical to understand what your brand is trying to accomplish. It’s not all that hard to do but it essential for success.

For example, if you’re a daily deals site, your brand promise may be that you’ll bring interesting things to your subscribers that they might not find on their own. If you’re an entertainment company, your brand promise might be behind the scenes and/or early access to your entertainment content.

There’s a lot of chatter about squishy terms like “relevance”…when it’s clear that lack of relevance is simply a lack of either definition of your brand promise or integration with that same brand promise. Let’s face it, people don’t choose to be part of your email universe because you have a fantastic email program – they choose to be on the email program based on their perception of your brand promise.

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Email Marketing Inspiration for 2015

Here’s What’s on the Email “To-Do” List of Top Brands, and Should be on Yours Too

This dispatch comes to you slope-side straight from MediaPost’s winter Email Insider’s Summit at Deer Valley in Utah’s upscale ski country. Boasting record attendance and the presence of big brands like Wendy’s, Office Depot, Amazon, Bank of the West, Angie’s List, American Airlines and countless others, the event has been a hotbed of email marketing growth, expansion and innovation ideas. In short: everyone’s excited (and in some cases a little daunted by) what’s on their email marketing plate the new year.

Here’s what’s on the 2015 “to-do” list of these top marketers, and should probably be on yours as well:

1. Grow Audience Reach

      Sure, every brand wants to grow its email list, but many are also finally waking up to why. The value of the email address as a contact point has been sorely under-recognized, but marketers everywhere are now seeing it as the gold it is, especially in comparison with social media and SMS for individualized, private, detailed, even complex communication.  The struggle for most is not to grow their email reach (or what I refer to as “coverage”) to customers, but many also are investing aggressively in new customer acquisition with email a key piece of data gathered right from the start.

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Tagged in: email profession

Vendors that focus on the acquisition of email addresses have been shamed for too long. Admittedly, the email acquisition space is rife with vendors of ill repute, and plenty of people have lined their pockets with the money of marketers hoping for a quick way to grow their prospect databases. This does not mean, however, that ALL acquisition vendors or all email acquisition practices are bad!

Earlier this year, Trendline conducted a study, commissioned by CertainSource, on the current state of email acquisition practices. While concerns rightfully linger about the potential for negative consequences to deliverability and sender reputations that can stem from paid email acquisition tactics, there are a lot of bright spots as well.

  • 85% of marketers that are satisfied with their acquisition efforts use at least one paid acquisition tactic
  • 77% of all marketers currently use at least one paid acquisition tactic
  • 71% of markets have used a third party vendor to assist in their email acquisition efforts
  • Using display to drive online registration is the most popular paid acquisition tactic, used by 41% of all marketers
  • Marketers that prioritize acquisition are more likely to be satisfied with their overall marketing efforts

While email may be well suited to retention marketing, this cannot happen unless preceded by email acquisition. Yet, email acquisition is difficult and fraught with challenges—highlighted by the fact 46% of marketers express concerns about using paid acquisition tactics.

According to our research, the key to success is rigorously analyzing acquisition performance so that these efforts can be optimized over time. There is no quick fix nor are there sure fire solutions that will work for everyone, but there are professionals out there that can help you do it right and who understand the dedication and effort required to do email acquisition right.

Let’s stop shaming the efforts of third party vendors that focus on email acquisition and start encouraging the ones that do it responsibly and profitably.

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Tagged in: Email Acquistion

On this day before Thanksgiving, I am reminded just how thankful I am for the email marketing industry that has been the center of my life for the last 15 years. I was extremely fortunate to be involved early in the industry and I was able to play a significant role in the creation of the Email Intelligence Industry. And it all started in my garage. 

Back in 2003, my company at the time, Emerging Interest LLC, was a matchmaker between advertisers/agencies and the technology vendors who wanted to reach them. One day one of my clients asked me to find them a specific vendor. Someone who could provide competitive intelligence and monitor their competitors email marketing campaigns. After researching all the traditional competitive intelligence companies, I discovered no one was covering the email space. There were companies that could supply your competitors print campaigns, TV ads, Radio spots, direct mailings and even banner ads, but no one supplied emails. Why, I thought? 

And that is when I decided to do it myself. The problem, I decided, was that there was no easy way to automate the process of collecting the data. My big idea? Why not sign up for every email list out there. In fact, why not create a "virtual panel" of fake people, each with a specific demographic, and then sign up multiple times to the same list with different demographic information. And that is what I did. 

Soon I had another problem. How to organize and archive all these emails I was collecting. 

I decided to organize them by category and brand. Every night I would process all the days emails and every day I would be on the phones selling the tool. We relaunched the company as Email Data Source and I became the first company in the email intelligence space. 

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Tagged in: Email Intelligence

Posted by on in Insights from the Influencers

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at an Atlanta Interactive Marketing (AiMA) event on must-have marketing automation tools. Marketing is about getting the attention ofthe people who matter most to your business, and what makes it possible to reach these people is the data we have about them. No matter how you compile it, the data you have about customers is what drives your automation. What I wanted to share at this event was that, regardless of which automation platform you use and which processes you have in place, your automation efforts will never be as effective as they could be if you’re not automating the data that drives these processes. Marketing automation isn’t complete without data automation.

The idea behind marketing automation is that you can use technology to effectively generate, nurture and maintain leads through multiple channels. Marketers use automation tools in combination with their data to automate a majority of communications. Based on this data, tasks and processes are automatically put in place so that every lead is targeted in a personalized, yet efficient way, hopefully reducing human error and making order out of chaos. Automation is defined as ‘the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically, without human interaction’. Automation systems rely on data to effectively send communications and keep processes in order. The problem here, is that at a certain point automation becomes less effective due to a natural trend to disorder. As data ages, it becomes less accurate and more prone to error. What marketing automation doesn’t take into consideration is the entropy of your email data.

It’s often said that entropy is an expression of disorder, or randomness in a system. With disorder comes the inevitable: things will eventually fall apart, and the email you send is not immune to that. The data on your list doesn’t start out in bad condition, but over time its quality starts to diminish. This is only natural and if left unkept, your data starts to degrade due to the silent killers on your list - like bounces, complainers, the unengaged, and spam traps. Maintenance is the only way to fight disorder, and when the emails in your database are dying, you end up with a list full of zombies. The deteriorating data on your list is making automation less sufficient by affecting deliverability, sender reputation, and your overall marketing results.

When marketers focus solely on automation and ignore data entropy, its assumed that the entire marketing process is on autopilot, requiring no human interception. Automation tools make decisions and assumptions about your customers based on this data, so why is it being left to rot? Tasks and processes are being automated, but no one is focused on automating deliverability and compliance maintenance. If a fourth of your email data is lingering around like zombies, you can assume that the email stats you track regularly are skewed by that amount too. Why are marketers putting so much time and effort into automating tasks, if there’s no focus on maintaining data that drives decisions and actions made by these tools?

Your data deserves as much attention and maintenance as your daily tasks do. The zombies on your list are silent killers, and they will eventually start to take over - making it harder to gain control of data that’s still thriving. The data on your email list has the potential to change on a daily basis, but maintaining it doesn’t require killing off zombies one-by-one. Instead, the process of weeding out deteriorating individuals can be automated too. You should be automating the ability to reach customers, as well as the ability to market to them. What marketers have done in the past is rely on the email service provider to remove bounced emails, get problematic lists cleaned up (if required), and ignore the inevitable entropy that’s slowing killing the quality of their data.

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Tagged in: Automation

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