As the new year approaches, we are starting to make plans. Next to stargazing and broad predictions about the future of email marketing. It is interesting to see what marketers find are focus points for their email program for next year.
What will email marketers focus on next year?
We can’t do everything and especially not everything at the same time. So one of the major questions is: what will we be focusing our email marketing efforts on? Econsultancy ask just this question in their yearly email marketing census study (which, by the way, reports that email is still one of the most effective marketing channels). Which three areas do we think are the most important for the coming year? Below are the answers marketers gave.
Looking at the top 6, here are a few tips for the coming year:
1. Strategy and campaign planning
Starting off with the big one. Strategy (or a lack thereof) has always been a top priority on the road to effective email marketing and high engagement metrics. Write it down. Write all the ideas down, create a strategy document, but before putting it into action imagine the next scenario where you are presenting the outcomes of your email strategy.
A normal marketing plan will not just say: let’s keep doing exactly what we were doing and try to get the results we got the year before. Unless the market is really down, we want to elevate the results and possibly improve email marketing ROI. Some plans however look more like an endless wish list where you will find everything that you might want to do possibly, maybe, someday. That is not really a plan. We have to make some choices because you can’t do everything at the same time. If it is not now, move it to your email marketing bucket list.
What will make your management and CEO dance on the table at the end of the year? In your email marketing strategy describe that outcome very specific and the way to achieve that. The magic is in catching your outcome and translating it into the right email marketing KPIs. It also is a good litmus test to see if you are chasing ghosts. Is someone really going to be doing the jive in the boardroom because of X% more opens alone? (Hint: I hope not)
2. Automated campaigns and marketing automation
Yes, let’s focus on automated campaigns. They are hot, the adoption of Marketing automation is up and for good reason, if you automate the right type of campaigns they can garner quite the results even with lower volumes. In fact, a study by The Lenskold Group reported that 78% of successful marketers say marketing automation is responsible for improving revenue contribution. Wow!
Picking the right campaigns to work on is maybe the most important step. You’re looking for high impact, lower time investment and an increase in activity of your subscribers, plus enough volume in terms of recipients.
There are many types of automated or drip campaigns with their own do’s and don’ts. Thought a birthday campaign was out of fashion or corny? Not as long as it works! It adds a timely contact to all the subscribers in your list, that is good reach for a triggered campaign. And to come up with an original / inspiring message, creativity is the only challenge. Want to get more out of them? Those triggered messages often work better as a series.
By splitting up your database into groups with similar characteristics, you can send more targeted messages. If at all possible, a nice combo with automation can be made by for instance loading in the articles from your site per interest / preference group.
My tip: It is a good idea to stop treating your subscribers as a homogenous lump, but also keep the added value of the email newsletter segmentation up. Segmentation isn’t something you do because you can, or because it is the right thing to do. We all say we want more relevant messages, but when it comes to execution, segmentation isn’t always the answer. Does something like a different intro text per segment going to make a message that much more relevant?
If there isn’t any added value to that specific segmentation, don’t segment. It might seem like you are breaking the rules, but a segmented message isn’t better per definition. Value comes first. An alternative might be to not go so specific inside the email, but instead write a message that is appealing to multiple groups.
A good tip is to segment your results. Send out the same email, but look at which groups respond best and to which themes and parts of your messaging. You can break free from the tyranny of email marketing averages and learn what enthuses each segment.
The Econsultancy email census reported that respectively 24%, 22% and 20% of marketers say they put the following in their top 3 focus points for the year as well:
- Measurement and analytics,
- List / data quality
- and delivering relevant communications.
Think of these as the lifeline of your email program: they are needed to succeed.
4. Insights from measurement and analytics
24% say you can’t analyze or improve on what you don’t measure. Analytics goes beyond the click in the email of course. Inside your email marketing software there is a lot of statistics at your fingertips and as soon as the emails are out the door, real-time stats start updating, telling you how many and which people opened, clicked, bounced and so on.
My tip is to not only start monitoring the statistics but start reporting regularly. Make a report each time you send an email, or at a regular time interval if you send very often. Yes, go beyond that dashboard and with each email you send, write down:
- what worked,
- what didn’t work or could be changed,
- what questions remain unanswered.
I used to work at an agency before becoming a consultant and we used to do this all the time. With each email there would be a short report. So even if you have one of the best email agencies working for you (yes there are specialized email marketing agencies), be sure to let them add value there. There is a danger to this reporting though: Soon you will be wanting to answer those questions and actually start paying attention to the metrics that matter!
What else it does is set inherent reminders of things that need to be fixed. Because those issues will come back again and again and again in the reporting. Added extra is that it is definitely inspiring to find A/B email split testing ideas and will allow you to share your results with interpretation.
5. List / Data Quality
22% say growing your email list into a bigger, more active audience is a sound tactic to improve your email marketing outcomes. It is almost the same effort to use professional email I wrote about picking the right touchpoints for email list growth before and there is even a template for that. The source is a big predictor for the quality of the list.
Will list growth be recognized as a win? Not if your goals are only set in percentages. Open, click and conversion percentages are great to compare individual emails and look at activity trends. But at the end of the year, we want to see the results in absolutes. You see, a 15% growth of your file at the same quality will boost your results by 15%! Data quality is sometimes an issue though, are the people on your list really still interested in the preferences they gave 2 years back? At least add an easy win in the footer of your emails, asking them to update their profile.
6. Delivering relevant communication
Delivering relevant messages seems like the holy grail of email marketing. In my personal opinion relevance has been watered down a bit too much as an email marketing term. It has lost much of its meaning because people without experience in the field tend to overuse the term. The truth is, it is impossible to be relevant all the time to everybody. So here is a thought: how do we change that broad term into something more manageable? Try and make emails have value to a part of the recipients by knowing their needs and build it up from there. Either building the value to be greater or addressing more parts of your list. That will end up pushing their content buttons.
We all go into the next year looking to be more and more focused on getting real business value through all of our marketing channels. But as you have seen, it isn’t more than Strategy, Automation, and Segmentation that will determine success. Which of these items is on your radar for the next year? Share with us in the comments below!