The following is an interview with Karen Talavera, an email marketing expert with Synchronocity Marketing.
1) Karen, can you tell me a little bit about your company and what you do? No marketing speak is allowed for this question?
Yes, Synchronicity Marketing can be thought of as a strategic sherpa for marketers transitioning, evolving, and expanding beyond traditional direct marketing channels to new ones. We help companies integrate new communications channels – like email or mobile messaging – into their traditional ones, and avoid the pitfalls in the process. The goal is to help marketers move away from a channel-siloed way of marketing to thinking holistically, so that the whole (constellation of efforts) produces a far more powerful impact than the individual components could on their own.
2) Integration is a pretty common buzzword in your line of work – what does it actually mean, and can you talk about an example where integration actually led to more revenue?
Integration to me means connecting the tools in the toolbox so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It means different marketing channels and tactics work to reinforce and create incremental benefit for one another, rather than each operating in a pigeon-holed fashion. Consumers are multi-media savvy so marketers need to assume their customers will experience their brand in many environments, including some like social media sites (MySpace, Second Life, You Tube) which can’t be entirely controlled. Today there are so many channels, formats, and devices let alone points of presence through which a target audience member can be reached and communicated to that if marketing campaigns are not cross-channel integrated, meaning if we are not helping people “connect the dots”, the alternative is our messages will be hopelessly fragmented and therefore, lost or unintelligible.
A wonderful example of an integrated campaign is Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. While from a marketing perspective the creative and tactical integration is brilliantly artistic and consistent, what I love most about it is it has a greater purpose than just pushing product. This is a campaign with a conscience and it’s a stellar example of an emerging trend: socially conscious business practices aka “spiritual capitalism”. Companies worldwide from Patagonia to Whole Foods to Toyota to Google to the Tata Group, India’s largest conglomerate (which if you haven’t heard, just acquired Land Rover and Jaguar for $2.3 billion) have made a commitment to measuring the success of their business by values such as “integrity” and “taking care of others” without suffering from a loss of profitability and efficiency. On the contrary, they’ve found socially conscious business practices to be not just the “right” thing to do, but a smart business move. The perceived conflict between “doing good” and “making money” is on its way out. Add some soul to your sales pitch and guess what? You sell more. This is at the core of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty’s success, but all the good intentions in the world still wouldn’t have succeeded without exceptional execution
In a nutshell the campaign was inspired by a major global study which validated that the definition of female beauty had become limiting and unattainable. The campaign was created to provoke discussion and encourage debate about the idea of beauty. It was interactive from the start, launching in 2004 with TV ads asking viewers to judge various real women’s looks and vote online at the campaign’s web site www.campaignforrealbeauty.com. Around that time, as new Dove products (hair care mostly) were launched, various direct mail formats were dropped containing a mini-mag and high value coupons. The second wave of the campaign launched in June 2005 featuring six real women (not professional models) of various body shapes/sizes with links to the Web site again. The third phase launched in February 2007 and celebrates the essence of women 50+. Advertising channels/formats employed range from mass media including TV, billboards, print and online display to targeted direct mail and email to social/viral digital media such as the short film “Evolution” which has made the rounds online and on YouTube. Dove has also sponsored or participated in various events, such as Oprah’s O Magazine’s annual “O You” Conference. Throughout, all creative has been consistent and all offline channels have made the connection to the Web site.
Has it grown business for the brand and parent company Unilever? Are you kidding – it launched a massive expansion of the brand into the health/beauty personal care product category. Where Dove was once a single-product brand (bar soap), it has diversified into liquid body wash, lotion, hair care, skin care, and deodorant AND taken significant market share from competitors in the category. As product launches and marketing campaigns go, it’s a whopping, multi-year success with no end in sight. Since launching, nearly 4.5 million people have logged into the www.campaignforrealbeauty.com site and thousands have conversed there.
Although this is an example of a big-brand, mega-budget integrated marketing campaign, it’s a great tutorial and idea-starter for companies with marketing budgets of all sizes. It’s not the size of the budget that counts, but what you do with it that matters.
3) At what point should a company reach out to an e-mail marketing consultant? Number of e-mails sent, revenue projections, or is it something else?
Since email is the lynchpin of economical, fast, environmentally-friendly customer communication, it’s more critical than ever to get it legally and ethically right, and scale resources to do it justice. Certainly when a company is getting started with email marketing, if they have no background in email they need professional education. I do a lot of this, both through public seminars and private in-house training. Yet especially when they are at various growth and inflection points in an email marketing program is when they are truly desperate for outside expertise and need impartial, objective advice regarding different service providers, approaches, and priorities; for example, when a company is moving from in-sourcing to outsourcing and likely considering various service providers (ESPs), or when they are increasing the complexity of an email program through product line, customer segment, or brand expansion/extension. These are all junctures at which email marketing can become more diverse and complex, and it pays to ensure there is a solid understanding of the fundamentals, and that time is dedicated to strategic planning and not just tactical integration. With a little investment in time and intellectual capital, you can go way beyond just trying to keep up with one-size-fits-all email campaigns to developing segmented, behavior-based dialog tracks and robust testing. And obviously, this is when it pays to look at integrating email with other channels or using it to supplement and complement (not just replace) conventional or legacy marketing programs. It can be pretty exciting and fun when you step back for a moment to view the big picture.
4) What’s the biggest mistake clients make in their e-mail campaigns?
I’d have to say it’s the “one size fits all” campaign approach, meaning in short, ignoring audience segmentation. This is a mistake on both fundamental direct marketing and strategic levels; fundamental because if you’re not speaking to the “right” audience (targeted people in the market for what you have), it doesn’t matter how good your offer or product, it’s won’t resonate. While segmentation and creative variation by segment may have been time consuming and cost-prohibitive in traditional print or direct mail, they thrive in the digital realm, especially in email. Marketers need to retrain their brains from the days of yore when most messaging was “1-to-many” to consider email less a broadcast medium and more a conversational medium. Although certain information will occasionally need to be “broadcast” to an entire audience, marketing and advertising messages can and should be demographically and behaviorally customized to unique audience segments by gender, demographics, RFM, customer longevity, or whichever other segmentation scheme makes the most sense. Discovering exactly which copy, offers, images and creative resonates with unique audience groups and then dynamically personalizing messages to those distinct groups is the most underutilized performance improvement strategy in email marketing today. Why don’t more companies do it? Either they’re stuck in the old way of thinking which has them convinced it’s expensive and not worth it, or they’re strapped for more staff in the email marketing group, or both. Either way, it’s time to drop excuses and get on board. Customers have already begun to demand more 1-to-1 messaging and will tune-out brands not making the effort to cultivate a relevant, loyal, personalized dialog.
5) How will social media affect e-mail marketing campaigns in the future? Is any of that happening now?
Social media is not affecting email marketing as much as it is affecting the use of email for personal (peer-to-peer) communication. In short, texting and IM through social networks is diminishing the use of email for personal communication in mostly just the youngest demographics, but is increasing the need for commercial email communication among all age groups.
Two recent studies have found consumers prefer email as a communications channel – especially for marketing and advertising – over other online vehicles. Habeas, Inc., a leading online reputation management services company, released its 2008 study of consumer attitudes towards email and online interaction with businesses in May 2008. The study, conducted by research firm Ipsos, found that 67% of consumers prefer email as a primary method of communications in their personal and business capacities. The same study also found sixty-five percent of 18 to 34 year olds, the age demographic most comfortable with IM, SMS and emerging communications methods, will favor email to communicate with businesses in five years.
Results of a second study, The 2008 Channel Preference Survey, were just released in early June 2008 by email services provider ExactTarget. According to this consumer survey, nearly two-thirds of US Internet users surveyed said email was their preferred channel for written communications between friends, with text messaging the next-favorite choice. The phone was the most popular way to communicate with friends overall, with 41% of respondents naming it as their channel of choice. Although there is a clear trend within younger age groups toward communication via social networks and text messaging, those preferred personal communication channels were not found to also be the preferred channels for marketing. Asked to judge the acceptability of various channels for marketing purposes on a scale of 1 to 5, respondents gave direct mail an average score of 3.9, followed by e-mail at 3.7. All other channels averaged under 3. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they had made a purchase because of a marketing message received through e-mail.
My view is that email has a large untapped potential for more direct, intimate and socially rich conversations – for what I call “dialog marketing”. Traditionally, with email an offer is created based on what the company wants to sell, while social media marketing efforts focus more on involving communities or creating brand awareness and loyalty. Email has several distinct advantages over social media, however, the greatest of which is nearly everyone (even measured from age 3 on) has an email address. Email can be used to engage, ask and get valuable feedback on a one-to-one and importantly, private basis. Email is great for real conversations and can be much more powerful than social media in intricately involving someone in a consideration process. Popular social media destinations tend to be relatively superficial and ideal for interaction between fellow community members rather than consumers and marketers.
Two key characteristics of social media environments are user-generated content and word of mouse. Viral content takes on a life of its own and gains lots of visibility and exposure. But you as a marketer tend to lose direct control of your marketing message in favor of a community-based, distributed and shared conversation. With direct marketing approaches like email, it is much easier to control the message, test marketing tactics and measure ROI. And marketing initiatives are directly tied to conversions. On the other hand, when you use social media as your key marketing communication vehicle, ROI is much more difficult to measure.
Last but absolutely not least, social media networks like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn are actually creating more email. Whenever an action takes place which a network member may not be aware of because he is not logged-in at the time, email is used by the network owner to push notifications and alerts; to drive the user back to the community site. So just as the growth of digital storage media (CD/DVD) created a greater demand for ink-on-paper printing, the growth and complexity of social networks is spawning more email. It will be fascinating to watch how marketers evolve interactions and conversations begun on social networks into one-to-one email conversations in the next few years.
6) Anything else you want to add?
According to Jupiter Research, approximately one-third of marketers report email delivery rates of 80% or less, and approximately one-quarter are unsure of their metrics. Only about half of all email sent worldwide is authenticated, the major receivers, like Yahoo, AOL, Google, Comcast or Bellsouth, routinely junk between 20% and 30% of permission email.
Clearly there is room for improvement and a necessity for differentiating your email messages from the widely reported 90% of email traffic that gets dumped on the floor at ISPs. There is increasingly less room for error as compliance is more clearly defined and email reputation matures and standards are tightened. Marketers wish to see their email not merely survive, but thrive. It’s about delivery and conversion.
Yet understanding how to maximize email deliverability while not compromising other aspects of a campaign or your business relationships, as well as how to avoid the hidden pitfalls of compliance and reputation, has proven a complex process. The law provides some guidance, but the business practices and policies of the major ISPs often become the final arbiter of whether your email reaches the inbox, junk folder, or a black hole.
That’s where the Email Deliverability & Compliance Boot-Camp comes in. This one-day intensive is available to groups of up to ten people within a single location for the special launch rate of $2,995. That's barely the cost of travel alone for sending a few people to an outside seminar.
When you book an Email Deliverability & Compliance Boot Camp or any of our private training sessions, we come to you and customize the agenda to your needs. Synchronicity offers Email Deliverability & Compliance training in conjunction with our partner, Lashback, a firm specializing in email compliance, monitoring, and reputation services. For more information contact Synchronicity at 561-967-9665.