Lauren Skena of the National Geographic Society on Creating Trust With Your E-mail Programs
eM+C recently spoke with Lauren Skena, manager of strategy and e-marketing for the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. about how to build trust with your customers when it comes to e-mail marketing.
eM+C: Do you believe consumers today generally trust the e-mails that reach their inboxes every day?
LS: Generally speaking, yes, I do believe that most consumers trust the e-mails that are coming into their inboxes on a daily basis. Together [Internet service providers] and brand marketers are taking steps to maximize consumers' trust in e-mail and their brands. And, consumers have become quite savvy in choosing what they do and do not want to receive from their favorite brands. They are more discerning about their choices and much more quick to act on something that they do not find useful or interesting -- as can be seen in the increase in usage of the "report spam" button for opt-in e-mails.
eM+C: What are some things most e-marketers are doing right when it comes to creating trust with e-mail marketing?
LS: For the most part, e-marketers are taking simple, yet crucial, steps to ensure their consumers' privacy and to build trust in their brands. While sharing or renting consumer lists is fairly common when it comes to direct mail, I'm not aware of any companies that actually share or rent their e-mail lists. The fact that these lists remain proprietary to a company helps consumers know that they will only be receiving what they sign up for, and nothing more, from that company.
E-marketers also continue to do a good job remaining visually consistent with their brands. In keeping with CAN-SPAM compliance, they are clearly identifying their companies in the "from" [line] and ensure accurate subject lines. They are also prominently displaying their logos within the creative, and are using a mix of system text and images in order to get their message across to all users, whether they are checking e-mail via a desktop browser or mobile device.
In addition, accreditation/reputation solutions and deliverability monitoring tools are being utilized by e-marketers to ensure that their e-mail campaigns are rendering well in most ISPs and are being delivered in a timely fashion to their consumers.
And, finally, many e-marketers are successfully authenticating their e-mail programs and are getting involved with organizations like the Authentication & Online Trust Alliance for guidance in the always-changing e-mail and online security landscape.
eM+C: What are some key things they are doing wrong?
LS: While some e-marketers have begun to segment their lists and target their consumers based on past-purchase and clickthrough behaviors, far too many are still not devoting enough energy or resources to ensure that their e-mails come across as relevant to the consumer.
E-marketers also seem to be having a decidedly difficult time in determining how much e-mail is too much. In today's world, an e-mail campaign can be pulled together quickly, sent out affordably and reported on within a few day's time -- hence the reason more marketers are using it. However, if e-marketers cannot find a way to find the optimal frequency for their lists, response and even deliverability are sure to diminish.
eM+C: Could you offer some general best practices around building trust in e-mail?
LS: Education and involvement is the first step to ensuring that your brand will be trusted by consumers when your e-mail campaign hits their inboxes. It is of the utmost importance for marketers to evolve and keep up with the latest online trends, ISP requirements and the needs of their consumers. The spammers of the world are evolving quickly and so must e-marketers in order to stay ahead of the curve and ensure [that] timely and relevant campaigns reach their consumers when they want them to. It is surely a challenge, but one that may be achieved -- your consumers will trust and thank you for it!
Skena will be participating in a session called "Building Trust in E-mail & Your Site" at the AOTA Summit in Seattle, June 4-5. She'll offer her views on the subject along with Jordan Cohen, senior director of corporate communications and industry relations for Epsilon; Fran Maier, executive director and president of TRUSTe; and Alton Philips, director of e-mail for iVillage, an NBC Universal company. To register for the conference, visit www.aotalliance.org/summit2008.