The Only Influencers Blog

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

Recent blog posts

How many times have you heard the words “simplicity and efficiency”? Now, how many times when it relates to marketing automation? For me, more times than I can count or remember. We have tried many things to help streamline our organization and our automated programs. Like always, some things we learned the hard way, and others naturally fell into place. Below are 6 items which we experienced over the years. I share these with you so you don’t have to go through the same learning curve that we did. Use one, or use them all as you, your teams, and your customers grow and change.


TIP: Be aware of low connection speeds in emerging areas and how it could affect your content. In order to benefit from this tip, you will need an open mind about industry best practices. As email professionals, we strive to keep emails short and lead the contact to our website for in-depth information. However, internet speeds can vary greatly throughout the world. In some high-growth emerging regions such as Eastern Europe, IndRA, or Africa, our team preferred to send lengthier content and include more information instead of losing their contacts to slow load times during the click-through. We also received customer feedback supporting this need. We are ‘meeting in the middle’ on this one and respecting the local expert knowledge if they need to add information to the approved content. As internet connections improve, and mobile becomes even more prevalent, we will need to revisit this conversation.


TIP: Devise standardized frameworks to facilitate consistent automation, ease of internal communication and efficient long-term maintenance. We know that behavior based automation works, but every region had input on content, touches, cadence and what message works best in their country. After creating 500 different programs based on local input we realized we couldn’t maintain what we had created. We developed standard message models for different stages of the marketing funnel. This allowed us to standardize and localize automation in those funnel stages. We also developed models and templates for everything from beta-tests, to messaging templates, to request and reporting forms. All of these drove understanding and adoption throughout the world. It took testing and sometimes re-testing to get it right, but the consistency, adoption, and conversion metrics of our projects helped prove its worth.

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Epsilon released its Q4 2013 Email Trends and Benchmarks Report earlier this month and there’s some exciting new data here on triggered messages that will help marketers evaluate their email programs.

Last week I spoke about the value of triggered email messages at the Monetate Agility Summit. Here Epsilon is breaking out performance on triggered messages not just compared to non-triggered or business-as-usual messages, but also by industry segment.

It confirms what those of us who love triggered messages already knew:

  • Triggered messages generate open rates an average of nearly 60% higher than business-as-usual messages
  • When it comes to clicks, messages triggered in response to a recipient’s actions garner more than double the clicks of non-triggered missives


In the Epsilon report they’re showing open rates of 49% and click-through rates of 10%, on average, for triggered email messages. But I like to focus on the lift, not the actual average open and click rates.

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Posted by on in Insights from the Influencers

Everywhere you turn in the digital space, the word “relevant” seems to appear. Relevant ads. Relevant communications. Relevant this and relevant that. God forbid that you’re irrelevant – a ticket that some people (mostly vendors who sell “relevance solutions”) will lead you directly to Dante’s 6th circle. In email, dogma has formed that makes you try to believe that you must – at all times – only deliver product content to your consumers that is totally and absolutely relevant to them at that particular moment.

I call bullshit. Because - in email- relevance is irrelevant, once the consumer chooses you. (Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth music.)

Why do I know this? Statistics.

In any statistical model I’ve been around, the most relevant piece of information you can have to predict future purchase behavior is past purchase of either the same product or that category of product. It’s such a powerful variable that statisticians usually eliminate it because (a) it skews the model and (b) if you actually had the category purchase data at scale, you really would not need a model. That single data element is so “relevant” that if you had enough of it, you could stop there and live off of that variable to build your business.

In the world of email marketing, we have such a variable. It’s called an email address. The fact that people sign up for your email is far and away the most powerful interest a person has in your product. Signing up for your email is their indication to you that they already find you relevant. (Unless, of course, you’re not getting consent for the email sign up…then you’re just kind of a jerk.)

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Every marketer has been there. You’ve just gotten back from the conference or read an inspiring ebook on A/B testing, and you’re pumped to start your own testing strategy. And then three people need all of their emails to go out immediately, and testing goes out the door with your sanity. We all know that tweaks in our email marketing campaigns can pay off with big returns, but it’s hard to find the time to actually do it well. However, it won’t take as much time as you think if you utilize existing tools and put a bit of thought into your testing strategy.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the technical term for strategically planning your tests. It’s the active process of defining the metric you’re trying to optimize, creating several hypotheses about what tweaks in your campaigns may increase your conversion rate, and measuring the effect of each hypothesis. It applies equally to email and landing pages, but I’ll limit the discussion here to email as much as possible.

The first step in creating a CRO strategy for your organization is defining the metric you want to improve. I’ve heard two main schools of thoughts around this goal metric for CRO. The first is that it’s best to focus on getting progressive “yes’s” from your audience, as in, “Yes, I’ll open your email. Yes, I’ll click on your email. Yes, I’ll buy your product.” In this mindset, the metric you want to optimize would be the first “yes,” which is usually open rate – the more people you can get into your email, the more potential next “yes’s” you have.

The other school of thought is focusing your CRO efforts on the ultimate action you want your audience to take. Here, CRO goes beyond just email because the landing page you’re sending people to has an effect on the overarching conversion, whether it be subscribing to a newsletter, registering for a webinar, buying a product, etc.

I can see the rationale behind getting small yes’s out of your audience, and that strategy probably makes sense for some campaigns. However, I fall into the latter camp – I want everything I tweak in my campaign to ultimately support my typical goal of getting people to sign up for an email newsletter. I understand that folks have got to want to open my email before they can see the persuasive argument I’m making and want to click and ultimately subscribe, but at the end of the day, I’d rather have 1,000 people open my email and 300 subscribe than 3,000 people open my email and 100 subscribe.

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In the last few years we've seen lots of innovation in the email world. We now have transactional email APIsdynamic ads within email, and completely customized experiences at email open time. And more. But what's next? Where are the big opportunities for email innovation over the next several years? My bet is on the Inbox. After all, the Inbox is the source of truth for our online life. What we buy, who we really know, who we communicate most often with - it's all there. It's no surprise then that when the Inbox is opened up for access via APIs and applications, you can make a whole range of new use cases come alive for your customers. However, given limited space (and attention spans), I'll be covering just three today.

1. Smarter Shares

'Click to Tweet' isn't cutting it

In a recent study on social sharing within marketing emails, Silverpop saw that 35% of the emails studied generated zero sharing clicks and 49% had social CTR less than 0.1%. Instead of sharing that great eCommerce offer with 1000 of your closest friends on Twitter, why not click a 'Share with my close friends' link that would grab 5 or 10 relevant contacts from your Inbox based on relevant keywords in the offer? Here's a sample app we wrote (tagline for the app: 'pass the word to your friends who might actually care') to show you how smarter sharing via email could work in practice.

2. Smarter Invites

Small is beautiful

One startup I talked to this week used to do what every other company does as part of their invite flow - ask for users to import their huge honkin' address book. Then the startup tested what would happen if users were simply asked to manually input a few email addresses of people to invite instead. The result? A higher conversion rate on signups - high enough to to compel them to kill off the address book workflow. Using Inbox data to power an invite workflow could be equally effective - by suggesting the best few individuals for a user to invite to the service.

3. 'Have It Your Way'

Customers should be able to consume your email marketing content on whatever platform or app they choose, not just from their email client. Remember, you're a publisher whether you like it or not! So give them the ability to automatically ship to other apps or share your content from the Inbox (via services like Zapier and IFTTT). However, don't just hope that they'll use one of these services on their own. Bring the functionality to them directly to help them engage more deeply and frequently with your content. And get out of the Inbox!

With great power comes great responsibility

Although we can build exciting applications off of Inbox data, we need to be transparent about what we are doing with that data. We need to be clear with customers about how access to that data benefits them. And most importantly, we need to ensure that we are using this data to create great customer experiences - experiences that couldn't be built without Inbox data.

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