Simms Jenkins is Founder + CEO of BrightWave, a leading email marketing agency, and author of two definitive books on email.
In 2019, email marketing still gets less-than-appreciated street cred from many marketing practitioners despite being recognized as a top-performing marketing channel. If you tell your board you want to double down on email, you likely won’t be taken seriously as a CMO (at least initially, before the results come in). If you introduce yourself at a dinner party as an email marketer, you may very well be laughed at and called a spammer.
Email has toiled in the shadows for two decades, going from underutilized and misunderstood tank to precision-guided missile capable of delivering the right content to the right device at the right time. It’s driving revenue for serious brands, and I believe it is high time for all marketers to join the party and prepare accordingly for it.
Today’s modern email marketing is nothing like the email of days past, and it can be summarized by the emails you are getting from the brands you use, buy from and trust every day. It's possible you're not really noticing they are emails versus content you are receiving from a trusted brand.
Dynamic and personalized emails should provide the most relevant info your customers need to capture their interest (and maybe subtly incentivize them to do more through useful and relevant content). Think Peloton, Uber or Nest’s monthly activity emails, which highlight real-time, specific activity and personalized (therefore, relevant) content, which is useful, interesting and maybe even fun.
For example, Peloton's monthly email tells me how many days I have exercised (or not, depending on my view), behavioral stats, and some suggested rides based on the community and connections. It's much better (in a "what's in it for me?" way) than a generic "here is what is going on, and buy our stuff" newsletter way. This approach is clearly a win -- especially for industries that are not usually thought of as fun and engaging.
I know plenty of marketing veterans who would argue that a message capturing a user's monthly exercise activity is not an advertisement and it's not selling anything, so what’s the point? And that is the point. Modern email marketers, including at our own agency, are driving engagement, revenue and return on investment through strategies and tactics that do not resemble traditional direct marketing in any shape or form.
I believe that is why email subscribers are more engaged than ever. And they certainly have more than enough choices on their mobile device to consider taking up their time while they are in line at the grocery store or in the carpool line picking up the kids. Yet email continues to be read at an increasing pace on mobile devices, with 75% of respondents in a Fluent survey saying they use their smartphones most often to check email.
What you can do now in modern email is the point:
Instead of driving people to a website or landing page and requiring a few more clicks to get the buy/conversion/like, you can seal the deal in the body of the email through kinetic email design. Kinetic email, at its core, is a coding technique via some creativity with HTML and CSS (HTML5 and CSS3). So, think frictionless commerce: In the way that you wouldn't want your customers to have to visit multiple check-out counters in your store, kinetic email can allow your customer to get all the info and buy in the email itself versus leaving and completing the transaction elsewhere.
Instead of showing irrelevant products and content, you can dial in data from their user profile or behavior to populate a real-time, super valuable email. So, for example, if you know a customer has bought specific products from you and lives in a market where the weather has made your product more relevant to them, you could serve up compelling and timely offers in the email versus making them dig for it on your site.
Instead of fake reviews written by your marketing intern, use real reviews from third-party sites. Incorporate content from your site into your emails to showcase your brand's authenticity.
Instead of moving people to social to talk about you, you can take the social conversation to the inbox. Leveraging real-time content in the inbox is another smart way to show that your brand is the real deal.
Instead of clumsy video attempts, you can elegantly show animation in the body of the email. Utilize email's evolutionary elements that now mostly support animated gifs in the email and other "that's cool" coding tricks that used to be just on websites.
Instead of linking to a page and having to click a few tabs to find search functionality, you can search in the email to find what you are looking for in a more seamless fashion. Take the robust layers that email now allows to expand the ways of how your customers find what they want on any channel.
Instead of relying only on an abandoned cart to trigger a campaign, you can use models to predict who is most likely to purchase specific items. You can create your own trigger and send a pre-abandoned cart campaign to a larger audience. You will need a data science whiz to make this happen.
Email should be seen as the VIP channel and one that is owned. A next-level and modern email program can elevate permission email into an asset and business game-changer. Make your case and run, don't walk, in taking your program to the next level.