As a committed email marketer and steadfast believer in the power of email, I wholeheartedly believe that email, as a channel, delivers the goods.

I work with brands to ensure that email positively impacts the bottom line and supports other business objectives. I’ve seen email improve and support business growth; and have seen it executed poorly, with little investment of time, resources, or care – and as a result, have a less than optimal effect on brand perception and revenue. Email is powerful enough to impact, change, and propel a business to new heights.

But it’s sad to say that email is often a brand’s own worst enemy. As a permission- and push-based channel, it more often than not delivers the highest ROI even when sending average emails. Therefore, the C-Suites often question why more budget needs to be invested when it’s already delivering the goods. In fact, they find it hard to believe that with more budget, the best performing channel will deliver even better results.

twitter “As a permission and push channel, #email almost always delivers the highest ROI,” says @KathPay #EmailMarketing #Deliverability CLICK TO TWEET

Today, I’m going to explore a few topics that are most pressing in the busy, 2018 email marketing environment… one that demands personalization at all costs.

Your Biggest Opportunity (and Challenge) in Email: Personalization

Both the biggest opportunity AND the biggest challenge for email marketing is personalization.

Unlike web personalization, email personalization is based upon the unique ID of the individual – the email address.

Related Content: Why Email Has Become our Digital ID, and How Digital Marketers Can Leverage it for Omnichannel [Experts Weigh In]

Starting with a user’s email address can help you centralize all their online behavior and personalize the experience to the individual, not to the device (via cookies). Personalizing via email (and carrying it through the user’s journey on the web) will help create a better end experience for the customer.

Although email is the easiest channel to personalize on a 1-to-1 basis, it still isn’t “easy,” and this is the challenge.

It is easy, however, to think of personalization as being the objective, whereas it’s actually a strategy, made up of covert and overt personalization tactics. The objective is to deliver an enhanced customer experience – with personalization being one of the strategies used to deliver upon this objective.

Related Content: Kickdynamic on AI, Dynamic Content, and Personalized Emails

As email marketing benefits from amazing technology, we’re often tempted to let the technology dictate our strategy. However, when it comes to personalization, we need to ensure that we, the marketer, take the reigns and create a meaningful and relevant experience for our customers by being in charge of the strategy – and allow the technology to bring it to life at scale.

Driving Toward Deliverability: Hit the Inbox with Precision and Relevance

Deliverability is a major piece of the email puzzle. Personalized emails move the needle, but they won’t do anything if they don’t reach the inbox, so it’s important not to put one foot in front of the other – let’s ensure emails are making it to their intended recipients.

I’ve been dealing with deliverability issues for more than 18 years. The most commonly held misconception about deliverability that I’ve seen is that by having some collection or suite of deliverability tools (software, systems, etc.) at hand, your deliverability will magically be good.

twitter The most commonly held misconception about #deliverability is that some collection or suite of deliverability tools can magically skyrocket your #inbox placement, says @KathPay CLICK TO TWEET

The clue is in the name – some tools can help you identify whether you have a problem. They can often (but not always) point you in the direction of resolution.

However, most clients that I have worked with – regardless of whether they have tools at hand or not – already know the reason why they have a problem… whether they like to admit it or not.

Most deliverability problems are caused by a lack of a clear strategy.

Without a strategy at hand, designating the objectives to be working towards and the tactics to be used to achieve these objectives, brands can (inadvertently) abuse or misuse their list, mix up their permissions, and send less than engaging messages to their contacts.

Some of the most common causes of poor deliverability I’ve dealt with include:

  • Not setting a reasonable frequency suited to their buying cycle (either over-mailing, under-mailing, sending adhoc emails or having spikes in their send frequency)
  • Not delivering the value they promised when the subscriber first signed up (not meeting expectations, which can cause a lot of complaints)
  • Not gaining permission and/or emailing to bought/rented third party lists
  • Not having basic list hygiene processes in place
  • Not warming up their dedicated IP addresses

Most of these issues can be prevented by having a comprehensive strategy in place.

So, while deliverability is often thought of and treated as a technical issue (with programmers and the IT team attempting to resolve the issue), it’s more often than not just a lack of strategic input – which needs to be addressed by the marketer, BEFORE the issues occur.

The tools come into play by working in conjunction with the strategy, informing the marketer of potential deliverability issues before they arise.

Learn the Art of Marketing

One of the biggest challenges in modern marketing is a tendency to drift toward a channel-centric mentality instead of a customer-centric one.

More often than not, we’re conditioned, groomed, and encouraged to market primarily via channels (e.g., SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, etc.). We even self-brand ourselves into these buckets.

Because of this we’ve either forgotten or never learned the true “art of marketing” – understanding human behavior and how to market to it. We therefore seek “silver bullets” within specific marketing channels… which tend to be very tactical.

Ideally, we should start focusing on the customer’s journey and fit the channel into it with the aim of delivering a smooth customer experience. As it is, we often try and fit the customer’s journey into each channel. The end result is a disconnected journey for the customer.

Start with the customer and their journey, rather than the channel. Have a desire to understand of what makes your customer (and humans) tick – this will help you to help them.

How can you know or overcome this challenge? Get back to basics and understand human customers and their desires. Then, equipped with knowledge of the successful tactics for the selected channel, combine the two skills with a focus on the end consumer rather than the brand.

Pro Tip: What happens when we set out to create a landing page, email, campaign, or program without focusing on the objective is that we get caught up in the detail and what we think looks good. It’s easy to forget about our customers and our end objective. We deliver something that meets our needs but not necessarily the end users, and therefore risks being brand-centric in its approach. Focus on your customers, and ensure the “email-to-landing page” experience is consistent and relevant.

Measuring Email Personalization

At the end of the day, how do you measure the success of your email personalization? And which key metrics should you measure among a sea of possible quantitative results?

Related Content: The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Email Marketing Success: 12 Key Metrics

Drumroll, please…

…the most important metric is…

…the one that matters most to your objectives.

Many email marketers want a straightforward answer like “open rate” or “click-through rate.” Picking one metric as the Holy Grail of email marketing is simple, but it misses the point.

Too many email marketers go wrong when they claim success or failure by using the wrong set of metrics. They take metrics that are designed for one purpose and assign them meaning and significance they don’t deserve.

My recommendation: have an objective for each campaign as well as for each email you send as part of that campaign. When you know your objective, you’ll know how to measure performance.

Will your CEO or CMO care if your latest email campaign generated a record-high open rate, which is a top-of-funnel metric? Maybe – if you can also report that you beat your sales goal by 20%, or qualified 20% more leads over the goal, which is more of a bottom-funnel metric and is aligned with your final objective.

Closing Thoughts

Email is the MOST direct, cost-effective, and effective digital channel to communicate with your audience, subscribers, and customers.

We’re moving to an age where most brands are getting really good at email, too. The only way to stay relevant will be continuous improvement – and in an age where email marketing tools are relatively commoditized, the brands that can truly personalize end users’ experiences will be the victors.

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Kath PayKath Pay is the Head Consultant at Holistic Email Marketing. Kath lives and breathes email marketing. She is not only a world-renowned speaker and trainer but also practises her art with her consultancy, Holistic Email Marketing, where she is Founder and CEO. Many years ago she coined the phrase Holistic Email Marketing, practising this approach within her consultancy and teaching it to her students and clients. She is one of the World’s Top 50 Email Marketing Influencers (Vocus, 2014).

Connect with Kath: WebsiteLinkedIn@kathpay