Don’t Get Lost in the Inbox: Strategy for Email Marketing

Jay Bhatti, CEO of Yelli, asked a question last week at the Daily Deal Summit East that elicited a lot of groans.

“Show of hands. How many of you have ever unsubscribed from a daily deal?” Bhatti, asked. “And how many from your own company?”

The question hit a nerve.

Daily Deals pros are faced with a massive challenge: attracting consumers who are increasingly inclined to click that often-elusive “Unsubscribe” button. Meanwhile, brands such as have taken measures into their own hands by purging inactive subscribers from their databases.

Once a hot marketing tool, daily deals are now so ubiquitous that if brands don’t search for innovative ways to engage consumers, retention rates will continue to drop and the daily deals industry could quickly lose its luster.

When faced with the inevitable question, “Are email subscriptions dead?,” the answer down the line of industry experts at the “Year of the Unsubscribe?” panel at the summit was a unanimous “No.”

Simply put, industry experts  said, email marketing isn’t going anywhere.

Mike Rothman, general manager of Thrillist Rewards, pointed out that whenever someone registers for social sites like Facebook and Twitter, they still have to verify by email. Nonetheless, to avoid getting lost in the customer’s inbox, content strategists need to find more innovative ways to get noticed.

Panelists offered an array of suggestions. Bertrand Van Overschelde, vice president of Emailvision’s North America branch, said it was vital for companies to devote a portion of their budgets and resources to testing strategies and collecting data to efficiently cater to their customer.

The panelists agreed that it’s nearly impossible to identify a standard optimal frequency for sending emails. Marketers instead should focus on developing a strategy to encourage their specific audience to engage with their brand’s message.

“It’s not one size fits all,” said Tricia Han, general manager at DailyCandy.

For example: Targeting workers? Hit them up at their lunch hour. Sending emails to moms? Get at them in the morning before the kids head off to school.

Han pointed out that the customer response rates mirror the flow of the workweek. There’s an uptake around Wednesday once the week establishes its pace. Many brands send blasts only Monday through Friday, leaving the weekend as a great opportunity to announce deals and special offers when people are less overwhelmed by all the clutter.

When asked to pinpoint common mistakes in email marketing, Van Overschelde cautioned strategists not to get so caught up in their content that they lose sight of how it will read to the person engaging with the message. “There are humans on the other sides of these emails,” said Han.

In other words, marketers should be honest with customers about how often they’ll hear from them and listen to them in return.

While email is here to stay as a marketing and communication tool, the panelists were blunt in admitting that mobile is shaking things up. It’s evident that people are not just opening emails at their desks anymore but are constantly engaging with digital networks on the go, making smartphones and mobile devices important factors in deciding the time and frequency of sending emails. With new geo-location technology helping companies narrow down where their customers are opening their emails, content strategists can compile data and modify when to send emails.

The panel’s advice for brands and advertisers just starting to send out daily deals is to first identify and understand their target audience.

“Make sure your first 10,000 users are your best and most avid subscribers,” Rothman said. This way, he said, they’ll help build a strong foundation, tell their friends about the product, and keep coming back for more.

“Be provocative,” Han said. “There’s a lot of competition out there. Don’t be afraid to do something new.”

Find a way to create a great first impression, she said, and then follow through on that message.

“And to add to that,” Han said, remembering the golden rule of content marketing, “Make it social!”

 Image courtesy of Bruce Clay, Inc/flickr

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