The Only Influencers Blog

The top thought leaders in email marketing share their insights and thoughts.

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When IBM announced last week that it would be purchasing Silverpop, the cloud-based multichannel marketing platform, it was only the most recent in a three-year string of high-profile marketing technology acquisitions. Only a month before IBM’s announcement, Oracle made an acquisition announcement of their own, pledging to acquire marketing & data management platform BlueKai for an estimated $350-$400 Million. This move by IBM, and Oracle’s successive ingestion of Compendium, Eloqua, Responsys, and now BlueKai, are all moves to maintain and/or gain position in what is now undeniably a digital marketing platform arms race, dominated by these and a handful of competitors, including Salesforce* and Adobe.**

Everything has been a target for acquisition and integration, from website analytics providers to email service providers, data management platforms, social media management, and beyond. Each of these titans has been aggressively building and buying their way to deliver on the promise of a CMO-focused, cloud-based, integrated cross-channel platform that places the digital marketing controls squarely in the court of the marketing organization and relieving long-standing resource dependencies on other internal and external organizations. It is a vision that, in most of these and many other competing organizations, has been branded the “Marketing Cloud,” and it is set to be the key driver in marketing technology evolution and decision-making for the coming five years.

So, what does all of this tectonic shifting mean for the CIOs and CMOs who are making technology decisions right now? Well, as Jeff Bridges’ Big Lebowski character, The Dude, might say: “It’s a complicated case. A lot of ins. A lot of outs. A lot of what-have-yous.” In the interest of keeping this an article, though, as opposed to the book this subject may deserve, let me share four ways in which I believe the impact will be felt in the C-suite in the coming years:

1)   Increasing pressure to replace existing “piecemeal” solutions…even if they are currently working well

In the past 5 years, most medium-to-large enterprises have undergone some version of a marketing technology selection process that undoubtedly included a healthy internal debate over centralizing the activities of their various marketing groups on a consolidated platform vs integrating disparate “best-of-breed” solutions selected by individual units with channel oversight. 

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How many times have you heard the words “simplicity and efficiency”? Now, how many times when it relates to marketing automation? For me, more times than I can count or remember. We have tried many things to help streamline our organization and our automated programs. Like always, some things we learned the hard way, and others naturally fell into place. Below are 6 items which we experienced over the years. I share these with you so you don’t have to go through the same learning curve that we did. Use one, or use them all as you, your teams, and your customers grow and change.


TIP: Be aware of low connection speeds in emerging areas and how it could affect your content. In order to benefit from this tip, you will need an open mind about industry best practices. As email professionals, we strive to keep emails short and lead the contact to our website for in-depth information. However, internet speeds can vary greatly throughout the world. In some high-growth emerging regions such as Eastern Europe, IndRA, or Africa, our team preferred to send lengthier content and include more information instead of losing their contacts to slow load times during the click-through. We also received customer feedback supporting this need. We are ‘meeting in the middle’ on this one and respecting the local expert knowledge if they need to add information to the approved content. As internet connections improve, and mobile becomes even more prevalent, we will need to revisit this conversation.


TIP: Devise standardized frameworks to facilitate consistent automation, ease of internal communication and efficient long-term maintenance. We know that behavior based automation works, but every region had input on content, touches, cadence and what message works best in their country. After creating 500 different programs based on local input we realized we couldn’t maintain what we had created. We developed standard message models for different stages of the marketing funnel. This allowed us to standardize and localize automation in those funnel stages. We also developed models and templates for everything from beta-tests, to messaging templates, to request and reporting forms. All of these drove understanding and adoption throughout the world. It took testing and sometimes re-testing to get it right, but the consistency, adoption, and conversion metrics of our projects helped prove its worth.

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Epsilon released its Q4 2013 Email Trends and Benchmarks Report earlier this month and there’s some exciting new data here on triggered messages that will help marketers evaluate their email programs.

Last week I spoke about the value of triggered email messages at the Monetate Agility Summit. Here Epsilon is breaking out performance on triggered messages not just compared to non-triggered or business-as-usual messages, but also by industry segment.

It confirms what those of us who love triggered messages already knew:

  • Triggered messages generate open rates an average of nearly 60% higher than business-as-usual messages
  • When it comes to clicks, messages triggered in response to a recipient’s actions garner more than double the clicks of non-triggered missives


In the Epsilon report they’re showing open rates of 49% and click-through rates of 10%, on average, for triggered email messages. But I like to focus on the lift, not the actual average open and click rates.

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Posted by on in Insights from the Influencers

Everywhere you turn in the digital space, the word “relevant” seems to appear. Relevant ads. Relevant communications. Relevant this and relevant that. God forbid that you’re irrelevant – a ticket that some people (mostly vendors who sell “relevance solutions”) will lead you directly to Dante’s 6th circle. In email, dogma has formed that makes you try to believe that you must – at all times – only deliver product content to your consumers that is totally and absolutely relevant to them at that particular moment.

I call bullshit. Because - in email- relevance is irrelevant, once the consumer chooses you. (Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth music.)

Why do I know this? Statistics.

In any statistical model I’ve been around, the most relevant piece of information you can have to predict future purchase behavior is past purchase of either the same product or that category of product. It’s such a powerful variable that statisticians usually eliminate it because (a) it skews the model and (b) if you actually had the category purchase data at scale, you really would not need a model. That single data element is so “relevant” that if you had enough of it, you could stop there and live off of that variable to build your business.

In the world of email marketing, we have such a variable. It’s called an email address. The fact that people sign up for your email is far and away the most powerful interest a person has in your product. Signing up for your email is their indication to you that they already find you relevant. (Unless, of course, you’re not getting consent for the email sign up…then you’re just kind of a jerk.)

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Every marketer has been there. You’ve just gotten back from the conference or read an inspiring ebook on A/B testing, and you’re pumped to start your own testing strategy. And then three people need all of their emails to go out immediately, and testing goes out the door with your sanity. We all know that tweaks in our email marketing campaigns can pay off with big returns, but it’s hard to find the time to actually do it well. However, it won’t take as much time as you think if you utilize existing tools and put a bit of thought into your testing strategy.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the technical term for strategically planning your tests. It’s the active process of defining the metric you’re trying to optimize, creating several hypotheses about what tweaks in your campaigns may increase your conversion rate, and measuring the effect of each hypothesis. It applies equally to email and landing pages, but I’ll limit the discussion here to email as much as possible.

The first step in creating a CRO strategy for your organization is defining the metric you want to improve. I’ve heard two main schools of thoughts around this goal metric for CRO. The first is that it’s best to focus on getting progressive “yes’s” from your audience, as in, “Yes, I’ll open your email. Yes, I’ll click on your email. Yes, I’ll buy your product.” In this mindset, the metric you want to optimize would be the first “yes,” which is usually open rate – the more people you can get into your email, the more potential next “yes’s” you have.

The other school of thought is focusing your CRO efforts on the ultimate action you want your audience to take. Here, CRO goes beyond just email because the landing page you’re sending people to has an effect on the overarching conversion, whether it be subscribing to a newsletter, registering for a webinar, buying a product, etc.

I can see the rationale behind getting small yes’s out of your audience, and that strategy probably makes sense for some campaigns. However, I fall into the latter camp – I want everything I tweak in my campaign to ultimately support my typical goal of getting people to sign up for an email newsletter. I understand that folks have got to want to open my email before they can see the persuasive argument I’m making and want to click and ultimately subscribe, but at the end of the day, I’d rather have 1,000 people open my email and 300 subscribe than 3,000 people open my email and 100 subscribe.

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