"Email is dying." That is a phrase I've heard numerous times since online marketers and publishers discovered RSS feeds and the benefits they offer. Companies are looking to replace email strategies with RSS rather than realizing the potential of integrating RSS content syndication with current email tools and strategies.
RSS will never replace email as a marketing tool, especially if one looks at the current percentage of users who have adopted the RSS technology. Yes, it's certain that uptake will ramp up in the months and years ahead, but it will probably never reach the point where you are able to reach your database using RSS alone.
Spam and phishing are offered up as the best reason to replace email with a RSS strategy. But if you are using a reputable email vendor, these concerns shouldn't be keeping you awake at night. If they are, you should change email vendors immediately.
Rather than throwing email out in favor of RSS, you can integrate the strategies and/or back-end technologies driving RSS and email to cover your market more effectively.
The ideal you should pursue is full integration of both strategy and tools across RSS and email. But if integrating your tools is not yet possible, you can still integrate your strategy by using the demographic and behavioral data you have at your disposal from email and RSS content syndication.
Integrating RSS and your email strategy
Every piece of information you have about your customer should be integrated into your customer life-cycle messaging strategy. The preferences of customers that have signed up to receive RSS content feeds allow you to further build on your messaging strategy.
The customers who sign up to receive RSS feeds are already clearly segmented from those customers who do not sign up for RSS feeds. One can assume that customers who use RSS are more internet savvy, since they are early adopters of a technology that is still unfamiliar to most mainstream internet users. You can use that insight to communicate with this segment in a way that is most appropriate to their needs.
Customers give you some more valuable information about themselves through the content types they have asked to receive via RSS feeds. This information can be used to update customer profiles that can be used for remarketing across email.
You should develop a conversion and remarketing strategy that takes into account your customers' responses from previous emails and RSS content sign-ups. You know what your customers are buying, when the purchases take place, what they are interested in and how often they are interested in interacting with you.
The reach and adoption of RSS is moving faster as more customers begin to feel comfortable with it. This is because the key players are making it easier for publishers and marketers to integrate RSS feeds into their sites and for consumers to understand how to set an RSS feed up.
Integrating RSS and your email tool
RSS content can be viewed on the site, on a blog or pushed into an email and sent to your customers based on the frequency specified when the customer signed up. RSS is not personalized so you are not speaking to the customer, losing the one-to-one relationship. But when you combine RSS with email, you retain a two-way channel for communication with your customer.
For example, if your reader signs up to receive daily RSS feeds on discounted fiction books and rock CDs, these posts will be included in a daily email. The emails are automated and triggered according to a schedule. This schedule includes built-in business rules that allow the process to be integrated and automated. This way you are able to track the open rates, clickthroughs and conversion rates.
By using a service that allows you to email posts to your customers automatically, you can turn your RSS feed into an email that is delivered directly into your customers' inbox. There are products on the market that support RSS to email syndication. Most reputable email vendors who have not already integrated RSS integration and email are making the shift.
Marketers and publishers have been using email for many years, but few of them have moved beyond the hype and the basics to take it to the next level. As soon as a "new" medium comes along, the cycle of hype starts anew because marketers and publishers feel that older mediums are no longer achieving their ROI objectives.
It's time to stop that cycle and work on an approach that integrates the strengths of all the media you have at your disposal. Rather than throwing email out in favor of RSS, start working on a solid integrated life cycle messaging strategy and maximize your current mediums to implement the ILM. If you are using RSS, email or CRM tools, integrate them so that you can understand and respond to your customers more effectively.
It's time to move on to integrated emarketing strategies that combine RSS, email and other media if you want to position your company as a leader in a world where power has shifted into the consumer's hands.