After nearly 20 years in the industry, it still astonishes me to find how many email marketers aren't doing everything they can – legally! – to acquire high-quality subscribers.
I’ve been in email marketing for 9 years now, the latest iteration of a digital marketing career that I have had going for over 20 years. During this time, I have seen interesting new technologies emerge—from Send Time Optimization, to Machine Learning, to AI being leveraged for content and subject line suggestions. And yet, I look in my own inbox and am forced to ask, “What the hell is going on?”
In today’s Unboxing article we look at Ongage, a seven year old profitable email marketing technology company based in Israel with corporate offices in New York City. Ongage has carved out a very unique niche for themselves in the email technology universe as an independent front end for ESP’s and SMTP’s with their sweet spot being the SMTP/MTA world which often lacks a front end of their own. It also allows you to integrate multiple SMTP’s into a single common interface. Let’s open it up and look under the hood, starting with the list of recommended vendors that Ongage has integrated with:
Email Marketing continues to prove its value on a regular basis. When a brand sends an Email they know who opened, clicked, purchased, even down to what they purchased. This data helps in developing targeted Email segmentation plans. Does this mean Email Marketing is easy? If you are doing batch and blast it can appear easy but Email is complex when done right. However, the payoff is worth the effort. Some people believe that Social is easier since in real time you can post content and get instant likes. But is this really the same thing?
"Interactive email" and "AI” (artificial intelligence) are all the rage in email these days because they offer lots of promise to keep email's future bright. But, they're tops on my list of overhyped trends. So let’s step back for a moment and look at where we are now and where we should go with them in the future.
A few days ago, I posted a link on my Facebook page to a blog post I'd written about an American Airlines year-end recap email. I praised AA for going above and beyond the call of email duty because it used my own data to hyper-personalize the message.
Then, a friend commented on that post, saying, "Does it ever bother you that we've been preaching the same things for the last 10 years?"
Email marketing is a game, or at least it should be. The sentiment is captured in the now-aged movie, “Moneyball.” The movie, focused on a sub-par baseball team that used strategy to improve their winning percentage. It is a great classic for marketers everywhere. In the movie, the A’s manager, Billy Bene, applied Marketing principles to baseball and moved the team from a projected worst place finish to making the playoffs and changing the way the game is played forever.
It’s lovely to see more organizations consistently testing to boost performance! But it’s sad to see marketers doing tests which are returning inconclusive or just plain useless results. Here are three of the most common testing mistakes my team and I run across working with clients, along with tips for how you and your team can avoid making them in the future!
This year I asked the members of Only Influencers to brag about their accomplishments for 2017. The response was outstanding and we will be making this an annual event. So, here is what the members of email marketing community accomplished this year:
I remember when CSS was barely usable in HTML email and plain-text versions were our attempt to be ‘mobile-friendly’. Table-based, inline-styled emails were all the rage way back in 2007. Seems like ages have passed since, although Outlook will always remind us of the good-old-days. Now, emails are mobile responsive, contain kinetic elements, and even contextual content by using real-time information gathered from the recipient - dilly, dilly!
Change is hard! With email, change can even be more overwhelming because what you are doing now is likely something with which you are comfortable. However, isn’t it time to leave that comfort zone? We tend to lose sight over the impact that small changes to our email program can have. We test subject lines and day of week, the length of the email, text vs. image, and the frequency in which a subscriber should be mailed, etc. The list of what you can test goes on and on. Testing is great because it provides us good insight into how we should be engaging with our subscribers. However, one of the things I don’t see happening often is a change in the creative template. Both with my clients and what I see as a consumer (and yes, I get tons of emails) I see the same template time and time again.
A few months back, I wrote about using data to determine the timing, content, and impact of your email marketing campaigns (See: 6 Steps to Putting Data to Work in Email). In the last few months, the element I find myself discussing most with colleagues and clients is the latter: What data can we use to attribute the impact of our hard working email marketing campaigns?
When it comes to challenges in attribution, I’ve heard it all:
It never fails that a few months before a brand marketer is due to renew their marketing automation contract, they reach out to tell me that they are secretly looking to switch to a new platform and want my opinion. After we have spent a little time talking about their current state, what they want out of their future state and the business goals they are looking to accomplish, we usually determine that their current platform meets their needs. However, one thing always stands out, they typically need what I refer to as a “Marketing Automation Tune-Up,” which, simply put, is just recalibration and adjustment to what they are currently doing.
Person-first personalization is a hot topic at the moment. Forrester Research, The Relevancy Group, and other thought leaders are writing extensively on the subject. Why? Because consumers have raised their expectations. When consumers have personalized experiences with Spotify, Netflix or any other similar brand, they subsequently expect all other brands to deliver the same 'surprise and delight’ experience.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the details, the big and little decisions that need to be made every day and then tracked and managed and… well, you know. At the same time, as marketers we all want to focus on strategy, on the vision of what we are trying to achieve and who our audience really is and all the great thought leadership that goes along with that. It’s hard to find the balance when you’re stuck in the trenches. That’s why a guide can be helpful.
Most of all, differences of opinion are opportunities for learning - Terry Tempest Williams
As some of you may already know, Alchemy Worx the agency I founded in 2001 was recently acquired by SellUp an email marketing agency with offices in NYC and Manila, founded by Allan Levy – whom I have known for many years and respect a great deal. One of the primary reasons for doing so was to free up the time I was spending running the agency full time to spin off the software division of Alchemy Worx into a separate company. The new company, Touchstone Intelligent Marketing exists to help plug 2 significant gaps in the marketing clouds - testing and subscriber level reporting. The 1st of these Touchstone Tests a testing tool that allows you to try out any number of subject lines quickly and without burning out your customer database, is the source of the data I am about to share.
In “The Blueprint for Better Performance Testing” I walked you through how I look at an existing email campaign to come up with hypotheses for testing.
But what do you do when you don’t have an existing campaign to look at – what do you do when you’re developing a performance testing plan for a brand-new product or service?