Facing the Future

Recently, I participated in a panel discussion at a major e-commerce conference. The topic was about the “Future of Marketing,” and naturally, the discussion went towards the Internet of Things and other futuristic technologies. The key question was, “How should marketers adapt to these rapidly evolving technologies?”

wwwRecently, I participated in a panel discussion at a major e-commerce conference. The topic was about the “Future of Marketing,” and naturally, the discussion went toward the Internet of Things and other futuristic technologies. The key question was, “How should marketers adapt to these rapidly evolving technologies?”

In a panel discussion, where panelists are supposed to share the stage with others, there generally is no time to build up a story. Nor does the modern-day audience have patience for a long intro. We’ve got to get to the point fast. The bottom line? Technologies change, but people don’t.

Well, they actually do change over time, if you want to be technical about it, but the whole premise of predictive analytics (and the reason why it works) is that people are predictable. Hence the phrase, “Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.” Even the manufacturers of products aren’t sure what is going to be invented in the near future. People, on the other hand, unless there are life-altering events such as getting married or having a baby, change “relatively” slowly.

Yes, new cool things come and go, but the early adopters of technologies will remain in search of cool new things and adopt them earlier than others and at a higher price point, movie collectors will collect movies in new super-duper-ultra-high-definition formats (ask them how many times they bought the “Godfather” trilogy), conservative investors will invest more conservatively, fashionistas will care more about the latest fashion than others, and outdoors enthusiasts won’t be flipping channels on TV on weekends unless they get injured doing outdoor activities. Here, I am also describing the reasons why product-to-product type personalization (as in “Oh, you bought an outdoor item, so you must be in interested in all other outdoorsy stuff!”) is mostly annoying and impersonal to consumers.

So, if (more like “when”) some smart person – or a company – invents a new way to communicate among people, marketers should NOT create a new division for it (like a social media division, email division, etc.). If wearable devices, such as watches or eyeglasses, become really smart and ubiquitous, I am certain some marketers will simply see the new invention as a piece of real estate where they will put their so-called “personalized” ads. From a consumer’s point of view, that would be the last thing that they would want to see on their new toy. You think that a banner is annoying on a computer screen? Try a 3D image projected out of your glasses, promoting some random things.

The first thing that a marketer must face is that all of these new devices will be connected to a network for “two-way” communications, not one-way blasting. It doesn’t matter if it is a watch, eyeglasses, set-top-box or even a refrigerator. IoT is essentially about data collection, not about marketers’ new sets of billboards. And the price of spamming through such personal devices – especially ones that people will wear on their bodies – will be quite stiff. My advice? Don’t do it just because you can (refer to my earlier article “Don’t Do It Just Because You Can”).

The second bit of advice is that marketers should not forget that they are NOT in control of communication. Consumers will cut out any conversation if “they” think that the message is irrelevant, intrusive, rude or simply uncool. Millennials are in fact less likely to be resistant to sharing their information on the Net, if “they” think such action will yield some benefits for “them.” The second that they decide it is a waste of their time or not worthwhile for that small space on the phone, they will mercilessly opt out and delete the app.

So, if a marketer thinks that all of these new devices will serve “them” as part of their multichannel arsenals, well, I am sorry to inform them they are just wrong. Call it any name you want, whether it is personalization, customization, customer experience or whatever, the key is staying relevant at all times. The goal should be keeping engaged without being fired by the new generation of impatient and tech-savvy customers. In fact, marketers have lost control over this matter already; the sooner they realize that, the better off they will be.

Then there is this data part. All of these new technologies will yield more data for sure, as the very concept of “connection” is about knowing the who, when, what and where of every event, maybe with an exception for the “why” part (remember the age-old argument that correlation doesn’t automatically mean causation?). That means this Big Data thing will get even bigger. Many companies don’t even know how to deal with transactional data or digital data properly, and they barely consume basic reports out of them. Most don’t have any clue about how to convert such data assets into real profit. A few have some idea that personalization is the way of the future, but may not know how to get there.

Now multiply all of those data challenges by a million to gauge the size of the data-related issues when everything that consumes electricity will start spitting out some form data at us. Bless those electrons and charged particles; now they will soon know to how to talk to us.

How do marketers get ready for such a world? I think the way our brain works may provide a clue, though I am not getting into a new discussion regarding machine learning at this point. Our brains, basically, are programmed to know what to ignore; they simply do not process everything that we see, hear, taste or feel. Many women complain about their male partners’ selective hearing, but in the age of abundant data, analysts must learn from those seemingly simple-minded men.

Big Data are big because we don’t throw away anything. Data that are useful for one purpose could be dismissed as worthless noise for others. Basically, Big Data must get smaller to make sense for decision-makers (refer to my earlier article “Big Data Must Get Smaller”).

There are movements in Silicon Valley to build a machine that would just provide answers out of mounds of data, much like the one in a satire movie called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I dare you to say that even such a machine must go through some serious data selection/reduction processes first in order to provide any useful and consumable answers. Anyhow, even with such an omnipotent computer, the humans are the ones who need to ask the question wisely. If not, we will get answers like “42” for “The Question of Life, the Universe and Everything,” after 7.5 million years of calculation. That computer named Deep Thought in that movie actually pointed out that “The answer seems meaningless, because the beings who instructed it never actually knew what the question was.”

So, how are we supposed to ask questions in the age of abundant data and ubiquitous connections? Let’s remember that ultimately, marketing communication is about pleasing other human beings and treating them right. If that is too much, let’s start with not annoying them through every device and screen ever invented.

Then, how do we become more selective? Invest in analytics, and start cutting through the data before it is out of control. Why? Because consumers are in control of all these devices, and they will cut out any marketer who doesn’t conform to their standards.

We may never really know why people do what they do, but let’s start with talking to them only when necessary with a clear purpose, and offering benefits to them when we do get to talk to them. Modern-day analytics can already provide answers to such questions with available technologies. It is a matter of commitment, not technical challenges.

I really don’t think the future will be brighter just because we will have better technologies. Imagine spams through every device that you possess as a consumer. I, for one, would give up a talking refrigerator and all the benefits that come with it, if it becomes even remotely annoying to “me.”

5 Mobile Marketing Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2015

I don’t have to tell you that we are living in a mobile-first world that continues to drive brands to explore new ways to engage consumers. This ever-changing mobile landscape requires marketers to determine the best ways to connect with their mobile consumers with interactions that will resonate across varying screen sizes.

I don’t have to tell you that we are living in a mobile-first world that continues to drive brands to explore new ways to engage consumers. This ever-changing mobile landscape requires marketers to determine the best ways to connect with their mobile consumers with interactions that will resonate across varying screen sizes. Below you will find a handful of trends that brands should consider as they continue to evolve their mobile strategies:

1. The ROI for Mobile Marketing and Advertising Is No Longer a Guessing Game
Every second of the day mobile devices create copious amounts of actionable data for marketers. This data include call detail records, Short Message Service (SMS) data, and geo-location data. The volume of mobile data and the speed at which it is created continues to increase as the global population increases, as mobile device penetration rates rise, and as the consumer usage rate for social media grows.

2. Mobile Videos—the Time Is Now
During the last few years, the use of videos for marketing purposes has been steadily growing. According to eMarketer, more than one-third of all U.S.-based mobile phone users—about 29 percent of the country’s population—are expected to watch video on their mobile devices. This gives advertisers an ideal way to get in front of their target audience.

The reality is that mobile video is growing and will continue to do so. Stats show that consumers will continue to access, share and interact with video on their smartphones and tablets. The time to start developing a mobile video strategy is now.

3. Make It Personal
Effective digital strategies take a cross-channel approach that integrates the various mobile channels, such as SMS, app, Web and social. The value comes behind the scenes, as brands can learn useful information from each mobile interaction. For example, customers reveal their operating system when they download an app or open their Web browser. Smart marketers collate such data points into one centralized customer profile—an ideal asset to maximize personalization for mobile.

4. Going All In on Mobile
The importance of mobile will grow in each and every aspect of business. People use mobile devices all day long and in various contexts, allowing marketers to target them in a longer stretch of time and during different phases of the day.

All agree that the popularity of mobile devices will only grow in 2015, driven by smartphones, tablets and wearable technology requiring marketers to consider how they target and approach their mobile initiatives.

5. Hyper-localized Targeting
The proliferation of mobile devices, primarily smartphones, has created a major opportunity for marketers to deliver contextual advertisements. These mobile-specific ads target the right people at the right time. For instance, through the combination of social data and location data, stores that shoppers are near and might be interested in can send out ads offering percentage discounts or other incentives. Delivered by shops to their shoppers in real time, these ads get consumers to walk through their doors. Hyper-localized advertising has been shown to increase customer engagement and conversion rates.

People everywhere are becoming more reliant on their mobile devices to provide them with instant access to product information, deals and the opportunity to purchase in an easy, straightforward manner. These trends should inspire brands to think about how they can evolve their marketing strategies to enhance their mobile consumer engagement in 2015.

Cross-Device Is the Cornerstone of Your Marketing Plan

As smartphones and tablets evolve, the bright lines that previously separated digital, print, TV, mobile and PC are now beginning to fade away. Advertising, now more than ever, needs to be wherever and whenever the consumer wants it be, and “mobile” is not so much a device-type as it is a behavior or state of mind

As smartphones and tablets evolve, the bright lines that previously separated digital, print, TV, mobile and PC are now beginning to fade away. Advertising, now more than ever, needs to be wherever and whenever the consumer wants it be, and “mobile” is not so much a device-type as it is a behavior or state of mind.

The spend on cross-device campaigns that target the same users across smartphone, tablet and laptop devices is growing as marketers discover their effectiveness. In a recent survey, 75 percent of marketers said they have seen increased effectiveness with cross-device campaigns.

Marketers are already investing quite a bit in cross-device campaigns as they follow consumer behavior, but now they want to better quantify the results. The rush to develop mobile advertising campaigns is coupled with the desire for better measurement and understanding.

More than 50 percent of marketers surveyed by ValueClick Media and Greystripe reported that cross-device campaigns expand the overall reach and help optimize the performance of the campaign. But marketers point to the time and money needed to track, build and maintain a mobile experience as the main reasons why mobile campaigns are underperforming.

Marketers want to move deeper into cross-device marketing, but they also want more from their campaigns. Specifically, they want to better understand the impact of each medium and the path to purchase.

While cross-screen advertising is becoming increasingly commonplace, it still presents a range of challenges for brands—challenges that are holding back spending growth. The key challenges are:

  • Difficulty tracking audiences across multiple devices and a lack of common performance metrics were cited as the largest issues facing agencies and marketers when deploying and measuring cross-screen campaigns. Research shows that one in four marketers are yet to execute campaigns across multiple screens. For 59 percent of marketers and 68 percent of agencies, difficulty with tracking audiences across multiple devices is what’s holding them back.
  • Media planning and execution often take precedence over the creative. To successfully launch a cross-screen campaign, creative cannot be an afterthought. It’s clear why reaching consumers across multiple screens and devices is appealing, but brands need to reevaluate how they resource creative and technical production to ensure they have the assets needed to run effective cross-screen campaigns.
  • Cross-device advertising budgets typically are managed separately, making it difficult to keep the consumer at the forefront of planning silos. It’s time to start thinking about how to remove the silos and have a more holistic approach to mobile advertising campaigns.

If brands and agencies can come together to unlock the promise of consistent and rich ad experiences across different device screens at scale that many long for, the future of mobile advertising will undoubtedly be cross-device and creative will be able to adjust to the context in which it appears—whether that’s a phone, tablet, desktop, wearables, connected TV, or an automobile.

If Your Site Is Not Mobile-Friendly—Fix It Now!

If you rely on search to assist new users in finding your site, you must now make sure that your site is mobile friendly. Here are the reasons. As Google focuses on ensuring the quality of the user’s experience and the number of mobile devices increases, the volume of search traffic going to Google from these devices will continue to grow.

If you rely on search to assist new users in finding your site, you must now make sure that your site is mobile friendly. Here are the reasons. As Google focuses on ensuring the quality of the user’s experience and the number of mobile devices increases, the volume of search traffic going to Google from these devices will continue to grow. Google does not want the user to have a poor experience with their search just because it is done on a mobile device, so Google has been testing a variety of strategies for improving the mobile users’ experience. These focus on offering mobile users results that show sites that are more easily readable and accessible on their phones. With millions of pages to choose from Google can simply select those pages that work best on mobile devices and show them to the user. If your site is not mobile-friendly, now is the time to adjust your site, or it will be demoted.

On Nov. 18, Google made it official that they are adding a “mobile-friendly” label to their mobile search results. This is to guide users toward pages that will display well on their mobile devices. If your site is not already mobile friendly, Google will in essence be steering users away from your content and towards content that displays well on their device. You can expect that this is just a first step. Google added at the end of the announcement that the search engine is experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal. If your site is deemed unfriendly, you will be demoted.

So what makes a site “mobile-friendly” and when does Google decide? The determination will be made based on what Googlebot—Google’s crawler—finds as it follows your site. This lets Google cull out the friendly sites immediately upon the crawl. Googlebot will be looking for a list of criteria that will mark your site as friendly. These criteria include:

  1. Avoidance of the use of software that is not common on mobile devices. This includes Flash, so now is the time to trash the Flash pages, if you have not already done so.
  2. Use of text that is readable without zooming. Think of this from the user’s perspective and you will cheer.
  3. Content that automatically sizes to the screen so users doesn’t have to scroll either vertically or horizontally. (I hear another cheer from mobile users.)
  4. Links that are placed far enough apart that the correct one can be tapped easily. This eliminate a huge frustration for fumble-fingers like me who often inadvertently explore many pages.

All of these criteria are straightforward, and anyone who uses a smart phone for Internet searching will find the criteria refreshing. To assist site owners in making sure that their sites conform to the criteria, Google has provided a number of aids including a mobile-friendly testing tool and guides for how to create mobile-friendly sites. Users of Google’s Webmaster Tools will already find reports on their site’s mobile usability.

Although Google’s initial focus has been on mobile-friendly sites for smart phones, we can expect that in the near future Google will turn its attention to tablets. Users often shop from the comfort of home with their tablets. Google will look to improve the experience of “couch commerce” searchers in the future. If you have been postponing developing a mobile/tablet-friendly site, you can no longer put it off.

Mobile’s Impact on the Consumer Path to Purchase

One in three ad dollars will go to digital advertising next year, meaning digital media spending will be almost equal to television spending. Digital strategies will help drive the U.S. advertising market to $172 billion in 2015, according to new research from Magna Global. This—in combination with mobile and social networking—will push digital to the forefront

One in three ad dollars will go to digital advertising next year, meaning digital media spending will be almost equal to television spending. Digital strategies will help drive the U.S. advertising market to $172 billion in 2015, according to new research from Magna Global. Additional research shows that digital advertising will overtake television advertising by 2017, due in large part to the growing popularity of online video, with sites like YouTube and Netflix. This—in combination with mobile and social networking—will push digital to the forefront.

A digital strategy is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have for retailers and brands. If you don’t believe that, then you need to take a hard look at the following data points:

  • Mobile devices lead to in-store purchases. 52 percent of U.S. shoppers have used a mobile device to research products while browsing in a store.
  • Tablets are the cornerstone of online shopping. Tablets are expected to bring in $76 billion in online sales, two times that of mobile devices.
  • Digital content and mobile devices go hand in hand. According to eMarketer, U.S. adults will spend 23 percent of their time consuming media on a mobile device this year.
  • Mobile advertising is at its tipping point. Ad spend is expected to hit $31.45 billion this year. By 2018, it will top $94 billion.

How Do You Get There From Here?
Effective digital strategies take a cross-channel approach that integrates the various mobile channels, such as SMS, app, Web and social.

Value comes behind the scenes, as brands can learn useful information from mobile interactions. For example, customers reveal their operating system when they download an app or open their Web browser. Smart marketers collate such data points into one centralized customer profile—an ideal asset to maximize personalization for mobile.

Companies just getting started with cross-channel mobile marketing should focus on small wins. True cross-channel takes time and iteration, so commit to integrating what makes sense in the short, medium and long terms instead of trying to do everything simultaneously. Below you will find some key areas to consider when building out a mobile strategy:

1. Tablets, Smartphones and Watches, Oh My!
It will be vital for brands to take different form factors into account as they roll out their mobile campaigns. Mobile campaigns can quickly be compromised if brands don’t think about the impact on visuals and the call to action across various screen sizes.

2. The Mobile Marketing Tipping Point
Mobile marketing is evolving as more than just a tactic and is being embraced as a core part of the marketing strategy. With the goals being relatively the same as traditional marketing, marketers will be able to attract, engage and retain new and existing customers. Marketers will be able to target their audiences through highly relevant content based on location, interests and interactions throughout the mobile lifecycle.

3. Deliver a Seamless Experience From Discovery to Purchase
Brands have to make a conscious effort to remove the silos across organizations to be successful at mobile marketing. The goal of marketers should be to collaborate across initiatives by taking in to account different screen sizes, channels, design and messages to deliver ONE consistent experience to consumers.

4. Connecting the Dots Across all of the Consumer Lifecycle
As digital becomes a more integral part of the marketing strategy it will be vitally important to understand how mobile campaigns are performing across the entire customer lifecycle—including mobile ads and messaging, QR Codes, mobile website, branded apps and social media. With these insights, marketers will be able to optimize their campaigns to better understand the triggers that lead consumers down the path-to-purchase.

People everywhere are becoming more reliant on mobile devices and mobile websites to provide them with instant access to product information, deals and the opportunity to purchase in an easy, straightforward manner. Brands have to make it easy for their customers to navigate mobile sites and quickly decide to purchase, regardless of what device they are on.

The Complexities of Simplification

Remember when you were a kid and you learned how to fold a single sheet of paper into a little device that would allow you to tell fortunes? I was reminded of that device recently when my controller walked in carrying the latest direct mail package she received from FedEx. Being a good voyeur of marketing content, she brought it to my attention because she had inadvertently ripped one of the contents inside—and flung it down on my desk declaring it was “stupid”

Remember when you were a kid and you learned how to fold a single sheet of paper into a little device that would allow you to tell fortunes?

It seems it’s called an Origami Fortune Teller and over 1.3 million people have watched the instructional video on YouTube (side note: wish I’d thought to create that video when I didn’t have anything else to do).

I was reminded of that device recently when my controller walked in carrying the latest direct mail package she received from FedEx. The 6″ x 9″ envelope carried a simple teaser line: “My FedEx REWARDS.”

Being a good voyeur of marketing content, she brought it to my attention because she had inadvertently ripped one of the contents inside—and flung it down on my desk declaring it was “stupid.”

It turns out the envelope contained two items: a single-sided “card” and a multi-fold, multi-glued insert that was … well … stupid. This particular insert added no value to the communication other than it was one more item in the envelope.

Whoever designed it probably needed to watch the Origami Fortune Teller video to get some better ideas on how to design something like this because, with its multi-fold/unfold option, it simply wasn’t intuitive—thus the ripped piece that was now lying on my desk.

The insert didn’t add one additional piece of information—not one nugget of “surprise!”—and, in fact, the message inside (that it was easy to earn more great rewards and experiences) was counterintuitive to the experience we were having with the insert.

I think this is a great example of creative gone awry. I’m fairly sure the marketing strategy behind this direct mail package was to inform customers that there was a new FedEx Rewards program. And, the support messaging was:

  • To acknowledge that our company had reached a certain status level.
  • To inform us that we would earn five points on every $1 spent.
  • To excite us that we could redeem points from a robust rewards catalog.

All of that information was on the single-sided “card” that was easily scannable—so why the addition of the extra piece? Why spend the money creating, designing, printing, scoring, cutting, gluing, assembling a device that added no value?

Shall we blame it on the bored production manager who wanted to produce something more exciting than a card in an envelope? Or perhaps the art director who wanted to include a new format in the portfolio? Or the marketing manager who had a bigger budget to spend and it was “use it or lose it” time at the end of the quarter?

Is anyone in marketing at FedEx measuring the effectiveness of this package? Is it being tested against a package that doesn’t contain the insert? Or against a postcard? Or a simple letter in an envelope? If I was making a bet, I’d bet that the response rate AND the cost-per-responder on the package with the insert will be the biggest loser.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for innovative, fun, intelligently designed interactive marketing materials that achieve the desired the marketing objective. But when you have a simple message to communicate, keep the communication simple. Oh, and think about giving the mock up to a couple of people not related to the project to see if they can open it/interact with it without tearing it to shreds.

Responsive Design: This Changes Everything

Like many businesses, we put off making updates to our Web page because we were … um … well … simply too busy. And shame on us. As marketers, we know the critical role a website plays for any business. If a potential client, employee or business colleague wants to really understand who you are and what you do, they take two actions

Like many businesses, we put off making updates to our Web page because we were … um … well … simply too busy. And shame on us.

As marketers, we know the critical role a website plays for any business.

If a potential client, employee or business colleague wants to really understand who you are and what you do, they take two actions:

  1. Check out your LinkedIn profile: Does your photo look like somebody they want to engage with? Does your experience/education/brand voice look like a good match for my needs? Do you know anybody I know so I can get the inside skinny on you?
  2. Visit your website: How do you present yourself in the digital world? Do you have the experience/skills I’m looking for?

With an increasing number of site visitors using their mobile devices to visit websites, the new design “must-do” trend is responsive design. While in the past it was necessary to have a separate mobile-friendly version of a site, it’s now easy to maintain one site that can serve all your needs regardless of the screen size.

A site that uses responsive is flexible: It changes its layout and appearance based on the pixel width of the screen on which the site is displayed by reorganizing the images into a cascading style sheet. By using x and y coordinates on a grid for layout, and mathematical percentages for images instead of fixed-width pixel parameters, your layout will resize itself to fit in the size of the display device. That means that text on a page can be larger and easier to read on small screen, and buttons can be easier to press/click because they can accommodate the actual size of a finger.

If your site currently uses Flash, it’s probably a good time to rethink that strategy, as many smart phones don’t currently support it—which means many visitors won’t be able to view that content.

Plus, since Google recommends and supports smart phone-optimized sites, their algorithms will automatically detect a responsive design setup if those all-important Google bots are allowed to crawl your page assets. And we all know how critical it is that your site is Google-search friendly!

But, it seems, many brands have not jumped on the new responsive design bandwagon—and understandably so. We’re living proof that planning, designing and re-launching a new website is a time-consuming task. And while many web design firms claim they can adapt your current site for less than you may think, we found that we needed to completely rethink our site and the way we were presenting our work in order to take advantage of responsive design techniques.

Now email is following this same responsive design trend. If you’re like most people, you’ve already discovered that reading email on your smart phone can be challenging. Just because it looks great on your work monitor, doesn’t mean it will render properly on every recipients device. According to Litmus, as of December 2013, more than 51 percent of email opens occur on a mobile device. Meaning you’d better be taking a serious look at your email design if you want to make sure it’s optimized for the majority of your readers.

As for our website, it’s now under construction … and yes, we’re using responsive design … and yes, we’re learning a lot as we go. Check back in about 60-days and let me know what you think.

The Demotion of the Open Rate

For years, marketers have been tracking open rates and using this stat for everything from choosing the best time to send to validating the deliverability of a particular email-automation vendor; and well, everything in between. With more and more email being opened on mobile devices, Gmail caching images, and fewer recipients choosing to download images (perhaps accounting for as much as 40 percent of your audience), the open rate simply isn’t what it used to be—not that it was ever all that accurate

For years, marketers have been tracking open rates and using this stat for everything from choosing the best time to send to validating the deliverability of a particular email-automation vendor; and well, everything in between. With more and more email being opened on mobile devices, Gmail caching images, and fewer recipients choosing to download images (perhaps accounting for as much as 40 percent of your audience), the open rate simply isn’t what it used to be—not that it was ever all that accurate.

Charting a high open rate does not necessarily equate to clicks or conversions, but this has always been true. You might have written the most fabulous or enticing subject line and enjoyed a very high open rate, only to have failed to deliver the message and lost in the long run.

The Mobile Effect
Mobile devices are lowering the dependability of the open rate for some analysis, too. Most people scan emails on their devices and save only those they wish to read or act upon later. Emails that don’t answer an immediate need, or that are not relevant, may be deleted prematurely and without much recipient consideration. Even with responsive designs, the recipient is less likely to take advantage of an offer on a smartphone than on a tablet or desktop device, it’s simply easier to engage on a bigger screen.

Open Rate Increases
Gmail’s new image caching system automatically downloads images, and, for those recipients using Gmail or Google Apps, this can further affect your open rate tracking—your open rate will likely increase. The first open will be tracked correctly by most ESPs, but subsequent (repeat) opens by the same recipient will likely decrease. Unique opens, like opens, will become more accurate.

As with Gmail and Google Apps, iPhone and iPad devices download images by default. If you’re tracking your stats year over year, this increase in open rates by Gmail and iOS users will affect your ability to accurately assess your campaigns.

You may find that your open rates increase, but click-through rates do not, resulting in lower click-to-open rates.

Best Time to Send
Some email automation systems, such as Variant4, are able to send messages at the same time as the last open from the recipient, and this can be useful, but determining the right time to send based upon open rates alone will be misleading for the reasons stated earlier. When possible, opt for the previous engagement time, since if the open occurred on a mobile device, the click or conversion may have taken place later from a desktop device and that actually represents the better time for future sends.

Ensuring your content is on the mark is more important than ever as this is the driving force behind clicks and conversions (and not opens). Getting your audience to engage will gain you future priority placement in the inbox rather than a continued relegation to the promotion tab of Gmail.

Still Some Value
As undependable as the open rate has become, it does still represent some value—especially for segmentation and A/B testing of subject lines, for instance. Show caution when basing your conclusions on open rate alone and take the necessary steps to validate your finding through other supporting metrics.

Design Wins
As more email providers download images by default, we as marketers make a major win in the design arena. No longer will we have to design text formats and forfeit brand recognition. Our emails will be displayed in the manner in which we had intended all along.

Manage Your Team, and Answer Important Questions While You Travel

Did you realize that you have a way to communicate with your team right in your back pocket? True or False: Only wealthy companies use video and film production? Statement: It’s impossible to be two places at once. Did you realize that even while you’re traveling you could answer questions, and keep your team informed? If you travel heavily for your company and are an executive or leader, this article will help you by offering some new communication solutions

Did you realize that you have a way to communicate with your team right in your back pocket? True or False: Only wealthy companies use video and film production? Statement: It’s impossible to be two places at once. Did you realize that even while you’re traveling you could answer questions, and keep your team informed? If you travel heavily for your company and are an executive or leader, this article will help you by offering some new communication solutions.

The types of video production companies use now vary considerably. Anything from sales presentations, corporate communications, customer service, tutorials and internal communications are media treasures.

These types of videos can be there to serve both the client and your employees. The other forms of video production include staff training, employee orientation, safety procedures, promotional video and financial reports. The key point to remember here is they can be viewed on several different devices—iPad, computer, and, of course, mobile phone.

Video can be used as a heavy-duty communication machine even while you’re traveling the tundra. Utilizing video platforms like Skype, Livestream and Google+ Hangouts will put you in front of your employees so you can continue to disperse your companies propaganda, even while miles away. This allows your employees to be not only informed, but to have an emotional connection to you as if you are still present, even when absent.

Some types of video production can cost next to nothing to create. For example, Instagram, Vine, Skype, Facetime and Google + Hangouts. These are simple to use and can be viewed individually or as a group; which allows you to continue to lead your team even if it’s in a busy airport. These platforms give you the ability to promulgate to a tailored crowd. You can choose to speak to one person, several or the entire staff.

The other benefit here is that you can be in several places at once. I bet you wish you could clone yourself so that you can be everywhere at the same time. With telegenic devices, you are able to be in multiple locations, which can save you time and money.

HR Professionals are finding these assets invaluable to effectively inform their troops and train their employees on important factors such as safety, company policies and procedures. The same message is given each time to each individual, allowing more control over the communiqué distributed among the new and existing hires.

While any of these types of television programs would be effective and work, here are some more advanced ideas for the use of video in communicating to your present crowd. Use a thumbnail video in your email signature. This could be a general message from the CEO, President or possibly an HR Supervisor.

One of the best devices that I’ve seen this used with is a USB stick. Placing your corporate mini movie on this type of device is sure to get people interested in what’s on it. We can’t help but be curious when a gadget is in the palm of our hands.

What’s the best way to get started by utilizing these simulcast luxuries? This would be some solid hypothesis; Ask the people that have the most questions directed to them at your company. Have them write up to 10 topics that these videos could address. Do this with the answers to those questions, and Voila!, you have a script created for your first production.

Next, decide who will be your audience. Directly address them individually or within the group. Make the dialogue interesting, as if you were right there in the same room—because technically you are.

Then decide what the best way to distribute this message should be. Should it be Live? Do you want to ensure that they will see it? Do you want this to be measurable and traceable? Consider the style as well. Do you want it to be comical, motivational or serious in nature? A financial report to your stock holders may need to be handled with kid gloves, while a safety video that is going to be viewed by the group and needs to be remembered, and comedy can often be more memorable, even on serious subjects.

I hope that this discussion has sparked a few new ways for you to interface with your peers. If anything, perhaps it’s helped answer the question of how can you communicate with the team while abroad? Either way, I’m sure you will remember that the use of video isn’t always obvious but still effective.

Any further discussion or ideas to be added can be sent to me at egrey@hermanadvertising.com.

Learning From the Best (and Worst) Email Marketers

Following best practices is one of the quickest ways to get a high quality marketing program started and to improve one that is in place. The things that consistently motivate people to act in one channel or industry will work in others. Watching what competitors and non-competitors alike do provides insight and inspiration for connecting with your customers

Following best practices is one of the quickest ways to get a high quality marketing program started and to improve one that is in place. The things that consistently motivate people to act in one channel or industry will work in others. Watching what competitors and non-competitors alike do provides insight and inspiration for connecting with your customers.

Email marketing is one of the easiest channels for gathering information on what people are doing to inspire their customers and prospects to act. Subscriptions to most email programs are free, so the out-of-pocket cost is minimal. The downside of subscribing to a magnitude of newsletters and promotional emails is a full inbox that has to be filtered to find the best ideas. Subscribing to an email archive provider is an alternative that will save you time while providing access to a multitude of ideas. [Editor’s Note: The Who’s Mailing What Email Campaign Archive is one such service, offered by one of our sister publications in the Target Marketing Group, that provides research and data for The Integrated Email.]

Whether you compile your own or use a provider, look at what is being done to capture the recipient’s attention. You have a few characters and nanoseconds to make recipients decide they want to open your email. Everything has to fit together to make it work. Your customers use a variety of devices and tools to view their emails. You want your return address, subject line, and opening blurb to scream “open me now” at first glance regardless of the device or tool.

Looking at how others use copy and graphics to motivate people to act can help you find new ways to inspire and tactics to avoid. When you have historical data at your fingertips, you can start identifying the things that work best. Repetition of the subject line or special offer typically means that it worked well and the company wants to replicate the success. The exception is when the same subject line or offer is barely changed email after email. This usually indicates that the email program is in auto mode with little testing to see what has the best success.

In addition to seeing what works, reviewing archived emails also shows opportunities. A review of your competitors’ program and content will show where they are leaving holes in the information provided to customers and prospects. Fill those holes and your business will attract market share.

Every component of an email has one simple purpose: To keep the recipients moving forward step-by-step until they reach the end. The final action you want them to take is the objective of the email. It may be purchasing an item, completing a survey, or any other activity you choose. The perfect email is the one that makes the most people fulfill its purpose.

The components of an email include:

Subject Line
The subject line needs to lead strong and provide a reason for people to open the email. The best subject lines capture attention with the first words because some devices or tools only show a few characters.

Return Information
Use the return information to let people know who the email is from and why they should care. Your loyal customers will be more likely to open the email even if the subject line is unappealing when they know it is you.

Opening
The opening line is often shown when people skim through their emails. Apparently email marketers pay little attention to this because I routinely receive emails that appear on my mobile device leading off with “if you have trouble viewing this email click here” or “view in iOS out|view as web page.”

Graphics
Emails that are primarily graphics open in most email client inboxes with red Xs in place of those graphics. Use a good combination of text and graphics in your emails so there is something for people to read when the graphics aren’t visible. Use alternate text for your images to provide information that will motivate people to download the images.

Copy
The words you use make all the difference in an effective email. Invest in a good copywriter that knows how to speak to your customers in the language they understand with words that motivate them to act. It is money well spent because it always delivers a higher return on investment.

Call to Action
What do you want people to do next? If you don’t tell them, they’re less likely to do it. People have been trained from an early age to follow instructions well. Use that training to get them to take the next step.

Follow-up
Give people an opportunity to respond directly to your email if they have additional questions. Provide a call to action for questions that includes a link, an email address, and a telephone number. This allows them to choose the method of communication that fits them best.