5 Things to Do Now to Prepare for the Next Stage of Email Marketing

The email channel is well known for being a low cost high performance marketing machine. Generating revenue requires little more than the ability to acquire opt-in permission and change content in a template. It’s so easy that someone with no experience could create a successful email program. But the email marketing world is changing. Evolution has already begun. Companies have to adapt or lose the effectiveness of a channel that has served well as a cash flow king

The email channel is well known for being a low cost high performance marketing machine. Generating revenue requires little more than the ability to acquire opt-in permission and change content in a template. It’s so easy that someone with no experience could create a successful email program.

And, they do. This is one of the reasons that spam continues to grow. Someone with access to thousands of addresses can fill his or her coffers by blanketing the list with promotional messages or scams. Those emails keep coming because they work. If people didn’t respond to them, the spammers would find a new source of income.

The minimal requirements for success also contribute to the cookie cutter emails sent by established brands. Subject lines, images and content change, but the layout and offers are strikingly similar. When asked why they do this, marketers claim that testing has proven that their subscribers respond best to this presentation and offers.

The problem is that they decided to stop testing once a solution was found. Any halfway decent direct marketer will tell you that testing shows what works best AT THAT TIME. The winner becomes the control that is used to gauge the effectiveness of future tests. Email marketing lulls marketers into complacency because it works so well at consistently generating revenue. Following the “don’t fix it if it’s not broke” theory keeps them from finding strategies that work better.

In fairness, the demands on marketing teams are continuously increasing. Participation in high maintenance, continuously changing channels requires time and effort that might have been dedicated to improving email campaigns if the world were different. Resources have to be allocated by need and email campaigns do not require much to be successful.

The email marketing world is changing. Evolution has already begun. Companies have to adapt or lose the effectiveness of a channel that has served well as a cash flow king. That adaptation has to start now because it takes time to establish the relationships required for continued success. Waiting until campaigns start losing their effectiveness will be too late.

There are two shifts creating the need for change. The first is increased competition. According to the Radicati Group’s email statistics report for 2012 – 2016, 144.8 billion emails were sent in 2012. By 2016, that number is expected to increase to 192.2 billion. Business emails account for 61 percent of the emails today, increasing to 75 percent in 2016. Consumer emails are decreasing. In 2012, 55.8 billion emails were sent. By 2016, consumer emails will drop to 48.4 billion. More marketing messages mean that company emails have to fight harder for recipients’ attention.

The second shift is the ongoing effort to provide a personalized universal search experience. Google is the first search engine to test adding emails to results. It’s only a matter of time before the field trial rolls out and other search providers follow the lead. This changes the rules of engagement for the email marketing game.

Email campaigns will need to work overtime to deliver the best results. In addition to generating immediate cash flow, they need to have a “save for later” appeal that keeps recipients from deleting them. The saved emails will appear when people search the web for similar products or services.

Fortunately, preparing for increased competition and universal search has immediate benefits. The same tactics that position your emails for success in the future also make them work better today. To get started:

  1. Improve your customer relationships: Loyal customers are more likely to ignore increased competition and save your emails. Including emails that make it easier for people to use your products and services solidifies relationships and adds life to your messages.
  2. Optimize emails for search: Adding alternative text to images provides information that can be accessed by search bots. Balancing text and images makes your messages more readable by recipients and bots. It also improves deliverability.
  3. Use personalized trigger emails to improve the shopping and service experience: Trigger emails are a low cost way to keep customers informed about order status and new products or services.
  4. Customize emails by customer behavior: Sending everyone in your database the same marketing message works. Sending customized message to individuals based on their shopping and communication preferences works better.
  5. Keep everything simple and easy: The easier you make it for your customers, the more loyal they tend to be. Work to eliminate as many steps as possible between the marketing message and sale. People keep coming back when the process is simple.

How Performance Marketing Accelerates B-to-B Prospecting

Every time you turn around, a new “performance marketing” opportunity turns up for B-to-B marketers. What a treasure trove! And on the face of it, a real boon, because you only pay when your prospect takes the action you’re looking for—the click, the download, the purchase, whatever. But there are some potholes to consider. Let’s look at how marketers get value out of this approach to finding new customers.

Every time you turn around, a new “performance marketing” opportunity turns up for B-to-B marketers. What a treasure trove! And on the face of it, a real boon, because you only pay when your prospect takes the action you’re looking for—the click, the download, the purchase, whatever. But there are some potholes to consider. Let’s look at how marketers get value out of this approach to finding new customers.

To back up, what is this performance marketing thing, anyway? It generally means that the media channel owner conducts a campaign and charges the marketer an agreed price for every respondent, according to predetermined criteria. There are scads of ways performance marketing is being applied across the B-to-B go-to-market spectrum. So far, this is what I know:

  • Pay per click. The grand-daddy of performance marketing, the system that sent Google’s fortunes into the stratosphere. You only pay when a prospect clicks on your selected keyword(s). The secret to success here is choosing the right keywords and sending the clicker to a brilliantly written landing page, where you have a prayer of converting them from a mere clicker to something else, like a prospect with whom you can continue a conversation. Some banner advertising and email rental lists are sold this way, as well.
  • Pay per lead. This highly popular technique was pioneered by trade publishers looking for ways to extend the value of their customer access. Ziff Davis and TechTarget are leaders in the tech industry world, using “content syndication,” distributing marketers’ white papers and research reports, and charging by response. MadisonLogic offers pay per lead programs via banner ads to a network of 300 publishers, with particular strength in the HR and technology sectors. Another player is True Influence, which uses email to its own compiled database of business buyers.
  • Pay per appointment. Hiring a telemarketing shop to conduct appointment-setting programs for sales reps is a long-time staple of the B-to-B marketing toolkit, and often priced by the appointment. Myriad call centers offer this kind of pricing.
  • Pay per PR placement. Several PR agencies have taken the big step of pricing their services on a pay-for-placement basis. Amid much hand-wringing among PR professionals, the model’s strong appeal to marketers is likely to mean continued experimentation.

Is the next logical step some kind of pay-for-performance results guarantee from creative agencies? I doubt it. I posed that question recently to Warren Hunter, Chairman of DMW Direct, who said firmly, “No way.” Since they are a direct marketing agency and thus used to delivering highly measurable results, I thought there might be a shot. But here’s how Warren explained his position. “If you give me control of the creative and the media, sure. Without that, there are too many variables that impact the results.”

The newest entrant in performance marketing is the daily deal business, pioneered by Groupon and Living Social. You might call this “pay per new customer.” In the B-to-B space, some experiments are underway like BizyDeal and RapidBuyr, but they don’t appear to have really taken off yet. Except for very small business, this is not how businesses buy.

My net takeaway on this subject is the old adage that you get what you pay for. When you think about it, the performance model has an inherent bias against quality, so marketers need to do the math. Avoid this model unless you have good data on conversion rates—conversion to qualified lead, and then conversion to a sale. With that data in hand, you can determine a profitable price and buy leads and appointments till the cows come home.

Based on my experience using PI (Per Inquiry) deals with cable TV operators years ago, I know that the “pay per” model works best if both sides have a track record with that offer in that medium. The media owner knows what kind of response it’s going to get, and the marketer knows the lifetime value of the new customer. So one way to increase the likelihood of success is to run a campaign using traditional pricing and then convert to performance-based pricing after generating some experience.

Where is performance marketing in B-to-B headed? Erik Matlick, founder of MadisonLogic, shared a few observations with me recently:

  • Marketers will get savvier about recognizing the importance of nurturing these contacts and converting them to eventual revenue. The new trend is assigning separate budgets, one devoted to generating “net new” leads and another to nurturing them to the right level of qualification.
  • Suppliers of leads should begin to offer account-level services. Most marketers need to reach multiple contacts in a target account to influence the various buying roles.

I would add my own prediction: The sky’s the limit for creative ways vendors can craft new performance-based marketing programs. Marketers have plenty to look forward to.

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Marketing as a Function of Your Entire Organization

In a world where earned content is increasingly influencing marketing programs, marketing as a function is changing. Marketing can no longer live solely in your marketing department. From customer service to product development to human resources, it must live everywhere in your organization. If marketing isn’t tied to your overall business strategy, it’s pretty much useless.

In a world where earned content is increasingly influencing marketing programs, marketing as a function is changing. Marketing can no longer live solely in your marketing department. From customer service to product development to human resources, it must live everywhere in your organization. If marketing isn’t tied to your overall business strategy, it’s pretty much useless.

The most telling example is the synergy between marketing and customer service. Do your customer-facing employees sit in the marketing department? No, they work on the front line, in the field, in your stores and service centers. Depending on how they interact with your customers, they foster either customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Your customer-facing employees thus wield incredible potential to influence your earned content.

Earned content is content that’s created by your customers on behalf of your brand. It could be a great review on Yelp, a gripe on Twitter, a user-generated YouTube video, a Facebook “Like” or a Google +1. Earned content has a powerful impact on your online marketing. It’s word-of-mouth marketing on search results pages and social networks. Your marketing department stays awake at night brainstorming ways to generate positive earned content and minimize negative earned content. But ironically, it’s your customer-facing employees — not your marketing department — that largely influence this content.

Consider this famous internet video: “A Comcast Technician Sleeping on My Couch.” This video is five years old and still ranks No. 15 in a search for “Comcast” on Google. It’s gotten 1.7 million views and 1,600 comments on YouTube. The video’s comments section is a gripe board for Comcast customers. The video is a thorn in the side of Comcast’s search marketing department, negatively affecting its reputation for years. Yet the video would never have existed if that one technician didn’t fall asleep on that customer’s couch. This example reinforces John Battelle’s point that the search engine index is the modern-day equivalent of carving our stories into stone.

Redefining performance marketing is about making the investment needed to bake marketing into every function of your organization. It’s about ensuring that all functions embrace your universal value proposition, central brand methodology and key benefit statements. This increases the likelihood that your customers actually get what your marketing department is promoting, including the right service, the right product, the promised benefit or the promised reward.

Baking marketing into every function is also about ensuring that each department knows that what it does influences marketing (sometimes in a huge way, as in the Comcast example or the recent Netflix price change which created an uproar in earned media). This not only includes how your customer service employees act, but how your product team develops products, what your executives say to the media, how your HR department screens job candidates and so on.

Making marketing an integrated function of your organization fuels the earned marketing engine. It sets the performance marketing spiral in motion as that earned content informs brand perception for the next person in market for your product or service.

Building and Executing a True Performance Marketing Campaign

Performance marketers are redefining the marketing landscape in real time, continually refining the blend of art and science needed to drive results. Achieving a true performance marketing campaign is complex, and it’s arguably the toughest challenge marketers have ever faced. Nevertheless, those who do build a true performance marketing capability will reap unmatched rewards.

In a recent article he wrote for ClickZ, There is More to Performance Marketing than Measuring Performance, Jonathan Shapiro, CEO of online performance marketing agency MediaWhiz, aptly noted that today’s best performance marketers “are not just measuring results, but actively improving them.” Shapiro describes a true performance marketing campaign as one in which the marketer forecasts return on investment, pays only for performance and continually optimizes while the campaign is live.

Shapiro then asks why more marketers, advertisers and agencies aren’t taking advantage of performance marketing tools and strategies. His answer? “The relative newness of the industry has not provided sufficient time for most marketing organizations to develop the expertise or technology to manage a true performance marketing campaign.” I agree that performance marketing is the future of our industry, and that the development of performance marketing expertise and technology is the key to success. What follows are some strategies to help you build and execute a true performance marketing campaign.

Finding Performance
True performance marketers must be visible wherever and whenever there’s an opportunity for performance. The increasingly splintered web requires brands to “get found” in more places and on more devices. Thus true performance marketers must be committed to being found across all paid, owned and earned media. This requires continually evaluating new channels, products, devices, processes, technologies and distribution partners. It also requires having a team with expertise in everything, from the latest trends in search to the hottest new mobile devices.

Cross-Channel Integration & Attribution
True performance marketers are business strategists who foster integration between search, display, social, mobile, affiliate, CRM, offline advertising, merchandising, inventory and more. Cross-channel insights inform overall marketing strategy, helping performance marketers determine the right channel to spend each and every marketing dollar.

Technology plays a major role in uncovering these insights. Performance marketers are currently perfecting tools to help them make cross-channel buying and optimization decisions in real-time. It’s an understatement to say that efficiently managing and passing data between cross-channel tracking systems is challenging. This combined with custom segmentation, advanced targeting techniques, unprecedented data volume growth and marketplace demand for immediate transparency makes it clear that legacy data processing cycles are inadequate to handle these terabytes of data.

Not to mention, performance marketers need additional headroom to handle peak demand (e.g., holiday). The good news is that access to on-demand cloud computing and data management solutions are now within the reach of every performance marketer.

Attribution is also a cornerstone of a true performance marketing campaign. However, determining how to best leverage and optimize paid/owned/earned media isn’t just about how much money you should spend in various channels. It’s an exercise in understanding people, the communities they form, how they communicate and how to engage them in conversation.

True performance marketers are focused on improving marketing economics by dedicating the ideal budget to each channel while concurrently optimizing the creative to best appeal to each channel’s audience. This is done through real-time message/creative testing, and requires more than just powerful technology. It requires art — i.e., performance marketing people with innovative ideas on how to best engage audiences.

Performance marketers are redefining the marketing landscape in real time, continually refining the blend of art and science needed to drive results. Achieving a true performance marketing campaign is complex, and it’s arguably the toughest challenge marketers have ever faced. Nevertheless, those who do build a true performance marketing capability will reap unmatched rewards.

Industry Experts Weigh In: Marketing That Matters

Earlier this month, I participated in a professional development and networking event for alumni of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) graduate program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I spoke with some of my colleagues about how they define performance marketing and what they envision for the next generation of performance marketers, and they shared valuable insights about its growth and accountability.

Earlier this month, I participated in a professional development and networking event for alumni of the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) graduate program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I spoke with some of my colleagues about how they define performance marketing and what they envision for the next generation of performance marketers, and they shared valuable insights about its growth and accountability. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Tom Collinger, associate professor and sector head of direct, e-commerce and search marketing and associate dean of Medill. Collinger is also president of The TC Group, a marketing strategy consulting firm, and serves as a member on the editorial advisory board for the Journal of Consumer Marketing.

CG: What does performance marketing mean to you?
TC: Performance marketing is, after all, redundant, isn’t it? The goal of all marketing and communications is to grow connections and engagement that results in sales performance. I believe the term has grown in popularity recently as a result of the growth in measureable outcomes to marketing initiatives, but, really, can you ever imagine a marketing communications initiative funded without a stated expectation of results? I can’t either. So, for me, performance marketing means an expectation of results as a consequence of the strategies used to promote a brand.

CG: What advice do you have for the next generation of performance marketers?
TC: I’d advise the next generation of performance marketers not to fall victim to the belief that an immediate and measureable result to a prompted marketing communications initiative is always the best basis of proving success. Rather, consider each and every initiative in the context of how a business, brand or service is made more or less relevant to a customer. Each initiative is a brick that either builds or erodes the wall that becomes the barriers to switch.

Ron Jacobs, president of Jacobs & Clevenger, an independent multichannel direct digital marketing agency. Jacobs started a professional program in direct marketing at DePaul University in 1990, and in 2006, he began an endowment for the program. He also devoted 17 years as a senior lecturer in the Medill IMC program. Jacobs co-authored the “Eighth Edition of Successful Direct Marketing Methods,” the best-selling book on the tools and techniques of direct marketing.

CG: What does performance marketing mean to you?
RJ: I find myself constantly reminding my clients, staff and students that performance marketing is direct response marketing, and many of the traditional tools and techniques of direct marketing apply. The ultimate objective should be conversions or sales. The messages and calls to action need to reflect the keywords that got prospects there in the first place. Moreover, while you may not be able to measure everything, you can easily find three to five key performance indicators that make sense for your business.

CG: What advice do you have for the next generation of performance marketers?
RJ: Today, virtually all marketing communications are accountable; it’s the new normal. Performance marketing is a leader in this transition. Marketers, media and agencies are shared stakeholders in this change; we all need to find ways to adjust our business models to accommodate it. 
Whether seeking direct marketing or broader results, the accountability of the web continues to drive the evolution of performance-based approaches toward game-changing methods to better assess and optimize performance.

Final thoughts
Initially an arms race to get the right technologies in place, performance marketing has become more consumer centric as the practice begins to mature. Successful performance marketers will understand consumers and how they use technology to find information and ultimately make decisions.

The measurement process for performance marketing almost always includes generating response; collecting information; and analyzing large data sets, complex systems and partnerships — all focused on the consumer as a participant in the exchange. This intelligent data management links the business intelligence engine with the execution engine to reduce marketing waste, optimize marketing spend and scale quality implementation for improved return on investment.

As these industry experts stated, consumers’ perspectives will only continue to gain significance in performance marketing. Marketers must find ways to be relevant, and performance marketing offers several reliable methods to connect with high-value audience segments, quantify success and keep campaigns accountable.

How do you envision the future of performance marketing? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments thread below or email me at craig.greenfield@performics.com.

Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: 3 Ways to Turn Earned Media Insights Into Paid and Owned/Organic Gold

It’s quickly becoming common knowledge that earned media outlets, if properly mined, can provide unique insights into what resonates most with marketers’ audiences. With the proper tools and techniques, marketers can begin to answer questions such as the following:

It’s quickly becoming common knowledge that earned media outlets, if properly mined, can provide unique insights into what resonates most with marketers’ audiences. With the proper tools and techniques, marketers can begin to answer questions such as the following:

  • Who’s talking about your brand?
  • How’s your audience discussing your brand?
  • What themes, topics and links permeate the conversation?
  • What are users querying about your brand or the vertical in general?
  • What’s the phraseology they’re using?

Simple collection methods include using social listening tools to understand customer conversations on social sites; managing profile pages on Facebook and/or Twitter to gain customer feedback; and mining query data to get a better idea of customer intent. However, to turn earned media insights into paid and owned/organic gold, brands need practical tactics for leveraging and applying the information.

Moving from insights to action

Earned media can create more effective paid media campaigns through the use of social listening tools to build out keywords for a client’s paid search campaign. Performics has done this for a number of clients, specifically in the apparel vertical. After a retailer’s recent product launch, Performics used its proprietary social listening tool to identify top themes that its client’s customers were discussing on social sites.

Performics focused analysis on brand-related conversations, and then filtered those posts by topic to only view conversations around the new product line. The retailer was able to identify all relevant phrases and terms, such as “military jacket” and “bf blazer,” that customers associated with its new product launch.

To assess the value of these newly identified phrases/terms, the retailer took into account the sentiment, frequency and reach of each. Performics’ listening tool assigns sentiment — positive, negative and/or neutral — to every customer post collected. Any customer post or tweet, for example, that included the term “military jacket” was assigned a sentiment value. The posts referring to “military jacket” were generally positive; therefore, that term was assigned positive sentiment.

The social listening tool also helps evaluate the influence of those selected phrases/terms. The retailer was able to assess the value of “military jacket” compared to other terms by understanding the number of customers using this term (frequency) and the number of followers exposed to the term (reach). The tool helped to quickly identify the most valuable phrases/terms relevant to the brand and product that were appearing within customer conversations. The phrases/terms then became the baseline for building out additional keywords for the new product launch.

Varied application of insights

How can marketers apply information gained from earned media? Three suggestions to get started include the following:

  • keyword buildout for search campaigns (paid and organic);
  • content campaign development; and
  • creative development.

As more consumers take to social sites to converse, performance marketers should continually be mindful of ways to make insight from these conversations actionable.

Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: Holding Performance Marketing Campaigns Accountable

Facebook recently passed Google to become the most visited website in the U.S., according to Hitwise. This achievement from the social networking giant reminds marketers not only of the growing importance of social media, and Facebook in particular, but of choosing the right approach and success measurement plan.

Facebook recently passed Google as the most visited website in the U.S., according to Hitwise. This achievement from the social networking giant reminds marketers not only of the growing importance of social media, and Facebook in particular, but of choosing the right approach and success measurement plan.

Performance media offers marketers several solid choices to connect with target audiences, but marketers should clearly define campaign goals up front to ensure they choose the right campaign tactics and success measurement scheme. With concrete goals in place, marketers can consider incorporating fan pages, ads and applications into their campaigns and create plans to observe and measure engagement, conversions, connections and opinions (ECCO) to quantify success.

Facebook pages
Facebook pages offer free, simple ways to update people about promotions, events, new products and more. Marketers should select a memorable Facebook vanity URL for their pages, and promote them on their brands’ native sites, blogs and other promotional materials since consumers need to opt in or click the “Like” button on the page to engage with the brand.

Search engines rank social site pages high for branded searches, and marketers can use them to own more of the search engine results page since search engines only display two results from marketers’ native sites.

Applications
Applications foster viral sharing, encourage brand interaction and generate leads through “tell your friends” and “add to profile” buttons. Papa John’s, for example, uses sweepstakes apps to capture names and email addresses while staying top of mind with consumers. Tools exist to track user interaction with applications.

Social ads
Performance media ads are text- and image-based ads that appear in the right sidebars of Facebook users’ profile pages. Marketers trigger these cost-per-click or cost-per-impression ads based on user attributes like gender, geography, age and interests. These powerful microtargeting capabilities enable marketers to effectively target only the most suitable of Facebook’s more than 400 million users.

ECCO success tracking

A performance marketing campaign’s success hinges on whether, and to what extent, it achieved its goals. ECCO offers a concrete approach to measuring and quantifying success. It can be adapted to a specific campaign’s goals and tactics to establish clearly defined success metrics and milestones, but the approach always incorporates some combination of engagement, conversion, connection and opinion measurement. These terms are explained in more detail in the following list:

  • Engagement. What immediate reaction or interaction was created? Often measures clickthroughs, rollovers, interaction rates, video streams, time spent with ads, games played, etc.
  • Conversions. Following engagement, what actions did the campaign spur? Commonly consists of sales/orders, leads/emails, downloads, sweeps entries and other post-click activity.
  • Connections. How well did the campaign reach its target? What impressions were left? Measures reach, frequency, cross-site duplication, impressions delivered, site visits and more.
  • Opinions. How was the campaign perceived? What reactions were elicited? Can include brand studies, polls/surveys, ad recall, brand awareness, purchase intent, among other things.

Marketers and their partners must assign the right values and indicators to each ECCO element, but the framework provides an adaptable approach that can support a wide range of performance media campaigns and other social media programs. Whether just getting started or devising the next in a long line of effective performance marketing campaigns, marketers can lean on ECCO to hold Facebook campaigns accountable.