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Social tools to improve email marketing

Social tools to improve email marketing Bill Nussey

With emails flooding inboxes, the pressure is on to deliver highly compelling and creative communications that rise above the clutter. Yet some marketers are still clinging stubbornly to the same stale email campaigns they've had for years. The good news is there are new innovations and proven tactics for better engaging customers and driving revenue. Here are five:

Social sharing
According to the Pew Internet Project, more than one-third of American adults have a social network profile, and many of them use these sites to gather product information and recommendations. Rather than seeing social media as competition, savvy email marketers incorporate the medium into their campaigns, extending reach by as much as 24.3 percent, according to Silverpop research.

Getting recipients to share emails on social sites requires more effort than just adding icons to messages. Recipients must be educated about how and why they should share content. Marketers should feature the social-sharing option in welcome messages and then continue to devote prime space in mailings to sharing icons or links. They should also experiment with how many and which social networks they link to and where the links are placed within messages.

Web analytics
In this crowded marketplace, consumers are increasingly demanding relevance. Optimizing integration between messaging and web analytics platforms is vital to building loyalty, increasing conversions, and improving ROI. Using web analytics data helps marketers better understand customers' needs and improves their ability to engage them through targeted and triggered campaigns.

One particularly effective way of combining web analytics and email is a shopping cart abandonment campaign. Marketers that send reminder messages encouraging online cart abandoners to complete purchases have experienced tremendous results. To increase the sense of urgency, some of these messages remind customers that selected items are not guaranteed to always be in stock. Some companies also include an incentive to finalize purchases.

Send when the recipient is "in"
For years, marketers have agonized over the best time to send email because recipients' preferences vary greatly. Now, a technology called Send Time Optimization can analyze recipient behavior on a rolling basis to predict the ideal email delivery time for each address on a mailing list. The system then individually delivers messages to recipients at the precise day and time they're most likely to be in their inboxes. This decreases the chance that an email will get buried in the inbox; increases open, click-through, and conversion rates; and can increase email-generated revenue by 30-100 percent, according to Silverpop analysis. 

Scheduling delivery at the optimized time also solves international mailing challenges. With a single send, messages are delivered at the optimal time, worldwide, eliminating the need to schedule multiple sends across time zones.

SMS and email
One trillion text messages are sent each year in the United States alone, but some marketers are still hesitant to invest in mobile marketing, either because they don't know where to begin or they dread the setup process. The good news is that there is a select group of marketing technology providers that can make this implementation painless. With these solutions, it's quick and easy to create personalized, engaging messages that are delivered instantly -- or triggered for sends at a future date -- making SMS an excellent channel to communicate special offers, payment reminders, event notifications, exclusive invitations, and other timely information customers won't want to miss. As with email campaigns, savvy marketers can use deliverability metrics to evaluate SMS campaign results and adjust future initiatives accordingly.

Metrics that measure engagement
Monitoring more sophisticated metrics helps quantify the performance of marketing initiatives; yet, according to Forrester, 59 percent of email marketers were still using only basic metrics --  such as opens and click-through rates -- as recently as 2008.

Rather than focusing solely on these two traditional metrics, marketers should dig deeper. For example, monitoring an email's effective rate -- the percentage of people who click after opening -- can provide a better measure of message relevancy. This is a powerful metric for gauging the success of retention and loyalty-based campaigns. Conversion rate is another important metric. If conversion rates are lagging, perhaps the call-to-action should be clearer and more prominent, the design more attractive, the landing pages more closely matched to the brand, or the process simplified.

To avoid drowning in a statistical deluge, don't try to evaluate every possible data point. Select a measurement you believe would have an impact and focus on that. But avoid making your focus too narrow and relying on the measurement equivalent of a snapshot. Instead, develop a more holistic view, observing how metrics trend over time, the implications of anomalies and outliers, and what changes can be made to improve results and increase satisfaction and ROI.

Marketers once only had to capture an audience's attention with an appealing ad to be successful. But in a world where people are exposed to about 5,000 ads a day, the demands are much higher. By consistently employing email marketing best practices, marketers can engage customers in ways that will set them apart from the "noise" that's currently overwhelming consumers, thereby increasing brand loyalty and profits in the process.

Bill Nussey is CEO of Silverpop

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Bill Nussey is the president and CEO of Silverpop, a provider of permission-based email marketing solutions, strategy and services. Ranked as having the highest business value and richest feature set by JupiterResearch in 2004, Silverpop was also...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Lead Liaison

2011, February 16

Thanks for the informative post Bill. I'd agree that making room in your email marketing messages to "squeeze" in social-sharing features is a good idea. One risk though is that the messages could start to look to much like spam or a marketing email and less personalized. It's a trade off though, everyone's situation will be different. Since your post, I think the biggest emphasis of email marketing and marketing automation providers has been analytics to measure effectiveness. If you have any insight on the top 10 or so analytics marketers crave we'd love to hear it. I look forward to reading more...

Commenter: Michael Flint

2010, February 16

I really love "Send when the recipient is 'in'". The beauty of technological advances is what comes from the out-of-the-box thinkers who use new technology in a different way.