I recently went through the daunting task of consolidating my email addresses down from many to just one personal email account. Now, foolishly, when I started this effort -- yes, I'll admit it -- I was rather naïve about just how taxing it would be to just merely go through the motions of updating my credentials in multiple places. Mid-way through the effort, I found myself laughing out of annoyance, but the act didn't strike me as very funny. This got me to thinking: What other things could make email better as a channel?
If email were a physical entity and could selfishly ask for anything -- jotted down as a Christmas wish list -- what would that list contain?
A robust preference center
I'll try my best to speak in terms aside from my knowledge here. A preference center of any kind seems reasonable and basic enough, right? I've come across two types of these -- those that do the bare minimum and those that hit all the marks and set the bar high in terms of what a robust preference center should be doing. Marketing departments should make sure that any existing preference center effort is performing to its highest capability and running as efficiently as expected. So what if it takes more (from your technology department) to do more than just capture email addresses? Put forth more effort and try to hit on some or (dare I say it) all of the following:
- Communication type
- Creative samples
- Mobile offerings (SMS and cadence)
As marketers, we have to be cognizant of the old adage of "less is more." There is absolutely nothing wrong with sending less or dialing back a bit. We should be seizing the opportunity to make the most out of all of our communications -- not just sometimes, but every time.
Like many of you, I'm an active member of LinkedIn. Recently, my level of activity decreased in one of my many groups. The best communication that I received from LinkedIn was a message acknowledging the fact that my level of interactivity had decreased; thus, LinkedIn was taking the initiative to automatically downgrade my message cadence. It gave me the option to go back in and modify at a later date, should I so choose to do so. I thought this email was awesome. I'd never received anything like it before.
Progressive welcome series
I've said it before, and I'll reiterate again: People, audiences, and targets change over time. Because of this, they should all be communicated to differently. The welcome message within the lifecycle series truly serves many different purposes, some of which include but are by no means limited to:
- Onboarding new subscribers or members
- Educating the active
- Re-engaging the inactive
Done well or poorly, this type of messaging tends to be the one critical moment a brand has to establish or create a definitive brand identity with respective consumers, further solidifying its unique value proposition in the marketplace. Reevaluate your welcome messages. Are you only using one email message to communicate to new subscribers as they are entered into your database? How could you more intuitively communicate with your "new" subscribers after a certain number of days? The more effective welcome campaign efforts actively take a stake in constantly and consistently finding answers and solutions to these questions.
Effective cross-channel marketing
Granted, some brands are doing this better than others. That is partly due to a perceived consumer base with some. The flip side of this is a vested interest in measurable analytics with actionable takeaways. Mobile app Uber does this quite well, baking in a decent preference center and periodic email message offerings to consumers.
Another mobile app that I love, UrbanDaddy, is an example of a great pairing of email and mobile. It's beneficial to review your consumer base and do some level of analysis to see how best it warrants the effort. There's definitely room for cross-channel marketing in every vertical, but the effort has to go beyond following on social networks and lack-luster mobile applications.
As noted earlier, I went through an effort to consolidate my personal email accounts down from several to one. I actually do not know that email is there as a channel just yet. But I definitely see a channel offering in the near future moving in the direction of some of the first email account aggregators. Think for a moment how cool it would be to have the capability to manage your cadence and preferences from one location.
The email channel will obviously continue to grow, and we as marketers will increasingly see optimized efforts on building and sustaining reputation and relationships with consumers and subscribers. It's up to each of us to do what we can to drive programs forward and push the needle more favorably in the right direction.
Jai Williams is senior marketing strategist at StrongMail.
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