Editor's Note: We launched the iMedia Book Club last fall with Don E. Schultz's list of five books that every marketer should read. Subsequently, Dave Chase reviewed James Surowiecki's "The Wisdom of Crowds." And Doug Schumacher of Basement, Inc. reviewed Gerald Zaltman's "How Customers Think." The goal of the Book Club is for marketers, researchers and thought leaders to share what books, journals or magazines they have on their nightstands and why. If there's a book you think marketers should be reading, please consider reviewing it for us and let us know by email.
And now, we're pleased to present our fourth iMedia Book Club review, by G. Simms Jenkins of BrightWave Marketing.
Return Path CEO, Matt Blumberg and NetCreations President Michael Mayor enter the book arena with a new title centered on the ever-growing email marketing industry. Recently, books on the industry have been surfacing, keeping with the growing demand and appetite for more email marketing information.
"Sign Me Up: A Marketer's Guide To Creating Email Newsletters That Build Relationships & Boost Sales" is not going to revolutionize email marketing with any groundbreaking strategies or research, but it does make a nice read for those looking to get a handle on their email marketing efforts, or those who may be contemplating email as a marketing tool. The book promises to lay out secret ingredients needed to create and manage an email marketing campaign, but any seasoned marketer will probably find this disputable.
Blumberg and Mayor, both email marketing veterans, present a compelling case for any organization seeking to communicate with their customers via email. The basic and easy-to-read format of the book provides a comprehensive overview of the essentials of successful email marketing. If your company has a new email marketing manager in place, or has plans to hire one, this should be required reading. If you are a veteran of email campaigns and are more focused on the intricacies of segmenting and developing sophisticated strategies, you may want to take a pass.
Those with deep expertise in this field may be disappointed by the lack of details or new thoughts regarding campaign strategies and the current issues of the day (deliverability, phishing et al). However, it does not appear that this book is seeking that audience. The real value lies in the documented steps it lays out that are needed for companies using email marketing in an early stage. It does an excellent job of covering all the bases, from list acquisition to creative tips to basic CAN-SPAM compliance.
The book is laid out in three sections: Content Strategies, List Strategies and Optimization Strategies. These sections cover the nuts and bolts of design and copy, how to grow and retain list and how to improve performance by measuring, testing and adapting your campaigns.
I found the list strategies section to be the most detailed and helpful, although I dispute the claim regarding list renting that "nothing can surpass it in terms of targeting and control of content." From my experience, targeting your permission-based house list and controlling all aspects of the mailing would seem to take that honor. The specifics and passion for the list acquisition and maintenance section appears to be due to the authors' shared focus and core competencies of their companies.
Some of Blumberg and Mayor's topics are essential and can't be ignored, whether you have launched 500 campaigns or just five. For example, they dive early into the topic of relevance for one's newsletters. They state "Customers are generally not interested in your third-quarter earnings (unless they are investors), where your new offices are located or how you make widgets. Readers want information they can use." For anyone who has to take time aside from their day to sort through and read the countless newsletters they subscribed to, this is very true, and often the consumer's needs are overlooked for the marketer's own goals. Blumberg and Mayor hammer home that self-serving newsletters don't work and often work against your goals of building loyalty and revenue.
The content section also focuses heavily on how to sell within a newsletter, which is a key goal for most marketers' campaigns. However, for those who publish content-heavy newsletters and whose primary purpose is to build deeper relationships and drive traffic to their site, they may find this section lacking in relevancy to their business goals. Blumberg and Mayor make a good case for including "inside" and timely industry information in niche-oriented newsletters, building on human desire to share and "break" news to colleagues and friends. The book also does a fine job of illustrating the need for including customer service in your email circle and to use best practices in this key but often overlooked customer loop.
Blumberg and Mayor do not delve overly into technical jargon but do cover helpful hints into the mechanics of email marketing and include some useful takeaways scattered throughout the book titled "Lessons from the Inbox." Industry language that may not be familiar to many who read this is attentively explained in a glossary which could be a nice standalone for managers to have on their desk.
As one can expect, they do fawn occasionally over how effective some of their clients are but manage to avoid being blatant cheerleaders. Case studies with deeper data and analysis would be a better fit for the reader, and the book leaves much to be desired in this area. Ditto for their analysis on key and controversial topics like the benefits of using HTML vs. text.
The bottom line on this book depends on your level of expertise and interest in email marketing. I heartily recommend it for those looking to get a handle on the basics of email marketing or as a refresher to the fundamentals of successful email campaigns. If your organization knows they need to use email marketing -- or do so in a more effective fashion -- leave this book in the break room and see if anyone develops a newfound interest in this important area of marketing and communications. It can't hurt.
G. Simms Jenkins is Founder and Principal of BrightWave Marketing, an Atlanta based Email Marketing and Customer Relationship Services firm. He has extensive relationship marketing experience on both the client and agency side. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a large client list, including marquee clients like GMAC Insurance, CoreNet Global and The Atlanta Journal - Constitution. BrightWave Marketing has become a leader in the Email Marketing outsourcing space by using their expertise in strategy, design, list management, segmenting, delivery and analysis. Jenkins has been recognized by many media outlets as an Email Marketing and CAN-SPAM expert. Prior to BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins was Director of Business Development at two high-tech start-ups and headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media, a unit of media giant Cox Enterprises.