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Ready, Steady…Email into 2011

December 17, 2010

Whether you are ready for it or not, 2011 is nearly here and it’s the traditional time of year to offer perspective and prophecies on what you need to do, in order to make the next 12 months a success. As choice and clutter increase, one thing you definitely need to do is keep things simple and build trust, as people are less willing to tolerate friction in their communication activities.

Here are a few emailing tactics to consider as we get ready to start a new year:

Prepare for change

Some things only change a little, like deliverability, rendering and spam issues. But the marketing world and email's role in it have begun to shift over the last 12 months and the repercussions from those changes will be felt as trends for the next 12.
Email marketers who recognise and act on the changes that have taken place in the ways their customers choose to communicate with them and with each other,will be in the best position to adapt their email programs and stay relevant.

Social and mobile become important sources of opt-ins for email programs. As email's role changes, savvy marketers will see that social and mobile attract a new group of engaged customers and will seek to add these followers, friends and influencers in those channels to the email channel where conversion and nurturing of relationships may be more likely to occur.

Smartphones are expected to outsell PCs for the first time in 2011. Mobile is a platform, not a channel. Check-ins via Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla, combined with local-offer services like Groupon, are the "new coupons."
"Local" is the next big thing.

It is likely that consumers will become more channel-choosy. As more digital communication channels and platforms spring up alongside email, consumers will increasingly prefer different channels for different types of messages. SMS may be best for flight delay notifications, email for upgrade and mileage status and a Facebook feed for airline promotions. 

Make your mind up on social media

For all the talk of social media, there will always be a role for basic email marketing campaigns and so you could simply choose to ignore this trend. You may even get away with this, as promotions and newsletters sent to an opt-in audience will continue to deliver a return, with growth through an increase in better targeting, increased frequency and list size.

Or, you can choose to go out there and fully embrace all the new technological solutions for the digital age – multichannel, integrated, triggered messages, data-driven…etc

Many marketers are moving beyond just including links to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, in email messages. Some further ideas for integration might be; using a blog to highlight content from an e-newsletter once or twice a month and inviting readers to download the full content via a landing page; carrying out a poll on Twitter and displaying the results in an e-newsletter; leveraging social media profiles to offer email recipients a choice of subscriber options (eg:. a combination of a monthly newsletter, a Twitter feed with promotions and an RSS feed with daily news instead of receiving a generic bi-weekly e-newsletter)

Get engaged

Building an email subscriber is one thing; building an active email subscriber base is another. Virtually every email marketing list contains a group of inactive subscribers, those who aren’t opening emails, but haven’t yet unsubscribed.

To re-engage you could try offering a complimentary white paper or free trial of a product and use a sense of urgency to tell them that their subscription will end soon. You could also try sending a series of opt-in messages to remind them of the value of your emails.

Retention and engagement should be a huge focus. Most email marketers now cite list churn as their single biggest challenge and will increasingly focus on re-engaging the one-third to one-half of their database that has likely gone inactive. However, with most reactivation programs only having very modest success, marketers will turn to focusing on minimizing list churn and inactivity in the early stages of the email relationship. Welcome, "early-warning" tracks and triggered messaging programs become key initiatives and the focus is on increasing open rates by personalising subject lines and including clear information in the “from” line, indicating who is sending the email.

Be dynamic

Email marketing is increasingly becomes a "dynamic content platform." With many websites incorporating product review, recommendation and personalisation technologies, email marketers will increasingly incorporate this content into their email messages. Using APIs, email content is dynamically pulled from these various technologies and content platforms, delivering more personalised and relevant messages to each recipient.

Keep it simple

Review your email sign up processes, forms, layouts, unsubscribe mechanisms for improved usability. Replace technical jargon in sign up forms with more friendly expressions; don’t subject people to choice overload and limit the information you need to collect, or find another way to obtain this without alienating the subscriber.

Use a human voice and avoid mediocrity and the safe corporate style of writing that is often seen in B2B newsletters. Remember that email was invented for communication between individuals!

Spread the word

Make it easy for people to recommend your email promotions and content. Viral marketing isn’t a new concept, but with sites like Twitter, Digg, Flickr and Facebook, email messages have the potential to be shared like never before.

Create bespoke forward links to specific campaigns, so instead of the usual “forward to a friend” link, customise the link for the individual campaign, content and audience. For instance, if an email message provides tips to help small business owners build credit, create a forward link with the text: “Forward these tips for building credit to a colleague.”

In order for a message to spread to a maximum number of prospective customers, make content free and accessible to anyone and make all login processes as easy as possible.

Optimise landing pages

Email marketers can easily perfect landing pages to create a relevant experience and maximize conversions, thanks to marketing automation technology. Marketers can spend more time interpreting numbers and focusing on the creative, now that email solutions are automating what used to be a manual process.

Many email marketing tools now offer built-in A/B page-testing capabilities, enabling marketers to test multiple page variations and measure the performance of each.

Email's role in the marketing mix will become clearer in 2011, with many companies choosing to focus their email efforts on a few roles and message types. This new clarity will allow some marketers to better communicate email's benefits to management, to measure and evaluate success, and to focus content creation on more meaningful messages.

There’s no better time than the New Year to set resolutions and make improvements. As we head into 2011, take some time to assess your email marketing tactics.

If you need any more information, please call 0161 817 2929 or email [email protected]

Posted by Jenni Malley
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