As many marketers know, with a new year comes a new marketing to-do list. What tops that list for e-mail marketers? For some, it could be increasing relevance or improving list hygiene. For others, it could be doing more testing, which has been proven to raise open and click-through rates. The savviest e-mail marketers, however, will be taking their game even further and investing in innovative programs designed to ensure success. BtoB consulted a number of industry experts and created the following 2011 to-do list for those companies.
1) Incorporate real-time analytics to create true multichannel integration. There's been some level of integration between marketing programs, with marketers beginning to take advantage of an e-mail recipient's past sales history or website activity. But marketers that to want to enable even better messaging and offers as well as customer satisfaction and longevity will need to do a little more work, said Ryan Deutsch, VP of StrongMail, a provider of e-mail marketing and social media solutions. “Marketers should be mapping out different touch points and automating e-mail programs based on those touch points rather than looking at life cycle-based automated programs,” he said.
That requires marrying social information, e-mail metrics, CRM data and Web analytics, something that Jason Amann, senior e-mail marketing manager for ApartmentGuide.com, is doing. He and his team pull data from the company's e-mail, Web analytics, social media and CRM programs, and make it available to salespeople via a sales enablement portal. “We can see how many leads a property has,” he said. “This has opened up the way we speak to our customers and changed the e-mails we're sending out.”
2) Create or update your social and mobile strategies. Volvo Construction Equipment North America last fall brought its customers in to tour its facilities and, while they were there, started asking questions. “We were surprised at how many of our customers and influencers had smartphones,” said John Johnston, the company's manager of e-business marketing. “We immediately took steps to put mobile into our budget for 2011.” The company has already implemented a social strategy, enabling recipients to forward to a friend; promoting e-mails and e-mail signups in its social activities; and including social links in every e-mail it sends.
This year, we should see more integration between social and e-mail, and more focus on enabling tight integration between e-mail and mobile Web content, said Jim Wehmann, senior VP-global marketing for Digital River, a provider of global e-commerce solutions, which recently introduced a product that lets users track impressions, clicks and conversions that come in via social media. “It will become important to get people to join your e-mail list through social media,” he said.
Bill McCloskey, founder of OnlyInfluencers.com, a private, invitation-only network for digital marketers, agreed. “You can argue whether or not mobile and social are effective channels, but you can't argue that it's on everyone's mind, and something that every company needs to have a strategy for by the end of this year,” he said.
3) Use the telephone in conjunction with e-mail marketing. Breaking through the clutter of the inbox can be difficult, but some companies are using the telephone to make sure prospects and customers are aware of e-mails. Some are using automated services such as Boxpilot and Vontoo, which leave voice messages to boost rates. Other companies are having their own internal or external sales teams follow up to make sure e-mails were received. Marketers can also use e-mail analytics to prompt follow-up phone calls, said Joel Book, principal of the marketing research and education group at ExactTarget, a provider of social media and e-mail marketing software and services. “Every time a person downloads or engages with the company, an e-mail alert is being submitted to the rep in the field so they are alerted to what's going on with the customer or prospect and can better manage the deal.”
4) Enable dynamic content generation. Volvo Construction Equipment North America sends out multiple e-mails to its dealers and construction customers and, with 14 different vehicle categories, it's important to give customers personalized messages. The company, with help from its ESP, ExactTarget, has integrated its CRM system and website with its e-mail creation and delivery system so customers not only get personalized but also up-to-the-minute content in their messaging. “We insert content based on user behavior and, because of that, we've seen open rates increase 15% to 20% since starting this 18 months ago,” Johnston said. So for example, if someone has purchased a paver in the past, they might get content and vehicle listings that relate to paving. “They're never going to get information about compactors because that's not going to be relevant to them,” he said.
5) Review your security features to protect your customer data. Last year e-mail service providers including AWeber Communications ReturnPath and Silverpop reported serious instances of cyber attack, and those were only the ones that were made public, McCloskey said. “There's been a protracted attack against most ESPs over the last year,” he said. “Almost weekly we heard about another attack.” Marketers that run their own e-mail servers were hacked, too. The ESPs remediated the problems, and put more stringent security measures in place, but it's worth reaching out and asking your provider what it is doing to keep your data secure.
In addition, every e-mail marketer should take special care with employees' access to their ESP or on-site servers. “When you look at what happens, a lot of times you find lax security systems or instances where too many people have access to data or passwords,” McCloskey said. “When there are numerous stories about disgruntled employees, it's going to be important to talk to your privacy and data protection people to make sure everything is as it should be.”