Technical difficulties don't erase video's viability

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Question: How do I incorporate video into e-mail? Answer: Incorporating video into e-mail offers a unique opportunity for marketers to connect more strongly with their audience. But using video in an e-mail campaign has to be done correctly. The wrong kind of video will frustrate recipients, whereas the right one will create a powerful brand experience. First and foremost, it's important for marketers to be realistic. Most e-mail clients, including Outlook 2007 and the majority of Web-based providers, disable the scripting mechanisms that enable video to be played. This means few recipients will be able to view a video directly from an e-mail. Several companies are introducing new programs and technologies that will ensure not only your e-mails are delivered and rendered properly but that the video will actually play within them as well. As more ISPs get onboard with supporting video in e-mail, the more opportunities marketers will have to explore this new channel to influence their customers. Until then, marketers should use a click-to-view link—whether in the form of a graphic simulating a video player or a prominent call-out—in the e-mail that directs the viewer to an external landing page that plays the video. The best video content also includes tangible calls to action, such as “learn more” or “get 10% off now.” And since video is viral in nature, smart marketers are also adding a “forward to a friend” button in their e-mail campaigns, because it's always more impactful to receive a video from a friend rather than a company. Always remember: If viewers cannot decide whether or not to view the video, pause it or control the volume, they'll likely be annoyed or frustrated. Also, if the content is not relevant and engaging, a marketer risks doing more harm than good to its brand. Before jumping too fast, marketers must make sure it makes business sense to test the waters with video and understand the potential risks. Julian Scott is executive creative director at e-mail marketing provider Responsys ( Originally published June 25, 2009 iQuestion: Is e-mail marketing becoming less important with the rise of Web 2.0 communications? Answer: Absolutely, positively not. Now, please keep in mind that I am an e-mail marketer and not a purveyor of social networks, but I feel it is safe to say that as people flock to social networks—blogs, wikis and other Web-based communities—they rely heavily on the e-mail channel to keep them connected to other like-minded members. In fact, as businesspeople and consumers interact with greater frequency via multifaceted Web 2.0 channels, they're going to expect all their other legacy communications to follow suit. E-mail plays an increasingly important role in making Web 2.0 successful. Because customers aren't always logged into their online communities, they rely on e-mail to keep them informed of relevant updates, such as new content and messages from other members. This e-mail notification process not only keeps users engaged in their communities, it's also helping to drive the site visits and page views that make the Web 2.0 business model so successful. Companies that leverage Web 2.0 technology understand that the supporting e-mail communications are an opportunity to further engage their members. User-generated content is an excellent example. As members of communities create content within a social network, why not insert that highly relevant content into e-mail campaigns or alerts? Companies need to focus on proving this type of superior relevancy—i.e., e-mails that people can't live without. No matter where you are in taking advantage of Web 2.0 tools, keep in mind that to be successful you'll need to customize, deliver, track and optimize both your marketing and transactional e-mail. You'll need tight integration with backend systems to enable continuous, member-generated e-mail communications; powerful personalization capabilities to keep users engaged; and the pricing model and scalability to accommodate rapid user growth. Ryan Deutsch is director of strategic services at StrongMail Systems (, a provider of e-mail marketing solutions. Originally published Jan. 13, 2009
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