Thirty years ago, trend spotters predicted that MTV’s arrival would kill live music. In Video Killed the Radio Star, the first music video to air on the channel, British New Wave group The Buggles echoed this idea.
Pictures came and broke your heart,
Put the blame on VCR
Yet now, MTV has shifted primarily to a menu of mindless reality programming while live music rocks on.
Similarly, while today’s trend spotters are rightly celebrating social media as important tools for professional communicators, we might want to take a reality check.
Why? The most skilled professionals are still using a smart mix of communication and marketing channels to deliver content to their audiences.
Statistics prove the merits of the integrated communications approach. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that among online adults, 92% use email, with 61% using it on an average day.
Takeaway: Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective means to share your company’s valuable content with customers.
To understand the latest trends in email marketing, I spoke to Jonathan Gesinger, Austin, Texas-based business development manager for Emma, which provides email marketing and communications solutions.
CC: While social media is still capturing most of the buzz, isn’t the trend for communicators and marketers a return to a more balanced mix? Has the growth of social media lessened the relevance of email marketing in particular?
JG: Actually it’s done the opposite. It’s helped to define what email does best, and when teamed with what the other channels do well, it can make email even more effective.
CC: So each platform has its best use?
JG: Yes. Twitter is great for a quick, short content that can be a conversation starter. Facebook is a fantastic way to have a transparent brand interaction and carry on a conversation with other brand fans. When email is done right – that means permission based — brands can have a one-on-one, private conversation with their audience that includes deeper and more meaningful content delivered directly to them in an inbox.
CC: But it’s hard to “follow” an email newsletter the way I can follow a blog I read, for example.
JG: A “like” or a “follow” is a fairly light commitment as far as interaction, but when someone raises their hand and gives a brand permission to email them — that’s huge value.
CC: So what are some creative approaches for delivering content via email?
JG: When we look back at how companies were using email five years ago compared to how they are using it now, you can see it’s gotten more targeted and more integrated at the same time.
People are using different channels to introduce similar content to their audiences in different spots, and getting more traction from it.
CC: Any examples?
JG: Here’s a perfect example. You’ll see companies roll out an offer in Groupon, and then support it with a schedule of Tweets, and a Facebook post about the Groupon offer that is sitting in their inbox.
People are busy. They may not check in to every channel every day. So the opportunity to cross promote in every channel, to catch customers where they happen to be that day, and to deliver them to the offer, is super effective.
CC: Other ideas?
JG: Automated email campaigns are also highly successful. If you create a follow-up email that is delivered automatically, and in a timely manner, to someone who clicks on a link for a specific offer or product, you’re giving them additional content that you know fits their interests or current needs.
You can also set up a series that is delivered in shorter, more digestible emails every few days or weeks, rather than overwhelm them with one giant email.
CC: Those are helpful examples focused on meeting customer needs.
JG: Yes. Those two practices can make a customer feel like you’re giving great service at the same time as great content.
CC: But one of the challenges is customizing for customers with different needs.
JG: It’s the same with segmented sending. Moving away from “blasting” the same offer to your entire audience and sending an offer based on a previous purchase, or indicated preference, will be much more effective.
CC: You see a lot of content shared through email. Can you provide some creative examples?
CC: Great segmentation examples. Are there ways to fine-tune the list?
JG: I read a case study last week about a brand that set up their welcome emails in a series. If you signed up for their newsletter and were a customer already, you got a nice welcome note and an offer. Well done.
But, if you signed up and had never made a purchase with them, you got a series of three emails over three weeks introducing you to different sections of their site, along with offers included. It had a 48% conversion rate by the 3rd email. Amazing.
CC: It does seem like a healthy conversion rate.
JG: I think the key there is the content. If I send you an offer and include information along with it that makes your user experience with my brand an event, you’re probably more likely to engage than if I just send you an email that says “Hi, here’s 20% off….” I’d say the results supported that.
You can read more of Jonathan’s insights on Thursday, when Creative Considerations will run Part Two of our conversation.
In the meantime, if you’d like to continue the conversation with Jonathan, leave a question in the comments section below, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @j_gesinger.