Jessica Lorenz

Designing Slides That Don’t Suck: 20 questions to ask before you present

March 24th, 2015

When I first started at MarketingSherpa, I was hired under the title of “Visual Storyteller.” Although that title is ambiguous, I learned that I was hired to address a pain point that many professionals face: using PowerPoint efficiently.

My title has since changed, but I remain an advocate for fluent visual expression in the same way that editors are keen on using words efficiently.

As part of my position, I’ve consulted with many speakers over the past few years on creating effective presentations.

Time and time again, I find that confusion lies in how to treat PowerPoint. Many think of PowerPoint as a presentation buddy — that content is on the slides and coming out of the speaker’s mouth and bullet points are simply needed to reinforce the speaker’s message.

This is not true. A person can only process about 1.6 conversations at a time. He can choose to either listen to you or read your slides. The other .6 gets split between emails, texts and interior monologue, to name just a few other channels.

The dictators of any presentation include: audience, context, purpose and design.

audience content purpose design

 

About your audience

A speakers’ first priority when beginning to draft their presentation is their audience.

The purpose of speaking is to serve the listeners, not your own ego. Consider whether or not PowerPoint is the right way to get your message across, if it helps to convey your message or if it only dilutes it.

Consider these questions when framing your slides:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Why should they listen to me?
  • How much information do they need?
  • Do I need to establish credibility for myself or my argument?

 

The context

Like knowing your audience, contextualizing your deck is vital to the life of your presentation. Don’t use the exact same deck for an audience of 15,000 that you would for an audience of 12. Personalizing and adapting to your audience breaks down the barrier between the stage and the seats.

Consider, for example, a presentation on health and nutrition. The same speaker would present information differently to a group of medical students than a group of kindergartners. The content would be similar and the principles the same, but the language and structure would vary greatly.

Many speakers also struggle with the amount of text to put on the slides.

For live events, much of my time is spent slashing text from slides, adding beautiful imagery and eliminating animations. However, on academic presentations, training and webinars, text is important to reinforce the message since the speaker is teaching from the slides rather than presenting a story.

After establishing the audience, ask yourself these questions about the context:

  • How large is the audience?
  • Am I asking for a high-pressure item, such as funding?
  • Is this strictly informative?
  • Is this a live presentation, a recording, a webinar or slides-only (like SlideShare)?

 

Your overall goal and purpose

The content of your slides should be determined by the goal of your presentation. They usually fall into educational, persuasive, storytelling or paradigm-shifting.

With any of these types of presentations, ask yourself these questions when deciding the framework of your presentations — from structure to individual slides:

  • How do you want the audience’s behavior to change after the presentation?
  • What is the big ah-ha?
  • Why should the audience be passionate about your topic?
  • How can you best convey the urgency of your message?

 

Strategizing design

I am a snob when it comes to PowerPoint design. However, design is secondary to messaging. There have been pretty decks that should have never been presented because the content wasn’t there.

Having great content and messaging is more important than how it looks. That being said, good design lends credibility and quality to your presentation or speech that would otherwise seem lackluster and amateurish.

Like in biology, design speaks to the form and function of a presentation.

To help you draft the images on your deck, close your eyes and recite the content. What do you see? If you see clip art, stock photos or endless bullet points — try again. Look for more sophisticated inspiration on Pinterest, Flickr or SlideShare.

Here are some guidelines to help you determine if your slide design is helpful or detrimental:

  • Do the visuals convey your message?
  • Are you just trying to fill blank space with your images?
  • Could the images or text stand alone and still make sense?
  • Do you need the text, or could you speak to what you’re saying?
  • Experiment with blank slides and whitespace to catch your audience’s attention.

 

Building out effective presentations takes practice, not talent. It’s a learned skill that develops over time. Creating something new and finding powerful images that reflect your speech helps to build rapport with your audience and adds a polish to your message.

I encourage you to practice — learn what works, throw out what doesn’t and create really ugly design mistakes in search of something beautiful and unique.

designing slides that dont suck

 

Also, tell me your presentation secrets in the comments section below, and share what works for you.

 

You can follow Jessica Lorenz, Event Content Manager, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter at @JessicaPLorenz.

 

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Marketing Automation: Precor achieves 74% lift in new leads via segmented database overhaul [MarketingSherpa case study]

Email Summit 2015: Top Takeaways from this year’s best sessions [MarketingSherpa webinar replay]

Social Media: Understanding Pinterest consumers [More from the blogs]

Email Design: How to optimize for all environments in a mobile world [MarketingSherpa video archive]

Blogger Intervention: 3 reasons why no one is engaging with your content  [More from the blogs]

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Categories: Copywriting Tags: , , , , ,

David Kirkpatrick

Mobile Email: Tips on getting started

March 20th, 2015

For email marketers, tackling mobile email is a relatively new challenge, but a challenge that needs to be addressed. According to research from Litmus, the email testing and analytics vendor, 49% of people access email via a smartphone — a figure that’s risen fivefold since 2011 and continues to trend upward.

To provide some insight for you, the MarketingSherpa Blog reader, I reached out to five email marketers who addressed the mobile email challenge with two basic questions on the topic.

Read on to find out what this expert panel had to say about mobile email:

 

MarketingSherpa Blog: What one tactic has the most impact on mobile email campaigns?

Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus

Ah, the million dollar question! As with most things with email, it’s hard to make a generalization since it can vary greatly based on your industry and audience. If I had to pick just one tactic, I’d go broad and say responsive design has the most impact on mobile email. MailChimp sends billions of emails every year, and they’ve seen a 15% increase in unique clicks for mobile users when responsive design is used. Even without huge gains in performance, sending responsive campaigns sends the message that you care about providing the best possible user experience for your subscribers.

 

 Brian Graves, UI Team Lead, DEG

Simplifying the experience. In addition to helping deal with the smaller amount of screen real estate available on mobile devices, statistics show that customers typically spend less than 15 seconds reading marketing emails, with iOS users spending the least amount at around 3 seconds or less. Look at repositioning your email layout to lead with your most important messaging. The most effective emails are typically concise and have a clear focus. This is not only a good tactic for mobile but is one way in which a mobile-first approach can help improve your campaigns across every platform.

 

Ted Goas, Designer and Developer, Canfield Scientific

Work as a unified team from day one. Having product managers, marketers, designers and developers working together from planning through to execution helps ensure a campaign’s quality doesn’t degrade as it gets ‘thrown over the wall’ in a waterfall process. Everyone knows what’s happening and why.

 

Dan Denney, Front-End Devevloper, Code School

Designing an email for scanability has the most impact. We want everyone to read every word, but people want to find what they’re interested in and move on. Make it easy for them.

 

Fabio Carniero, Lead Email Developer, MailChimp

Spongy development (sometimes called hybrid development), in my opinion, has the most impact. There are a fair number of pitfalls associated with mobile email, and the spongy development method — a combination of fluid and non-fluid email markup — can generally resolve most of them. The most pertinent example is the Gmail app on Android and iOS; the app doesn’t support media queries, which are generally necessary for responsive design. The spongy/hybrid technique serves as a work-around for providing ‘responsive’ email in clients that don’t support the technology specifically.

This development technique, with its inherent flexibility and robustness, also has the benefit of being stable in a very wide variety of email clients and platforms, from desktop to tablet to phones.

 

MSh Blog: What advice would you give a marketer just getting started adding a mobile element to their email strategy?

Justine:

Strategically speaking, I’d encourage marketers getting started with mobile email to get to know their audience — how many subscribers are opening on mobile? Do they open on iPhone or Android?  Getting insight into audience behavior and preferences can help you determine where to prioritize your efforts.

When it comes to tactics, start small. You don’t need to jump right into responsive email. Instead, focus on the things that are easier to impact without knowledge of HTML and CSS. Reduce word counts in your copy, making content easier to display on small screens. Adopt a ‘bigger is better’ mantra — larger buttons, more whitespace and larger fonts all go a long way to making email more readable on mobile.

 

Brian:

Know your audience and design for where they’re opening. Looking at analytics on where opens are occurring can help tell you the best place to invest your time and effort. If you’re heavier into B2B, for instance, the adage of 50% of your audience being on mobile most likely doesn’t hold true. If that’s the case, it might make more sense focusing on a simplified fluid layout, rather than going all in on responsive design. At DEG, we’ve taken this approach in several instances with great success.

If your audience is highly mobile, which is often the case in B2C, you have to stay aware of the huge differences in rendering capabilities between the major email clients on mobile platforms. For a soon-to-be rolled out redesign DEG is working on, we looked at client level details to determine where opens were happening and noted that a high percentage of our clients’ audience was opening in Gmail. Not wanting to neglect a decent part of their audience, we opted for a hybrid design approach, which allowed us to give those opening in the Gmail App a mobile optimized layout even though media queries aren’t supported by the client.

In another recent redesign DEG worked on, a key requirement of the project was keeping the overall file size of each campaign to a minimum. Doing so allowed us to better serve our clients’ audience[s], a large portion of which [are] in emerging markets, where bandwidth limitations become a key factor in design decisions.

In all of these cases, the most important factor was determining where the audience was opening and then making design decisions based on that information.

 

Ted:

Mobile email is still relatively new, so don’t be afraid to try new things and fail. Learn what’s appropriate for your own market and customers. Pay attention to your own numbers; ignore the rest. And never be afraid to hit that ‘Send Now’ button!

 

Dan:

If you have to choose between designing for small screens or large screens, choose small screens. Engagement is significantly better on mobile devices, so it should be the priority. A message that is well designed for small screens will also be clear on large ones, even if you don’t take advantage of the additional space.

 

Fabio:

Use the shift from fixed-width to mobile-friendly as a place to re-evaluate everything you do with your email. There’s a fair amount of work involved in making an email responsive as it is, so why not go all the way?

The move to mobile is a perfect time to take another look at how you do content. To experiment with what’s sent. Simplicity and clarity are important in any email and doubly so when mobile readership becomes a consideration, so look for ways to pare down and tighten the content you send. Strip away fluff until the content’s down to the bare essentials, then focus on quality. Keep in mind that email can afford a direct, intimate connection to readers, and that it’s part of the sender’s job to take that responsibility seriously and be respectful of the time commitment that readers put in.

The quality of content plays a huge role there. If it’s feasible, go even further and talk to the audience. Email is a medium for conversation, after all, and the process for refining the experience an email provides should be based not only on metrics, but also on feedback from readers.

Look for ways to surprise and delight those readers as well. The more-comprehensive HTML and CSS support found in mobile email clients allows for some bells and whistles like more complex styling and CSS3 animation, both of which can add a little bit of creative personality to an email.

Even playing with your established design conventions to send something completely different from the norm can be powerful, which MailChimp’s UX newsletter has done:

mailchimp

 

This sort of thing takes time and effort on the design and development side, but, thankfully, isn’t something that needs to be done with precise regularity. An occasional surprise can be just as powerful — sometimes more so — than regularly-scheduled wizardry.

 

If you have any insights about mobile email, or maybe challenges or pain points, share in the comments section below for your marketing peers. You might just get a pat on the back for insights or a solution to your challenge.

 

You might also like

Email Design: How to optimize for all environments in a mobile world [MarketingSherpa video archive]

Email Marketing: 4 steps to optimize a mobile experience for better conversion [More from the blogs]

Mobile Email Marketing: 50% more app downloads from device-targeted ads [MarketingSherpa case study]

Mobile Marketing: 31% of marketers don’t know their mobile email open rate [More from the blogs]

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Andrea Johnson

How Automation Transformed a Distributor’s Online Business

March 17th, 2015

When you’re running a small online business, what’s the fastest, easiest way to grow your business and save money? Automation, according to Lenny Kharitonov, President of Unlimited Furniture Group, a furniture retailer.

Kharitonov says his company was among the first in the furniture industry to automate the online order fulfillment process.

“The furniture industry in general is not very technology savvy,” he admitted.

The Unlimited Furniture website markets products from a variety of manufacturers that ship them directly to the customer. Before automation, the Unlimited Furniture team and its vendors handled every aspect of the transaction manually using a combination of spreadsheets and Google docs. Now customers can order online, and the details are instantly sent to the vendor. Once the vendor ships out the product, Unlimited Furniture automatically receives all of the information about the shipment and updates the customer without any manual involvement.

This automated process:

  • Prevents mistakes. “When you do things manually, it’s subject to human error,” Kharitonov said. “For instance, somebody could put in the wrong quantity or wrong color; it could be done on our side or the vendor’s side.”
  • Eliminates duplication of effort. Before automation, Unlimited Furniture would enter a purchase order manually then send it to the vendor, who would enter the same information manually.
  • Saves money. Automating order fulfillment has slashed Unlimited Furniture’s administrative costs 40%.
  • Speeds delivery. Orders are processed real-time now, instead of waiting for someone at Unlimited Furniture and the vendor to manually process it.“The quicker the service you give the customer, the more likely you’ll get repeat business,” Kharitonov said.

“We want to grow the business. We don’t want to spend all our time processing orders,” he explained. “In this day and age, it’s assumed that’s automatic, but it’s not. I know a lot of our competitors are still doing it manually.”

Watch the full interview and find out more about the power of automation here:

  Read more…

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Courtney Eckerle

Social Media: Understanding Pinterest consumers

March 13th, 2015

“The only reason any brand exists in the first place is because it helps people do something in their lives,”  Kevin Knight, Head of Agency and Brand Strategy, Pinterest said.

In his session at The Digital Marketing Conference — Adobe Summit, Kevin spoke about what makes Pinterest unique to marketers and brands in the social media sphere.

Mainly, unlike other social sites, it’s kind of a loner.

Not in the standing alone in the corner at the school dance kind of a way, but in a “Best All Around” superlative kind of way: independent, and not only party-planning the dance, but countless other activities and interests as well.

“They’re using it for themselves,” Kevin said, adding that many users don’t follow a lot of people, because they using the platform to fulfill their own needs, not to impress anyone else.

 

What is a Pin?

“Art and copy, as old as advertising itself,” Kevin said.

What is a Pin

 

Who is on Pinterest?

  • 70M+ monthly users in the U.S.
  • 40% of women in the U.S. are on Pinterest
  • 75% of usage is on a mobile device
  • One-third of millennials are on Pinterest

*Based on comScore Sept 2014, desktop and mobile, U.S. users, and internal Pinterest data

Those 70 million monthly users utilize Pinterest to discover, save and then do, Kevin said. Over 30 billion pins ave been categorized by people into more than 750 million boards, and this is a highly personal interaction to them.

Pinners are sharing their interests, hobbies, hopes and goals, creating the narrative of their future through pinning actions.

Read more…

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Courtney Eckerle

Digital Marketing: Quick insights from Adobe Summit on perfecting the art and science of marketing

March 11th, 2015

From the opening General Session at Adobe Digital Marketing Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, the speakers reiterated, in one way or another, the thesis statement made by Brad Rencher, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Adobe:

Consistent and continuous experiences only happen when marketing goes beyond marketing, and the reality is that brands have to earn it every day, with each experience. With each touch point, we either win or we lose.

Marketers need to fight every day to be personal with consumers — this isn’t a plane you can reach or a level to be achieved. It’s a consistent struggle won through consistently building up small interactions.

If those word choices — fight, struggle — sound harsh, forgive me. With Adobe Summit’s gigantic main stage, complete with three towering screens, impeccable design and A/V feats, it’s easy to lean into the theatrical feel of the event.

Adobe-031115

 

Digital marketing is certainly not real war or strife, but each speaker takes the stage not unlike the speech in “Patton,” commanding attendees to work for a better (marketing) world. The marketers here begin to feel like foot soldiers who believe they can engage customers with genuine interactions.

These aren’t actions savvy brands should be shirking from because they’re difficult, but running toward. There are an overwhelming number of opportunities to understand your customers in digital marketing.

These three takeaways are just a start.

Read more…

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Erin Hogg

Social Media: Mellow Mushroom’s tips for engaging Facebook followers

March 6th, 2015

Two things come to mind for me when I think of the word social:

  1. Social media
  2. Pizza

Social media for brands is all about developing a thriving online community of fans and followers that engage with your content and (hopefully) become brand ambassadors. To do this, your content must have that “engage-ability” factor: what will make your content or social presence something that your audience will want to share and interact with?

Pizza is also something that we socially consume. Arguably, sometimes we don’t share it, but overall, when you have friends over or you don’t feel like cooking for your family, pizza is always a solid option. Social gatherings call for pizza.

In a way, you could say that pizza and social media go hand in hand — they definitely do for Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers.

I recently had a chance to chat with Steven Sams, Digital Content Manager, Dusty Griffin, Senior Graphic Designer and Robert Pierce, Social Media Manager, all of Mellow Mushroom, for a MarketingSherpa case study about their work with the brand’s email marketing efforts.

We had so much to talk about that I even asked the team for a second interview to discuss the brand’s social media efforts. Why? Mellow Mushroom has truly found a way to speak its audience’s language and cater to that via social media.

Even if you’re not a pizza restaurant, there are still great lessons to be learned from Mellow Mushroom’s efforts. Read on for those, as well as the team’s top tips for interacting with an audience on Facebook.

 

Facebook for Mellow Mushroom

Steven explained that for Mellow Mushroom, Facebook is the main social media channel. With more than 172,000 followers on the platform, average posts will reach up to 2,000 people — sometimes up to 46,000.

Mellow Mushroom has several elements of its Facebook strategy that the team lives by:

 

Frequency and timing

First, frequency is key. At the corporate level, the team aims to post twice a day. This was upped from once a day because of recent Facebook algorithm changes causing lower performance in posts.

“We’re trying out some different things with our frequency because not many people are seeing them in their News Feed based on the algorithm. We thought we should post a little bit more,” Steven explained.

Next, the time of day the team is posting is also important. If they are posting something food-related right before lunch or dinner time, they will entice followers to stop by Mellow Mushroom for their next meal.

mellow 1

 

However, a busy time on Facebook is later in the evening, between 8 and 10 p.m., and the brand will post more quirky content. This content isn’t aimed at driving people to a restaurant to eat, but rather, to simply engage and entertain their base.

mellow 2

Read more…

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Paul Cheney

Ecommerce Investment Advice: How marketers can make their companies more valuable

March 3rd, 2015

We don’t often think of business investors as marketing experts.

However, great marketing is grounded in a great value proposition. If anyone is good at finding a value proposition, it’s a (smart) potential buyer of a business. Great investors have a way of cutting through all the hype and finding the true value (or lack thereof) in a company.

It stands to reason, then, that a great investor would be a stellar resource to tap for your marketing efforts.

Enter Abe Garver, Managing Director, BG Strategic Advisors. Abe attended IRCE last year and was able to talk to former MarketingSherpa reporter Allison Banko about how ecommerce marketers can develop an acquisition mindset and help grow their business, whether they plan to sell or not.

In this interview he covers:

  • How you value an ecommerce company
  • The four keys to making your ecommerce company more investor friendly (and as a result, customer friendly)
  • Why ecommerce companies aren’t really getting it right, and who really is

 

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Marketing Research Chart: Clear communications and unconscious customer bias

Inbound Marketing: How Infochimps grew its database 94% in one year

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Selena Blue

Email Summit 2015 According to Twitter: Your peers share their key takeaways from Day 1 on engaging, empowering and serving customers

February 25th, 2015

If you haven’t noticed, #SherpaEmail has taken over Twitter.

Well, maybe not in a break-the-Internet scale of Kim Kardashian, but your marketing peers have been tweeting their hearts out with all the good information they’ve learned at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015.

With Day 2 of Summit underway, we wanted to share some key nuggets your peers found valuable on Day 1. (I might have smuggled a few of my own in too.) Check out some key takeaways from each of yesterday’s insightful sessions.

 

Humanizing Your Email Program: How to transcend the digital revolution by using the essential ability to communicate person-to-person

Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute

Flint revealed four fundamental principles that guide effective communication and provided examples of how these principles can be used to transform your entire email program.

Read more…

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Courtney Eckerle

Three Takeaways on Customer-centric Marketing from Email Summit 2015 Media Center

February 24th, 2015

There are a lot of decisions that go into putting on Email Summit. Millions, probably, if you go deep enough.

But they all come around with one objective: you. The attendees and people who are reading about, and following, the event.

In every discussion and decision, we were asking ourselves how it would affect the experience. Your experience. So it made sense that when it came time to pick speakers and give out the Email Summit Awards, sponsored by BlueHornet, that customer-centric campaigns were the ones that rose above the rest.

Fellow Email Awards judge Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, and myself sat down on the steps of the (still under-construction) 2015 Email Summit Media Center to discuss some of our award winners and the customer-centric elements of campaigns featured at the Summit.

Media Center 2015

 

“The companies that focused on customers, that put their customers first, are the ones that ultimately have the sustainable competitive advantage,” Daniel said.

Our marketing compass points toward true customer-centricity, so it was important that marketers we featured held that same standard.

Daniel spoke about the B2B Award winner he has been working with over the past few months, Ferguson, and one of their main takeaways from their own event effort: Always look to enrich the customer experience.

Ferguson Enterprises generated more than $10 million and growing in online sales by enriching the customer experience within their 90 trade show events, which allowed Ferguson’s vendors to get in front of customers and promote their brands and products.

To accomplish that, Ferguson went from one email per event to a segmented series as well as optimized its onsite event registration for better retargeting.

Read the full case study here.

Read more…

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Daniel Burstein

Digital Marketing: Content marketing, social media and SEO predictions for 2015

February 20th, 2015

Every year at Email Summit, we ask marketers for their predictions.

Before MarketingSherpa reporter Courtney Eckerle interviews you about your marketing predictions in the Email Summit Media Center, I figured it was only fair to put a stake in the ground and make some predictions you could hold me to as well.

digitalmarketing2

 

Prediction #1: Convergence is the watchword for digital marketing this year

You’ve already seen (and will continue to see) convergence among marketing and business software platforms, and this trend will continue to grow as the line blurs between publishers, brands and marketing agencies.

Curve by Getty Images. Verizon’s experiment with Sugarstring. And, of course, The Red Bulletin. More and more brands are learning the power of building this kind of one-to-one connection with their audiences, building an owned audienc, and not having to borrow interest from television or other content creators.

At the same time, publishers are creating content for brands with their own agency arms, as well (a bit of a blast from the past when newspapers used to help create ads to sell media space).

Tribune Publishing (which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other dailies) bought a stake in Contend, a content agency that creates branded campaigns. Onion Labs, The Onion’s in-house ad agency, has made some seriously cool campaigns. Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and GQ recently hired a director of branded content and launched a branded content shop which blurs the line between editorial and promotion.

Advertising and marketing agencies, more threatened than ever by brands and publishers, will try to get an ownership stake in the ideas they help create, like Anomaly did with EOS cosmetics or how 37signals went from being a website redesign shop to a software company selling Basecamp.

Data, will of course, be huge. This will be of benefit to content creators of all stripes listed above. Since they have the traffic and relationship with the audience, they have the ability to learn the audience’s preferences based on their behavior, and then engage in A/B testing with these audiences to build a strong understanding of the products, services and offers that these customers will most respond to.

But behind it all, let’s not overlook the people with the knowhow to make it happen, which can be a scarce resource — brilliant, brilliant marketers, writers, designers and data scientists.

Being able to navigate this land of data and convergence, networking and real relationships will be critical for the marketer to build cross-functional teams that understand all the elements it will take to be successful — content, technology, data and strategy. That’s one reason we pay so much attention to the audience experience and foster interactions and networking at Email Summit.

Read more…

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