Bootcamp Lessons for Every Sender

Stephanie Miller, email marketing expert
By Stephanie Miller
VP, Global Market Development

No matter how much time you spend perfecting your email marketing, it always comes down to the basics. After you validate all the infrastructure is correct, email marketing is pretty straightforward in concept. Simply: If you give subscribers what they want (a.k.a: helpful, relevant, timely information they can proudly act upon), then they will give you what you want (a.k.a.: revenue, response, loyalty).

Relevancy. That is perhaps the most over-used word in email marketing and deliverability. It’s easy to see why increased relevancy will improve results – and help your messages stand out. Most marketing is ill timed, poorly targeted and un-interesting. Do the opposite and your messages will be welcome and earn higher revenue. You will have more loyalty, lower complaints and higher inbox placement.

So go ahead and do that – make your email program more relevant.

I presented that sage advice in the Email Bootcamp session at the DMA Annual event in mid-October. I then paused. A hundred or so people just looked at me, “Is she serious?” Finally, someone chuckled. (Thank goodness!)

Certainly that feels like the most unsatisfying counsel ever. Don’t just demand relevancy, tell me how! Yet, I believe that relevancy is more an attitude than a tactic. It’s really foundational to email marketing success – especially as the inbox becomes more crowed, more social and faces more competition from social networks and mobile commerce.

What makes email marketing hard is defining relevancy. It’s like beauty – in the eye of the beholder. And each subscriber is unique. Kraft has figured it out. In their Food & Family program, they send highly relevant content from the very first welcome message – in this case, a recipe based on preferences at subscribe. They deliver immediate value to the recipient.

In the Bootcamp session, I showed a number of great examples like that one from Kraft which can improve relevancy – and thus also boost subscriber satisfaction, lower complaints (clicks on the Report Spam button) and increase inbox placement rate. As you well know from reading this blog, if you don’t make it to the inbox, you don’t earn a response. Email deliverability is job one.

Here are some of the ideas we discussed – all of which improve relevancy and inbox deliverability, too:

  • Never underestimate the power of simply thanking your subscribers.
  • Use the data you collect to customize the subscriber experiences. Even date of sign up can be an effective segmentation tool.
  • Tap your own subscribers’ social connections to build your footprint – but only ask after you have provided something of real value first.
  • Test out new creative approaches and don’t be afraid to try something crazy. Just be sure you test the rendering BEFORE you email the message, or image blocking will destroy your good intentions.
  • Segment prospects and customers – and send them something different. This is a critical opportunity for every email marketer. These two segments have widely different relationships with you – respect that, and nurture them both. Otherwise, by blending the two, you are effectively *not* serving a large segment of your audience with every email message sent. What a waste!
  • Earn permission with every message. Checking a box is not the same as engagement. Never assume that subscribers will tolerate high frequency or low relevancy, just because they gave you permission once upon a time.

What are your best strategies for improving relevancy? Email me for a copy of the full deck. I’d love your feedback. Plus, tell us in the comments section below what “basics” you keep front and center for your problem.

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