7 requirements for future-proof email marketing

20 Apr 2017

In a previous article, we concluded that even if Email Marketing is already around for more than 20 years, and underwent a lot of transformation since, it still needs to evolve to stay relevant.

Working as a Digital Consultant at Bisnode, talking to about a hundred clients and prospects per year, I’ve been able to list their frustrations and expectations regarding the current state of Email Marketing.

Here is what we need for future-proof Email Marketing:

#1 – We need a better way to manage authorizations

You gave your opt-in to a brand. You like it. You want to receive all its communications.  Will it be the case? Not necessarily.

Your spam filter can decide for you that the mail of your beloved brand is suspicious, because it has too many images or used a word it doesn’t like, and prevent it from reaching your inbox.

Moreover, if the spam filter is hesitating on the status of the mail, but sees that the first persons to receive it don’t read it, it can finally decide that this mail is spam.

Isn’t that frustrating? Wouldn’t it be better to have a straightforward communication between your favorite brand and yourself? We should find a way to put the power and decision back in the hands of the consumer, with the spam filter only queried in case of suspicion.

 

#2 – We need a better way to target people

When we target prospects that might be interested by our products, we usually have in mind one or two classic personas, our average customers. We may also have in mind a few niche profiles. But there are always those people that we consider definitely out of scope. Unfortunately, those could be interested by your products too, but will never be contacted. Why is that?

This is mainly because we consider “superficial” criteria to contact those people. We focus on their socio-demographic profiles, their lifestyles, interests, online behaviors and customer life cycles.

We should shift to more profound criteria: their motivations, problems and emotions. What triggers them, what their priorities are.

We should switch from the “Who” and “What” questions to the “Why” and “How”.  And we can do this by shifting from Classic Personas to Psychographic Personas.

Understanding that it is not about targeting the “Woman of 60+”, but the “Woman of 60+ who finds it important to be elegant” will be the first step to finally target all the persons “who find it important to be elegant”, and stop segregating your potential prospects based on their sociodemographic characteristics.

#3 – We need a better timing for our messages 

The time of the long-planned campaign is over. Performance of our emails will be improved either by shifting to triggers or context.

A lot of email campaigners already introduced a trigger module, allowing you to send an email after an event has happened. This is a good first step, but it should go even further. Imagine the integration of an email campaigner to a tool such as IFTTT: allowing you to send emails to your customers after a trigger in one of the hundreds of different recognized apps. A true real-time marketer’s dream. Coincidence, as I am writing this, I learn that MailChimp just arrived in the IFTTT environment. Good move, MailChimp.

Aside from the trigger, we should also look more deeply into the context. And see it as more than a location.

Knowing that I am near my work on a Wednesday morning certainly means that I am commuting. Find me there on a Saturday afternoon would imply that I’m going to shop. Except if I have an average speed of 20 km/h and pass by unusual roads, which would give a hint that I am cycling. Each of these contexts should result in a different most relevant email to send. 

#4 – We need a better way to personalize our emails

The use of psychographic personas and contexts should lead to a logical conclusion: each mail should be highly personalized just before the launch to maximize its impact. 

We should have a Library of content somewhere, in which our automated content management platform should go and pick the right content for the right consumer, putting his main interests first, choosing the right words and arguments to generate the interest.

#5 – We need unbiased A/B testing

Our emails are a combination of dozens of elements. We usually focus on a fistful of them when we test. But what if the important elements were elsewhere and we didn’t suspect it? What if there was another element to change that would have doubled our performance? We would never know.

Why not learn from the biggest A/B testing ever, I mean the Theory of Evolution as explained by Charles Darwin?

In this theory, each new generation introduces random changes. Most new, adapted generations end up surviving, while those that are less adapted to their environment have a hard time struggling before ultimately becoming extinct.

This could be a good inspiration for an unbiased A/B Testing. Each email sending being turned into generations, each of them different from the previous one by a random mutation (a different text, call to action, image, promotion…), the best performing surviving, the others being killed.

No doubt this could increase our performance as well.

#6 – We need a better integration with other channels

Integration with Offline and Social is key for Email Marketing. It allows the identification of upsell candidates (buyers who can still be contacted by mail to buy more) and of the best prospects (the one you can contact by email and like you on Facebook but are not buying yet). 

It also allows merging more data, from all the parts of the ecosystem, to better target and optimize content for each of the recipients.

This leads to a “1+1=3” situation in which the global ROI of the channels working together is higher than the sum of ROI‘s of each isolated channel.

To reach this, multi-channel CRM is a requirement, working as a true datahub, assimilating all kinds of data and interpreting them to launch all kinds of campaigns.

#7 – We need a third generation of email marketers

Finally, we need a new generation to take email marketing one step further.

Like each new marketing channel, the usage we currently have of email in our marketing program has been defined by two generations of marketers:

Pioneers, who experimented with this new channel, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.

Integrators, who took all the success cases and bundled them into the global marketing processes of the company as Email Marketing as we know it today.

To be really future-proof, what email marketing needs now is a generation of Disruptors. Young talents that will re-appropriate this channel, invent new codes and usages for it, and revolutionize it to make it adapted to the world of tomorrow.

I call on to you, youngest of the readers of this article, to step forward and surprise us with the true Email Marketing of Tomorrow. We’re waiting for you. 

Florent Diverchy

Digital Consultant