As GraphicMail marks its 10th year, CEO Nick Eckert shares his expert opinion on the convergence of email, social media and mobile marketing and how to ramp up subscriber engagement in 2012:
There were a couple of trends that crystalised in 2011 which will be the major drivers in our industry over the next four business quarters.
I would like to share my comments on each of them and then take a step back and call out what I view as a dependency to all of these that most digital marketers, in their excitement of ‘the new’, often forget.
1) Social and Email
The lines have begun to blur, but let’s face it; email was in fact the world’s first social application. On top of that some people, myself included, might even argue that despite more recent innovations, it also remains the best performing of all social apps.
So instead, the real issue we should be thinking about is what this means to today’s digital marketer and/or small business owner.
Social and email strategies need to be created in conjunction, and not in separate silos. In the social-email mix, it’s important to think about which newsletters warrant sharing and which articles get called out to your social media audience; and the reverse is also true in that you’ll have to carefully consider when and how to call out what you're doing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ in your email newsletters.
The cross-pollination of these channels will continue this year and digital marketers will be looking for ways to monitor and manipulate this process to better leverage their client relationships.
This mashing up of email and social strategies requires good client data. But we will discuss this further at a later stage. For now, GraphicMail is committed to continue with deeper integration of social data and product features this year.
2) Mobile Marketing
Mobile will go from buzz to biz in 2012. Smart phones came of age in 2011 and this has changed forever our relationship with the Internet and, more importantly, our inboxes.
It's now common for people to check their email, on the go, at every hour of the day. The increased frequency of mobile-email use means rethinking some basic principles like email design - to make sure it's simple enough to read well and look good on a smart phone.
The 160 characters of SMS/text is a powerful slate for driving customers directly to optimised mobile sites with timely information. Make sure that landing pages linked from newsletters are mobile optimised. Going deeper, marketers also need to consider when best to use SMS/text as a messaging tool because of the immediacy of the channel and its excellent open rates (on average, roughly 99% for SMS/Text vs. 30% for email).
GraphicMail already offers leading bulk mobile marketing tools and we have great plans to improve on these features over the coming year.
3) Engagement and Relevance
This is more strategy than substance, but email marketing services will need to offer tools that make it possible.
Some of these are tools to facilitate the blending of social and email while others are there to help businesses become more dominant on the mobile internet.
Being more engaged means using email autoresponders and triggers effectively to on-board clients and personalise communications. It means humanising email - adding more personality into your newsletters and communications. It means not focusing on features, but focusing on who's using your product or service and how.
This brings me to my final point:
Engagement and relevance are great concepts, but it means digging deep into your data to find out who's helping you promote your brand through social channels. This is where Email Service Providers (ESPs) really need to help their clients; which is why GraphicMail will be offering some new features to help you enhance the producing of relevant and engaging communications in 2012.
We want to give you improved reports that allow you to understand who's looking at what and help you set-up future email campaigns to easily engage with your client's based on their interests. We want to provide tools that help you collect the information that YOU decide is the most relevant, so you can collect preferences about your clients and combine this with intelligence we help you uncover; such as what channels they are using - so you can push the right message to them via the right pipeline.
Trying to achieve engagement and relevance is meaningless without the client data that allows you to do so. This is where most ESPs fall short. Rather than help clients collect and unpack this data they give them tools to manipulate the information - assuming they already have it.
Unfortunately, most small businesses don't, so ESPs need to be active in helping their clients build this foundation.
I'm looking forward to announcing a number of new features in all these areas as the year progresses.
I wish you all great success in 2012.