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Email evolving

RESPONSIVE DESIGN

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While more advanced marketers are beginning to use so-called “responsive design”—creating emails that render according to the size and shape of the user's screen, whether it be a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop—many are just getting started with mobile optimization, Fisher said. Having functioning mobile landing pages and using mobile marketing tools such as QR codes is essential, but businesses— especially smaller business—are struggling with the shift, said Jeff Crouse, VP-general manager of the small-to-midsize business segment at Pitney Bowes' pbSmart Connections, a provider of email software and solutions. “They say, "I just got my regular Web page up. Now you want me to have a mobile page?' ” he said. “But that ability to go to a functioning mobile marketing website has become critical.” Email marketing messages that don't render properly for recipients on the go run the risk of being deleted, Fisher said. “Business professionals are busy, so they're a lot pickier about which emails they're going to open,” she said. In an effort to avoid the “delete” button, b-to-b email marketers are also focusing on creating content that will prove valuable to recipients. They're listening to what recipients say in preference centers, on their websites and also in social channels. “When companies don't get the traction they want to see from email it's because every message they send out is a sales piece, which creates list burnout,” said Raj Khera, CEO at MailerMailer, an email marketing service provider. The company, which works with message management solutions provider Message Systems, recently launched a tool that allows marketers to pull newsletter content from a library of business and technology articles. Marketers should establish a relationship with recipients by sending educational material and building trust, Khera said. That way, when the marketer does occasionally send a promotional piece, the recipient will be more receptive. “But if that's all you send, you'll be ignored,” he said. More marketers are targeting their content based on behavioral triggers, said Jill LeMaire, senior director of the strategic and analytic consulting group at Epsilon Data Management. For example, a recipient who previously clicked on a story about cloud computing would receive more content about that topic, she said. “It's driving higher relevancy than a one-size-fits-all newsletter,” she said. For Aquent and its Vitamin T division, staffing agencies for marketing, design and digital creatives, offering more specific content resulted in more calls to salespeople, said Jeremie Audran, senior director of marketing operations. Previously, Aquent sent out a monthly client e-newsletter, but it didn't encourage interaction with recipients, Audran said. “It was a one-way street,” he said. So working with Silverpop, Aquent last year increased the frequency of its newsletters to every week and created market-specific content for 27 cities. The approach has worked so well the company is now rolling it out for international locations and brands. “Recipients are more responsive now since our content changed,” Audran said. “We thought about how to cater to the audience so they would want to interact with us versus forcing them to read something generic.” Navicure's Dolan said his company follows an overall strategic approach of providing value to prospective clients before the sales cycle starts. The company relies on solutions-focused webinars, dinner events and blog posts, and works with marketing automation provider Marketo Inc. to send out triggered email to support those efforts. “Buyers buy on their time table, not ours; so establishing brand awareness and preference before the sales cycle starts helps to put us in the driver's seat,” he said. The company recently began using video in its emails, Dolan said, with the goal of piquing recipients' interest rather than giving them the hard sell on a solution that's too complex to explain in a one-to-three-minute video. Video is dynamic in a way that a piece of collateral or a white paper can't be, he said: “That's why it's so powerful.”

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