2012 Email Evolution Conference: Email Isn’t Dead; It’s Just Evolving

The conference kicked off its Thursday session with a substantive and thought-provoking keynote from Jessica Harley, VP of Customer Marketing at Gilt Groupe. While her presentation touched on many aspects of Gilt’s email marketing efforts, the most notable theme was that we — as marketers generally and email marketers specifically — can’t think about email marketing in a vacuum. In that email marketing vacuum, response rates appear to be declining and social seems to be gaining precedence. But outside that vacuum, email continues to play a vital role in driving engagement and conversions.

Expanding outside the vacuum enables email marketers to recognize that conversions and email’s impact may be felt in ways that aren’t captured by traditional measures. In Harley’s experience at Gilt, customers may look at emails on a mobile device but then convert indirectly on the same day via the web or via an App. In this scenario, the email is the trigger to go to those transactional channels. Therefore, we need to evaluate email performance not always on an immediate basis — how many viewers or clickers did the email drive in the first day or two — but with a longer term view. And if we think of emails as doing more than driving a single transactional response, we need to extend our measurement, for example, whether a series of emails over time produce a more engaged, higher value customer population.

In EMI’s presentation with State Street, I expanded on this theme: consider thinking of email in the context of all the other response channels. Since our objective as marketers is to drive engagement and transactions, it’s important to remember that email is but one means to that end. For certain customers at certain points in the decision-making process, email might not be as effective a means as direct mail or calling.

If Your Mobile Web Site Is Done, You’re Still Not

A recent report by Nielsen Smartphone Analytics revealed that in June 2011 Android smartphone users spent twice as much time using mobile apps than they did using the mobile web. While this is only one month of data for one smartphone OS, there are important implications for marketers.

Above all, it illustrates the degree to which your company website is no longer the foremost platform for information dissemination. As more and more individuals — and businesses — adopt smartphones (and tablets) as their primary communications tool, the more mobile app use will become ingrained behavior. Coupled with the social media tsunami, this app tidal wave threatens to render obsolete the idea that your company website is the place where customers and prospects go to learn about and interact with your company. This, in turn, has significant implications for content and message development — what worked for the PC-based website environment almost certainly won’t work for an app.

Moreover, this data points to the need for strategic thought about what role a mobile website should play in the customer experience/sales process as opposed to the role played by social sites and apps. For the near term, each platform (PC-based web, mobile web, app, even email, direct mail, and phone) will continue to have its place across the customer lifecycle. But it is vital that companies begin to chart out the kinds of interactions they want users at different stages of the lifecycle to have and what, then, is the best platform for delivering those interactions.

The Challenge of Improving Wholesaler Performance

Suffice it to say, sales leaders in the asset management, insurance, and retirement industries are under un-relenting pressure to enhance wholesaler performance.  Brands that want to win the trust of their channels and be perceived as a valuable, priority relationship, must deploy effective Intermediary Relationship Marketing (IRM).  Today, many brands deploy a version of IRM, most of which neither generate trust or add value to their relationship with their important intermediary partners.

What is Effective IRM?

In the context of the asset management, retirement, and insurance industry, IRM creates leverage and scale for distribution platforms targeting intermediaries and distributors. An IRM initiative augments the productivity of internal and external wholesalers through a pragmatically developed plan of systematic and integrated marketing activities. These activities:

  • Create a compelling, consistent and coherent narrative with target channels
  • Generate new qualified leads
  • Keep target channels engaged with your brand and products
  • Pave the way for more effective wholesaler interactions.

Instead of focusing on a single campaign, or a series of disconnected interactions, effective IRM initiatives plan and deploy integrated inbound and outbound communication streams — guided by the stage of your brand’s relationship with the channel, individual level data (e.g., behavioral, self-reported, firmographic), and your brand’s narrative. These communication streams increase the probability that your products and brand are selected by your target intermediaries and distributors. IRM builds mindshare, reinforces the value of the relationship with your brand, fosters trust, and provides your wholesalers with richer and timelier intelligence. IRM must also integrate seamlessly with existing sales force automation and CRM tools.