Email Marketing: 3 Relevance Lessons from Top Companies

This post is a translation of Daniel Burstein's entry from the MarketingSherpa blog .

Daniel analyzed the marketing nominations of the MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014 for the relevance of email marketing campaigns and gave his assessment of the campaigns of the award participants.

Let me remind you that relevance is "the ability to correspond to something, to be substantial, important, appropriate . " In this case, we are talking about the relevance of the marketing message to the interests of the recipient of the email.

Next is the translation. My comments are in italics.

October 25, 2013

“Okay, emails must be relevant. I understand it.
But what needs to be done? I don’t understand where to start ”

(Complaint from the email marketer at the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011).

Since I was one of the judges of the MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014, sponsored by ExactTarget, I had the opportunity to gauge how far marketers have moved [in the direction of relevance of email marketing] in recent years.

I am among those who are skeptical of the opinion that software can solve all the problems of marketers (it seems to me that the idea of ​​a “magic solution” is “oversold”), one cannot but admit that marketing automation solutions help email marketers move forward with gigantic strides in terms of creating more and more relevant letters.

This is partly due to the fact that such solutions provided marketers with new [technical] opportunities, partly because their appearance made marketers be more customer-oriented and think more about the needs of their customers.

So you have problems sending out relevant emails to your subscribers?

Must be! Because it is really difficult.

To “turn on” your brain, here are three examples of successful campaigns from the winners of the MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014.

Lesson 1: Turn Lemons into Lemonade (for those who like lemonade)

If you offer more than one product or service, most likely you have different types of customers. To establish relevant communications with them, you need to understand which of these products they like best.

The company the Creative Co-Op (online shop decor items wholesale for the house), the winner in the «Connect and Integrate» category (sub-category E-commerce), used the analysis of data on orders and marketing automation solution to notify customers about products, which they ordered earlier and which may need to be ordered again.

“The Creative Co-Op marketing campaign has used several data sources to create relevant [in terms of delivery] and relevant [in terms of] emails. We analyzed the history of orders in order to send personalized emails, notifying the buyer that the goods that he ordered were received for the sale of goods balances, and also showed these goods in a letter, linking the information with the goods. This data integration enabled an incredibly effective email marketing campaign, ”said Caitlin Kelly, senior account manager at Whereoware , which was responsible for implementing the campaign.


What was the result? The campaign was one of Creative Co-Op’s most profitable email marketing initiatives, resulting in a return on investment (ROI) of 808% ROI in the first month only.

Here is another useful insight for companies that sell this type of product, from Caitlin: “Interestingly, the call to visit the site led to a significant increase in sales among ordinary goods. Customers came in to see the goods on sale, but bought other goods during the visit, ”says Caitlin.

“The fact that we interacted with wholesale buyers as individuals brought significant profit to Creative Co-Op both for goods on sale and for goods in the usual assortment,” she continues.

When I asked Caitlin what she could recommend to marketers who want to deliver more relevant emails, she mentioned three key elements of a successful campaign made on marketing automation solutions: data, personalization, triggers.

“Treat customers as individual customers with individual interests. To create a successful personalized offer, you need data. Most marketers have sources of such data, they just did not think about it or analyze the data. For example, a marketer may have data on the history of orders, but he did not think about comparing them with the assortment of the store or data on site visits. By combining several sources of information, you can create a trigger campaign that will be personalized for the recipient of the letter and, most likely, will increase the percentage of conversion [to order]. "

See the details of the campaign in a case study prepared by Whereoware.

Lesson 2. Assess the situation, redirect customers in the direction you need

The current peak of interest in content marketing is justified. When you give potential customers useful information and train them, they will readily become your customers.

But having just good content is not enough.

You must have a good strategy to create relevant content. This is important, because as your potential customers (leads) consume your content and participate in the lead development program (lead nurturing), what was once relevant to them may cease to be so. In content marketing, the distance that separates “great” content from the “so-so” content is less than the distance that distinguishes the star of the scene from the out-of-date singer.

Why is content marketing so hard? Just because when we first tell customers something [valuable], they think we are great. But when they hear the same information a second time, they perceive us as banal bores.

The company the IHS , the winner in the «Deliver and Automate» category (sub-category «Lead Gen»), simply abandoned their common newsletter Jane ''s Defence . Typically, for any company, newsletter is the most important element of content marketing. But HIS has narrowed its focus in content marketing to the main target audience (military, government officials, intelligence agencies, as well as aviation and defense companies).

Let Byron O'Dell, Senior Director of Demand Management at Corporate Marketing, explain ...

“IHS used email marketing, marketing automation solutions, and a well-thought-out content strategy to change communication with this complex segment. . We’ve moved from a monthly general mailing list to a lead generation system that allows subscribers to choose which messages they want to receive based on their interests, as well as customize [sent advertising] messages based on their actions, ”says O'Dell.

Here's what the algorithm of such a program [working with leads] looks like ...


As a result of the transition to such a program, IHS increased the degree of interaction with subscribers by 10 times.

“It’s very difficult to run such complex campaigns in the field of content marketing and marketing automation,” O'Dell writes in his application for participation in the award. “For us, the very first, most important step was to identify the resources (team), then look at the situation from a new angle and re-evaluate the current processes.”

Lesson 3. Even in B2B, customers are people too.

The first two examples were related to marketing automation solutions. In order not to exaggerate their significance, I will give a reverse example.

If you use a marketing automation solution and try to create a relevant email marketing campaign for a B2B audience, then the choice of a software tool can affect how you create a message. In the end, you will focus on what will allow you to create convenient chains of trigger messages. For example:

  • values ​​in the fields “position”, “industry”, “main business problems”,
  • data about the visit to the site (which documents were downloaded, which webinars attended, etc.).

However, no marketing automation platform can help you [automatically] create messages that are interesting.

When I asked Pamela Markey, senior marketing director of MECLABS, who was also on the jury and evaluated the work of the nominees, what she liked about the work of the winners, she replied: “They appealed to the interests of their subscribers. Marketers were able to literally "get into the shoes" of their potential customers. They didn’t send out the information that they could communicate, but what really mattered to their customers. ”

A great example of this approach is the mailing list of SunGard Availability Services , a winner in the Connect and Integrate category (Lead Gen subcategory).

Disaster recovery, cloud solutions, managed services, IT consulting, business continuity services ... then I fell asleep. So what am I talking about?

And yes, although all these complex IT-solutions for business are very important, they are not so interesting for the audience, such as ... oh God, zombie Apocalypse!


Forgetting to turn to “posts” and “business interests,” SunGard managed to create messages that were interesting to any person that recipients willingly shared on social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. The company received about 2,000 such posts.

“This is a good example of how marketers can be creative and highlight their brand in the general [advertising]“ buzz ”. He shows how the use of unusual themes, unusual creatives and custom messages can cause great interest of the audience even when you turn to top managers, ”writes Julie Brewer, responsible for marketing communications at SunGard Availability Services, in her application to participate in the award.

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