Email Marketing Inspiration for 2015

Email Marketing Inspiration for 2015

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

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.

      In addition, the ability to reach new and existing subscriber audiences via banner ads served in publisher/content email, re-targeting (via email lists, social media and web sites) and other emerging techniques has frequency and optimization benefits for savvy marketers.

      Ask yourself: What are you doing to make it easy (if not effortless and desirable) for current customers who haven’t already done so to give you email addresses? Where, and how – other than your own email programs – are you then repeatedly making positive impressions upon them? Don’t under-estimate the power of multi-channel frequency.

2. Amplify Subscriber Data and Intelligence

      Getting a new email subscriber is great, but too many marketers take the “I don’t want to bother you” stance in both their online and offline sign-up efforts by asking ONLY for an email address without related data. Expanding opt-in/join forms to include only a few additional fields like first name, last name and ZIP code opens up endless possibilities for matching subscribers to marketing databases rich in consumer data and behavioral intelligence.

      With name and geographic data, email subscriber records can be overlaid with demographic data (such as age and income) household data (such as cultural and spending data) and psychographic or behavioral profiles and models (which predict spending, life stage, lifestyle and product propensities). As a career-long database marketing professional, I can tell you it’s crazy not to build your email opt-in strategy with insightful data gathering in mind right from the start, because trying to go after that rich information later with only an email address will surely be in exercise in frustration. Smart marketers “get” this and are adjusting data gathering practices accordingly for 2015.

3. Expand Marketing Automation and Behaviorally-Triggered Email

      No surprises here – everyone who isn’t already tracking online site visit, browsing and buying behavior and connecting it to email subscribers for targeted, 1:1 dialog programs is heading that way in 2015.

      Thanks to ever-expanding marketing automation capabilities both on multi-channel campaign platforms and traditional ESPs alike, we’re likely to see greater and greater volumes of email sent based on individual interaction points with customers and prospects. More brands will monitor response behavior and increasingly customize offers, promotions and even content to increasingly refined list segments. The era of “one size fits all” is rapidly crashing to a close.

      With this approach comes the need to track, monitor and store behavior, then respond in relevant ways, all of which has implications for overall email message frequency. Savvy marketers are using rules-based technology, prioritization and frequency controls to make sure these highly individualized, targeted messages take precedence over generalized broadcast programs.

4. Modernize, Mobilize and Streamline Creative Templates

I love hearing case studies like the one presented by that illustrate how less can be more in email design. Not only are brands optimizing email templates for mobile viewing and accessibility through the use of mobile-friendly (if not fully responsive) design, they are also creating streamlined, simplified email templates which support “at a glance” osmosis of message content and offers.

This is evident in designs boasting shorter copy, larger font sizes, cleaner layouts, and fewer yet more prominently placed images.

Hand-in-hand with this approach, I believe, is that marketers are realizing they don’t have to “fire all of their guns at once” with longer, more complicated messages, but instead can drip useful information out over a series of multiple messages, or divide a welcome/onboarding campaign (for example) into multiple, easily-digestible steps.

5. Test - A Lot More

      Finally, 2015 will be the year for greater experimentation into email response optimization via testing. Those who haven’t ventured into this arena are finally started, so if that’s you, don’t be shy about creating at least some simple A/B split tests. Others who are more experienced are looking at multivariate testing, and expanding focus beyond testing in email to landing page optimization as well. There’s no excuse anymore not to learn what resonates best with subscribers, and makes your efforts worthwhile and justifiable as well.

As they plan for the coming year, leading brands (both email-centric and not) are realizing the incredible untapped power of the channel and laying the groundwork for going from “good” to “great”. So if you haven’t invested much time and energy in planning for 2015, here’s hoping this inspires you to re-charge and re-focus in January. And if you need a little help, let me know.