Posts Tagged ‘messaging’

How to Harness the Power of New Technology to Personalize to Your Audience

February 13th, 2015

We are in the midst of an informational and technological revolution. It is constantly changing the way we communicate. There is an unspoken drive deep down in the collective psyche of humanity that is pushing us to make communication faster and universal.

Being able to express complex ideas is vital to our species’ survival. It’s taken us from caves to high rises. From wall paintings and smoke signals to emails and international phone calls, the way we communicate is versatile and fluid. What’s the norm yesterday could easily be archaic tomorrow.

As marketers we have to communicate our companies’ ideas, products and values to potential customers in any medium they communicate in.

As we move toward more instant communication, the marketer has to evolve with consumers. Just like the shift from direct mail to email, the savvy marketer must know when to move to a new technological medium and how to market correctly in that medium.


Mobile email

For several years there have been predictions about the end of email.  While email has changed significantly in the last 20 years, we now send more emails than ever before.

According to, there are currently 4.1 billion email accounts that send 122+ billion emails per hour — and 53% of those emails were opened on a mobile device. The future of communication is mobile email, and there is already a lot of it going on.

In order to get ahead of this curve, email service providers (ESPs) are developing algorithms that automatically sort your emails. Google unveiled their answer to the overcrowded inbox late in 2014. A consummate innovator and leader in the email space, Google has developed a system that automatically sweeps your emails into three easy to manage subfolders: Updates, Social and Promotions. They have allowed more design elements to be featured in the subject line space and have made it even easier to clear a whole inbox in seconds.

So what does that mean for marketers?

It means that as ESPs move into the future, they will use bundling to sort people’s emails. This will most likely lead to the average clickthrough rate decreasing. However, the quality of the leads will go up because emails, instead of being cookie-cutter sends, can be personalized for individuals based on data marketers accrue. In the future, designers will have to work with content writers to make sure their emails stick out visually, alongside personalization.

Effect of Gmail Tabs

Chart courtesy of: MailChimp


Marketing efforts will need to work in conjunction with all the other marketing options the company is using. We have to move away from thinking about individual campaigns and towards holistic, cohesive marketing tactics.

Read more…

Email Marketing: A canvas for visual storytelling

April 22nd, 2014

Since the Stone Age and beyond, storytelling has been paramount for mankind. Sure, the modes and means have changed, but its prevalence certainly hasn’t.

But storytelling is getting better. Our ancestors may have only been armed with their voices (or grunts) and a rock on a wall to tell their tales. Now, our modern world is overflowing with ways to convey our stories.

Of course, we still have the old favorites like our voices and the written word, but with multimedia capabilities like GIFs, videos and PowerPoints, there’s no stopping our stories. In the email marketer’s world, the email is your canvas for a story, so why not approach it that way? Dell did.

David Sierk, Consumer & Small Business Email Strategy, Dell, joined us in Las Vegas as a speaker at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 back in February to talk about it. Dell needed to find a way to communicate the capabilities of its new product, the Dell XP 12 Convertible Ultrabook, which is a hybrid of a laptop and a tablet. A photo in an email wasn’t going to work. A bunch of text? Not happening.

“How do we visually tell a story of what this product does?” David asked me when we chatted in the Email Summit Media Center.


The Dell team decided that utilizing a GIF in the email marketing campaign would be the best way to effectively tell the Ultrabook’s story, ultimately lifting revenue 109%. If you weren’t at Summit this year (or just want to see it again), you can view David’s full session from Email Summit, “Old Dog, New Tricks: How Dell designed an email with old technology to launch a new product.” Watch a brief excerpt of this presentation below:


“I think now more than ever with the deluge of emails in a customer’s inbox, trying to get them to click on something is so important,” David said. “People are very visual so it’s tremendously beneficial to give them something to look at instead of forcing them to read through a ton of text.”

Visual storytelling isn’t easy. It’s a delicate craft that requires a certain eye. But when it’s done right, it’s invaluable.

At MarketingSherpa, we understand the importance of visual storytelling. In fact, we’ve implemented a position on our staff dedicated entirely to that skill (we’re hiring now). 

Read more…

Email Marketing: Why National Geographic uses business rules and frequency caps

May 24th, 2013

National Geographic was sending an enormous amount of emails to its list – as much as almost 18 messages a week on average, depending on the season and the target segment within its database.

There were multiple marketing and creative teams sending those messages, so along with volume, branding and just simple look-and-feel was an issue as well.

To compound those problems, when a creative piece worked, it was re-used. A lot. A subscriber receiving a high frequency of emails might see the same, albeit (at least originally) high-performing, image for weeks or months on end.

Unsubcribes became an issue, particularly among the best converting recipients who were receiving the highest volume of email.


Kill your marketing calendar

I’m reporting live from Responsys Interact 2013 in San Francisco (Full Disclosure: I am a guest of Responsys at this event). Eric Brodnax, EVP, Digital Products, National Geographic Society, shared steps about how that well-known brand sought to overcome this challenge by taking a very customer-centric approach to completely change its email strategy in a session titled “Kill your marketing calendar. Moving from campaign-led to customer-led marketing.”

“What we saw was the retention rate was directly correlating to the number of messages they were receiving,” Eric said.

National Geographic used three learnings to turn this problem around across its email campaign ecosystem:

1. Ignoring your customer’s wishes impacts the entire business.

2. Your organization needs unified ownership of the customer relationship.

  • Without central oversight, it’s easy to mail too much.
  • It’s often your best customers who are treated the worst.
  • Problems compound as time passes.

3. Tailor your message to your (internal) audience.

  • Use analogies. Numbers don’t speak to everyone. In this case, Eric used the analogy of overfishing the ocean.
  • Be patient. You may need to repeat your message again and again.
  • Appeal to core values. Most companies claim to respect the customer and value collaboration.

“In the end, [appealing to core values] will resonate with people,”  Eric said. “But, if you don’t change the way you do business, you’re not going to make any differences.”


The implementation of business rules and frequency caps

I also had the chance to get insight into this email transformation from Marc Haseltine, Email Marketing Manager, National Geographic:

By actively monitoring our comments inbox and communicating with our email subscriber base, those on the front line of the program were aware that many customers felt like they were being over-communicated with via email.

These individual comments and feedback that were being received helped surface issues and potential problem areas in our email program for our data analysis group to really dig into. Their work helped identify long term trends that were impacting the email program.

We were actively targeting all our email campaigns, whether it was based on customers’ and fans’ stated preferences, purchase activity or geolocation, however, the email channel was helping to support so much of the Society’s content, activities and products.  Without business rules and frequency caps, it’d be possible for those most engaged with our brand to sometimes receive up to four emails a day from us.

Read more…