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Update e-mail marketing with media-rich content

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Online buying behavior is changing at a pace that's leaving some e-marketers reeling. According to our recent study, fewer than one out of three U.S. recipients open marketing e-mails. About a third use smartphones to access the Internet for e-mail, messaging or information, and video is the fastest-growing trend in Internet history.

What would you rather do when you're tired, bored or on the go? Read a page of tiny text or listen and watch as a friendly human tells you how you can save time and money, and improve your life with product XYZ?

Sites such as Facebook and YouTube are powering this media revolt, and everyone's sharing the social media buzz. So, is e-mail marketing becoming passé?

The exact opposite. E-mail is still the preferred channel for communication. According to Marketing Sherpa's “2010 Email Marketing Benchmark Report,”" a poll of 1,493 marketers conducted online and via follow-up phone calls last summer, 78% said they preferred e-mail, with social media coming in a distant second at 22%. And now, thanks to advances in rich-media technology and social media integration, marketers can create e-mails that act like mini-portals, with videos, music clips, links to related articles, websites and social media pages—and even icons that activate text-to-speech.

Depending on your e-mail service provider, multimedia e-mail marketing of this sort can be easy to learn and use, and be supereffective and affordable as well.

First and foremost, consider integrating every multimedia e-mail with social media sites, including a social-sharing option. If it's interesting and relevant, your message will ripple across the Internet in seconds. Here are some approaches to get you started:

• Branding. Use audio-video to present a personalized brand image that inspires trust and communicates value. Make it short and friendly. Include a call to action, and encourage listeners to check out promotions, contests, events, etc.

• Product demos. Use video to answer the age-old question “What's in it for me?” Hearing about and seeing a product being used by a real person should answer that question.

• Training and education. Overcome doubt with self-paced training and informational videos. Video can boost comprehension and retention; and when you boost confidence, you increase sales.

• Mobile access. Make e-mails more accessible and engaging by using short, high-impact videos. Design and test them for cell phone screens, then include your call to action so it's an easy click or text message to convert. And keep information that recipients may need for future reference in text-file format for easy retrieval.

• E-mail to speech. If consumers are constantly multitasking and on their mobiles, make checking e-mails more enjoyable, efficient and safer with e-mail-to-speech. This new industry option converts text into a natural-sounding human voice, so recipients can listen to e-mails hands-free, no matter where they are or what they're doing.

Multimedia e-mail marketing is here, and recipients tend to love it. Take a page from your audience and start experimenting.

Simon Grabowski is CEO of digital marketing company Implix (www.implix.com), whose flagship product is e-mail marketing platform GetResponse. He can be reached at simon.grabowski@implix.com.

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