Email Spotlight: 13 Lucky Email Marketing Takeaways

Email is a workhorse in direct marketing and looks to remain so, even to the younger generation of consumers now lauding social media, says Laurence Rothman, senior consultant of brand/reputation at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Insurance. But with the advent of integrated marketing, he says it’s more important than ever for businesses to know their audiences before deploying email campaigns, and to know the strengths and weaknesses of each channel before integrating to communicate effectively with those audiences.

Likening email to the car that carries transactional messages to consumers where the fun skateboard of social media fears to travel, Rothman says, “I don’t know too many people who are taking a skateboard to work.”

For instance, insurance emails sure aren’t “sexy,” but they’re necessary. Still, Rothman’s company did find a way to make that experience social—by sending an email requesting ratings from customers who’d just finished a transaction, then using those responses to help future customers in a variety of ways, including providing the ratings to the customer service department.

Rothman related these and other points during the pre-conference portion of DMA2011 in “Email Marketing Workshop Part 4: Let’s Get Creative.” He was joined by Corey Duncan, interactive creative director at New York-based digital technology company PulsePoint.

Starting the workshop with a Twainian phrase, “The death of email has been greatly exaggerated,” Rothman advised the audience of marketers to remember that email campaigns can die if consumers opt-out or ignore the messages. “Don’t waste their time,” he says. So the more thought marketers put into email campaigns before they deploy them, the less mess they’ll have to “mop up afterward.”

Here are a few key takeaways from the workshop:

  1. Be interesting. Senders have two to five seconds to grab recipients’ attention;
  2. Respect the inbox. Consumers will receive more than 9,000 marketing messages annually by 2014, or 25 a day;
  3. Know that email recipients aren’t in search mode. Messages need to interest them—they haven’t sought them out through a search engine;
  4. Have a clear call to action. Don’t waste email recipients’ time by making them hunt for the message’s purpose or, worse yet, not having a call to action, Rothman says. Branding messages, to him, mean businesses “just didn’t think it out.” Remember to optimize for mobile, because tablets mean more people will be taking action on mobile, Duncan says.;
  5. Engage customers. Email should bring recipients to an experience, Rothman says. What’s the point of directing consumers to a social media site, asking them to join, then not providing them with an experience other than being able to comment?;
  6. Understand that email videos are now a trend, Duncan says. Animated gifs are on the rise. For instance, Domino’s could’ve improved its already creative “build a pizza” email with gifs of the imagined pies. But carefully consider using embedded video, as that can be “intrusive,” Duncan says. The NFL does it well, he says. “I think when the java script thing takes off, we’re going to see a real boom in video,” he says.;
  7. “Inform creative based on how they’re reading,” Duncan says. If the right rail’s not getting clicks, get rid of it;
  8. Know the audience; don’t just make assumptions, Duncan says. For instance, he discovered buyers of Beltone Hearing Aids weren’t the ones using the devices—their middle-aged children were reading the emails and purchasing them for their parents;
  9. Be a consumer and go through the buying process, Rothman says. There may be some surprises, he says;
  10. Do more than subject line testing—test creative, Rothman says. Duncan says using modular design makes swapping out elements easier and faster. Test “short and sweet” copy that’s scannable and, basically, test everything—including the color, shape and placement of buttons. Use real people rather than stock images. “You’d be surprised” about what turns people off, Duncan says;
  11. Know the value of an email address. In his business, one address can be worth $500,000, Rothman says;
  12. Speak to different customers differently, Rothman says. Segment based on high, medium and low response and alter the creative accordingly, he says; and
  13. Create an “opt-down” choice for subscribers who are considering opting out, Rothman says.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.
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