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The Truth About Email Marketing, Part 3 (Audio Podcast Transcript)

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Simms Jenkins and Mike Moran discuss examples of winning email strategies. Learn which companies are setting the benchmarks. Gain valuable insights and social media best practices from companies that have mastered winning email marketing techniques.
This is a transcript of an audio podcast available in InformIT's OnBiztech channel. This channel is also available on iTunes.

Editor's Note: This is episode 3 of 3. If you are just jumping in, you might want to start with the transcript of episode 1.

Thanks for listening to OnBizTech, conversations and tips from leading experts in business and technology. For more information, visit informit.com/podcasts and subscribe today.

Mike Moran: Hi, I’m Mike Moran, and I am the author of two books on internet marketing Search Engine Marketing, Inc. and Do It Wrong Quickly. I am pleased to be your host of this three part Podcast series with Simms Jenkins, the CEO of BrightWave Marketing and the author of the new book, The Truth About Email Marketing.

MM: Simms, in part 3 of this segment, I want to talk about the winners in email marketing now and in the future. Let's talk about some winners now. Who are the companies that people should look at that are really doing a good job of email marketing today?

Simms Jenkins: Mike, the first one that really stands out in my mind is a company that exists solely because of email marketing and this isn’t a service or software provider; this is a company called DailyCandy that you may have heard of. Their sole product is an email that goes out daily to subscribers across the country. I think the audience is more geared towards an urban women’s audience that is trying to figure out the latest trends in fashion and food and basically living a good life. They’ve really tapped a desirable demographic without having to really build an infrastructure of stores and websites and things like that. So they are really focused; their whole company is delivering this email that has value for their advertisers as well as for their subscribers. So the fact that a company exists solely because of email is obviously appealing to me. They do a really good job of keeping it simple trying to use their image of their brand that appeals so much to their subscribers, but knowing the restrictions of what an email inbox environment really can handle. So I think that's really an interesting example of something that, in fact, just wouldn’t have existed 15 years ago.

A couple other big names jumped out of me for different reasons: The New York Times does a really good job in their daily new letters because they don't try to do too much. A lot of times companies want to tell you everything in the world in your email; whereas, email really for particularly content companies should be intriguing, tease your interests, and drive you to the website where you can read more. The New York Times does a very simple job staying in line with their brand and image, but driving you to their website to read the stories of the day and not trying to tell you everything within the email. That’s something that gets lost on a lot of companies.

The third company I mention is good solely because (as I mentioned in the first Podcast that subject lines are one of the most overlooked areas of email marketing) I think WebMD has a lot of different newsletters. I think they have the most creative subject lines that always get my attention, even on newsletters that I have no interest in that I signed up for when my wife was pregnant years ago. I still get their pregnancy emails; obviously it has no appeal to me right now, but I still find myself captured by them because they have very creative subject lines. So I think that's a great example of doing something and kind of holding onto an audience that otherwise they might not get.

And then lastly, I’ll mention one of our clients Ted's Montana Grill, Ted Turner’s Bison restaurant chain. I think the example that stands out for me is that we’ve created a newsletter, which you may not think is really going to be appealing to people that are interested in burgers, but the reason that it works so well is that it captures really the whole value of Ted’s Montana’s brand of their eco-friendly, sense of mission that they have and it captures Ted Turner's personality. It's really more about: this is what our new menu features are, here is the best place to find our Bison burger in your city. So it takes the personality and extends it to the inbox and really does a good job of building a relationship, which is what a good email newsletter should do.

MM: All four of those examples seem like they’re focused on very strong content that's relevant to a particular targeted audience. Is that one of the big secrets of email marketing? Have you seen companies that can do good email marketing without focus on relevance or content? Is that really one of the lynchpins of any good email marketing campaign?

SJ: Relevance is certainly probably the number one ingredient that you have to have in delivering a good email product. Content is an important mix, but often content scares people away. People think, “Oh, I've got to build content; I have to a hirer a copywriter; I don't want to do that; therefore, I’m not going to do an email newsletter.” An email newsletters versus the sister email product promotional emails are really powerful because people spend almost five times as much time reading an email newsletter versus a promotional piece. You can still subtly cross promote and do a lot of the advertising in key marketing messages that you want on promotional email, but people are more receptive to that. Of course if they’re going to read it, you have to have some good content, but that that doesn’t mean starting from scratch and writing seven new stories; it could be re-purposing a lot of your website content featuring info if you have a company blog and really leveraging some of your other online assets. I think that’s something that a lot of folks are missing. But with promotional email, you don't necessarily have to have good content: you do have to have relevance; you have to have strong messaging; you have to have good layout coding, and do a lot of nuts and bolts as well, and then of course you have to have an audience that's engaged and is ready to buy.

MM: Well, I am very interested to hear that. One of the things that kind of piqued my interest in your answer was the discussion of how paramount relevance is. As somebody who’s in expert in search marketing, where relevance is also the most important part of the equation, that's very interesting to me. I guess one of the things that I’m wondering is I keep seeing more and more clients who are looking at having email marketing and search marketing working together. Can you tell me some of the ways that leading companies are doing that, and what kind of trend you see that is going forward?

SJ: Right. Well, in my corner of the world, (I’m sure you can add some different perspectives, Mike, on your end) we really (it may sound a little cheesy) say search is email's best friend, and that's partially because search gets a little more prominence, thanks to Google, and it's a little sexier. Search is so great about delivering targeted traffic to a website. For email marketing professionals, one of the top things that they always say is, “I need to grow my list; I need to build our email database; I need to acquire more opt in names.” And as I mentioned earlier in one of the other Podcast, you can’t go out there and buy and rent a list and think that it's going to build your database overnight; what you can do is really leverage some of your other media.

I think search does this better than any other form where it's driving you to a landing page on your website after somebody clicks on what they find to be a relevant ad based on the keyword that they’ve typed in that your company bought. A lot of times regardless of whether you are buying a $100,000 server or you’re buying a $5,000 vacation or $7 printer cartridge, people often aren’t necessarily ready to buy immediately. This is going to vary based on the company and products and services, but capturing their email extends that whole buy. For search, it may cost you a dollar; it may cost you four dollars, but why not capture their email address so you can extend that relationship. All of a sudden, that dollar or four dollars you spent on the search ad becomes well worth it because now you can market to those people even if they don't end up doing what you wanted them to do originally. That's why I think search and email really complement each other very well. Search is the prospecting and email is building relationships with people that have already committed to expressing some kind of interest with you.

MM: So let's continue the theme of looking at some trends in email marketing. One of the things that I see come up in conjunction with search marketing all the time is social media marketing. I’m wondering, how did social media marketing, whether it's blogs or social networks or other kinds of social media marketing, how do those things coexist with email? How do they enhance each other? How does the savvy email marketer, where they look to the future, how should they be thinking about leveraging social media marketing as part of what they do in their email campaigns?

SJ: Sure. That's obviously a hot topic because social marketing and social networking are the topics that are getting a lot of mind share, if not budget, which impacts us email marketers. I think the first reaction for people like myself is to say, “Oh, that's going to be a fad; show me the ROI that they can get.” And then after reality sets in I say, “Embrace it.” Email has certainly gone through several different times where people have said email is dead. Originally, it was because of mobile marketing five or ten years ago, then because of search, then RSS, and now social networking; email is not going away. Email is really the bread and butter of any kind of online experience for the users, and it's really the original social networking tool, if you will.

I think that there aren’t many companies doing it yet, but using email to compliment your social networking tools and vice versa are really some interesting ways of experimenting and leveraging different audiences. Because I know that I found, personally, in working on some of the marketing for the book, I built a pretty good database through Facebook and LinkedIn of people that are interested in The Truth About Email Marketing. We have The Truth About Email Marketing website where people can opt in to get special offers and enter a drawing where books are going to be given away; we have a nice little list there, but I've leveraged the Facebook and LinkedIn networks to build complimentary lists.

We’ve also done this with our website EmailStatCenter, which is a portal site of email metrics where we’ve used the LinkedIn group to basically build a completely different audience that otherwise we wouldn’t have exposure to. So what we’ve done there is just really extend our reach where we’re building a database, and whether we’re communicating with these people via email or through a Facebook notification, it doesn't really matter — email is a means to an end where we’re communicating and building relationship with these people. The way I view all these social networking tools (including blogs) are just extending your reach, and you’re foolish not to embrace this because they work really well with email.

MM: So, Simms, if you were talking to a successful email marketer, someone at the top of his game right now, what would you be saying he should be looking for in the next year, two years, three years? What are the kinds of trends that you see in email marketing? Where is the email marketing going that marketers need to be prepared for?

SJ: I think without a doubt the emergence of global marketing taking off in the United States is going to be a really important trend to watch. We’ve seen it in Europe and we have seen in it in Asia, and it has been foreshadowed for a while, but I think that pretty soon in the next couple of years you’re going to have whole new crop of smart phones that people are going to use as their essential device. That’s going to impact how they receive email marketing and how people are going to communicate.

I think that’ something (as in email marketing) we have to (just like social networking) recognize and figure out how we integrate this into our tool belt because if we ignore it, it's not going to be good. I think that, again, they are complementary tools. Email isn’t meant to be the one and only communication platform; I see its best use when it's used with other tools; I think that's really important.

Something that I’ve been hearing that's going to stop, and I continue to hope, and we certainly champion, that this is the end of batch and blast email marketing where so many companies, again, continue to send the same message to their entire database, whether it is 100 people or 700,000 people. It's a shame because most people have such great data in their email database: demographic data, user preferences. So one ought to at least personalize and send emails. Or use your data knowing based on who opened or who clicked on an email but didn't buy, send them a different email that the people that clicked and did buy. Just using a lot of the data that email affords us to know and to deliver a really more relevant email product, I think that's something that sooner or later the people that just aren’t embracing that are going to find themselves set out to pasture because that’s just not what email marketing is about. That's unfortunately been a kind of legacy of some lazy email marketing. I think that we’ll see that quickly will fade because it's been championed as the more you segment, the more you target, and the more you deliver better and more relevant emails, you’re going to get a better response; I think we’ll find people finally embracing that in a broader context.

MM: So you’re listening to Simms Jenkins. A lot of the insights you’re hearing here you can get even more from his new book, which is The Truth About Email Marketing. Simms, who is the audience for this book?

SJ: Well, as I alluded to earlier, Mike, it's really anyone that either is involved with email marketing or is thinking about utilizing this for their company. Email marketing is really misunderstood partially due to spam and partially due to the fragmented market where they can do email marketing for $20 a month, or you can spend over $50,000 a month. So it's really confusing on how you dive into this and do it right. Again, there are two things: the first step is to commit and really figure out that email really can make a difference in how I communicate with my customers and prospects, and then the second is how to do that right. I think that anyone that potentially falls into those audiences. As I said before, I think you can be a high level executive or you can be somebody that works as a more of a generalist, but knows that email marketing is something that probably they’re going to be involved with down the road, and they want to get it clue on what they should be focusing on and what works as well as what doesn’t. So I think that it's a pretty broad audience of who we can talk to. We know that email marketing has just a huge audience, and I think that’s what really appealed to Pearson because this is an underserved market right now.

MM: Well, that wraps up our three-part series on, The Truth about email Marketing, Simms' new book. I hope you will go to his website which is the truthaboutemailmarketing.com. Simms, I just want to thank you for taking the time to share these insights with the listeners, and I hope everyone will check out the other two parts of our Podcast series and thanks for listening to this one.

SJ: Thanks for having me, Mike; I appreciate it.

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