Avoiding email stagnation in 2019.

Whether you’re just starting to activate your email database or you’re worried about audience fatigue, here are a few tips and tricks to keep your contacts engaged and your messages on point.

It’s 2019. Is email marketing still even relevant?

As arguably the most cost-effective channel, email marketing should absolutely continue to be a key component of your channel mix in 2019. According to various sources, email marketing returns ~$40 for every $1 spent so it’s no surprise that 72% of companies rate it as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in terms of ROI, as reported by Econsultancy.

In addition to cost-effectiveness, email marketing also provides the following benefits over other channels:

Deliverability: as long as you have a consenting database, email deliverability provides more opportunity for awareness and comprehension, especially when you consider wastage and fraud related to advertising and low impressions on organic social post reach.

Measurability: Simple to test and optimise, email marketing is a reliable channel to provide real-time customer and content insights.

Engagement: For B2B, email is still the primary communication channel and it’s more personal than those with broader reach. Compare CTRs across your channels and I guarantee, email performs. Plus, it’s the original sharing tool – let’s face it, all it takes sometimes is a ‘forward’ to get a foot in the door.

Regardless, marketing is never about doing just one thing. Combined with an integrated omni-channel approach, email marketing is sure to play a key role in nurturing and enhancing relationships throughout your customer lifecycle.

Done well and with the right tools, it could even become the jewel in your marketing crown this year…

Just starting out or concerned about saturation?

If you’ve just dipped your toes in and decided 2019 is the year to ramp up your email activity, you’ll want to consider the following.

The quality of your database: It’s pointless ramping up email activity to a disengaged audience. You should be able to make a start as long as you have ensured consents, consistent naming conventions for personalisation and enough profile data to build basic segments. Don’t wait for perfection to get going – start simple and build on it.

Frequency and relevance of your message: If you’ve not engaged your database in a while, suddenly spamming them every few days will no doubt result in a whole lot of unsubscribes. Warm them up over time with relevant and engaging content. I’m often asked ‘how many is too many?’ and my answer is generally ‘if it’s what they want to hear and you’re genuinely adding value with your message, frequency should not be an issue.’

If, on the other hand, you’ve been using email marketing frequently for a while now, you’ve likely got these questions going into 2019:

  • How can I grow my database so that I’m not always sending the same segments everything?
  • How do I maintain high engagement over time and with so many stories to tell?
  • How to I avoid email fatigue?

Well, the tactics again, are two-fold:

Database maintenance

Your database is the key to effective segmentation and personalisation and this is what creates relevance. Over time, the way in which you segment and personalise should increase in sophistication. Start by using profile data such as location, customer lifecycle value or basic demographics (age, gender, net-worth etc) and personalise by using their name and basic field merge details.

If you’re already doing this, build on it by enhancing your segmentation with behavioural Digital Body Language data, such as whether or not they’ve visited your website or opened an email within a certain timeframe. Lead scoring is another great way to improve segmentation – you’ll probably want to send a different message to someone who’s ready to buy than to someone who’s in the early stages of learning about you. To avoid the dreaded unsubscribe, consider excluding those who haven’t recently engaged and try to re-engage them at a later date, when they may be more receptive.

Enhance personalisation over time by using dynamic content. For example, serve images of people like them (age, gender, ethnicity) or of previous products purchased or engaged within your other channels. All of this demonstrates a deeper understanding of who you’re talking to and it pays-off – according to DemandGen’s report: Calculating the real ROI from Lead Nurturing, “leads who are nurtured with personalised content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities.”

Consider the timing of your messages. Do different segments or personas respond differently to different days and times of the week? Test and optimise, not just across your database, but at a segment level.

To grow your database size and improve data quality, promote engagement over the hard-sell. Offer interactive content tools such as polls, quiz’s and calculators to capture data or use progressive profiling to enhance profiles and improve personalisation. All of this assumes your CRM is integrated with your Marketing Automation platform and that it’s a bidirectional synch to ensure sales and marketing alignment – if that’s not the case, rewind and start there.

Keeping it fresh

Often as Brand Managers, we’re reluctant to shake up the look and feel or tone of voice, but this is one channel that I think warrants regular refreshers and a different tone depending on who you’re speaking to. Small adjustments and tweaks here and there to templates help keep emails looking fresh without losing your brand identity. But, shake it up every now and again with bolder changes if you’ve got something really important to say and you want it to stand out.

Email designs are now trending toward a browser-like experience, one in which the recipient need not visit a website as a call to action. As long as you can say what you need to in various email sections and measure every action on the email, why always send them elsewhere?  Likewise, given the size of inboxes these days, it’s no surprise that emails are becoming even more visual and interactive (almost social-media like). Using animated gifs, video content, polls, quiz’s and gamification within your emails will produce increased engagement, while providing additional data capture through tools like blind form submissions.

But don’t do it at the expense of relationship building. With some preferring plain text now over HTML, copy matters just as much as the fun, interactive elements. Personally, I don’t believe this trend back to plain text email marketing in 2019. I think as long as you’re applying user-centric design principles, there shouldn’t be any reason why a beautifully constructed email can’t be both content and visually appealing. Then again, mixing it up and trailing some plain text might be worth it for some of your audiences who are either not engaging with more visual templates, or who are further through the sales journey and ready to speak to a real person (or at least believe they are).

In summary….

Where-ever you are in your journey, I hope 2019 allows you to be brave with your email marketing. A commitment to small, constant improvements and generating insights will ensure you’re not still in the same place next year with an even less engaged audience.

If you’d like help getting started or avoiding email stagnation in 2019, we’d love to hear from you.