10 Trends That Will Make or Break Your Email ROI in 2010: Part 1
Takeaway notes from an AMA webinar. By Aliza Bornstein, copywriter, Melissa Data

Here are the first five trends in this AMA sponsored Web cast presented by J.D. Peterson of Lyris Inc.

In 2009, email marketers faced extreme challenges, arguably the worst of any year, on any recent record. The unsteady economy resulted in buyers who put a hold on spending decisions, delayed purchases (or purchased less), and expected lower pricing out of their vendors.

As a result, everyone saw longer sales cycles, less frequent purchases, fewer dollars spent per sale, and found it harder to reach revenue goals. Unmet financial goals resulted in resource scarcity (people; money; time; bandwidth; etc.) and this was seen across the board in every industry.

There is hope! Companies can grow in 2010 using email and other online marketing mediums. The key is to know what the various marketing trends are and to have a few essential tools ready to make them work for you. And that’s really what this webinar is about, it’s about helping you navigate to better results and bigger successes in 2010.

Trend #1: Email is the cornerstone to other online marketing programs
Email marketing alone isn’t exactly a hot new trend. The important takeaway is that email has been, and will continue to be, the cornerstone of the online marketing world. Of all the trends to watch, this will be one that many people will miss, simply because it seems so obvious. One reason email is the cornerstone is because it’s the one method of online marketing that pretty much everyone uses.

How does the concept of the cornerstone work? Since email is the highest performing online marketing tool at many companies, there is an interest in using other online marketing tools to drive email campaigns—and vice versa. Email marketing is a low cost way to expand results. You can use social marketing to extend your email campaigns between the send dates, or maybe search marketing to build your opt-in list. After completing these tasks, you’ve extended the potential impact of those various programs.

The bottom line is email marketing is not going away and email marketers should plan on shoring up and continuing to use this medium to expand in 2010 and beyond.

Trend #2: Email automation as an essential
Email automation is one of the ways that smart marketers are combating that challenge of email deliverability, and that’s why it’s an important trend for 2010. 88 percent of email marketers are already sending automatic emails based off triggers, or planning on it in some fashion. That’s a huge chunk in the marketing community right there. There’s a good reason for that high percentage: it really does work!

Why is this automation on the rise? Automation is a great use of resources. Once you set up a program, it’s very easy to maintain it. You essentially create something once and then deploy that highly relevant content to thousands and thousands of people, over and over again, but with very little additional investment on your part, once you get the program up and running. Since these types of messages are more compelling and targeted to your audience, they convert at higher rates. So together, this results in much increased ROI for your company.

Most importantly in the end (the payoff!), automated email programs can generate anywhere from a 30 to a 70 percent open rate (depending on the type of content and the type of industry). And that’s far beyond the industry norm of 10 to 20 percent for standard, non-automated emails.

In 2010, it will be important for email marketers to automate some or all of their emails as resources allow. At a minimum, establishing a welcome program is recommended. Welcome programs are a great way to make new subscribers and customers feel good about your company right off the bat. It reinforces the promise you made to them when they subscribed, and it’s a very smart way to start the new relationship. Depending on the preferences your subscribers provided when they opted in, you can then poll these new subscribers into nurture campaigns.

Nurture or trigger programs are an effective way to make special offers to relevant content in your subscriber base. Depending on the type of people that comprise your list, you can use nurture or trigger programs to convert prospects to customers, or to retain and upsell existing customers.

Trend #3: Web analytics = Email enhancer
Use Web analytics as a tool to enhance email by informing and allowing you to make better email marketing decisions. For many marketers to feel underwater due to a lack of resources, this whole topic of Web analytics can sometimes feel like an unattainable luxury. The truth is, many email service providers are now integrating Web analytics right into their systems. This makes it easier for email marketers to access, understand, and use Web analytics to their advantage.

They’re able to use this data to assess the effectiveness of email programs, and in particular, to answer the question all email marketers are after, which is “what happened after they clicked? They clicked through on my email and then what happened?” Based on getting that data, you can then make adjustments and improvements with greater confidence and agility.

As a result, analytics are enabling email marketers to move up that value chain. They’re able to make data-driven decisions and actions, and better manage their marketing programs from a strategic, holistic point of view.

So, how does this work? Email, along with things like PPC (social or mobile), generally use a campaign to drive visitors to your site. There, you might have landing pages housed or people arrive at your corporate Web site through some other medium. What you can do then is follow that particular campaign traffic on their path through your site to see where they went, what they’re interested in, and then, ultimately, if they convert.

With those analytics in hand, you can then alter your messaging and the site path to increase conversions and really drive people to where you want them to go. That makes for a winning closed loop cycle.

The integration of Web analytics with email marketing results in more profitable campaigns and higher customer retention rates—is something we all want, no matter what industry or line of business we’re in.

Trend #4: Social media entwined with email marketing
Social media is obviously hot; we’re hearing about it everywhere on a daily basis. Despite rumors to the contrary, it’s actually great news for email marketing. Marketers are extremely happy with the influence social media has had already on email marketing. According to Marketing Sherpa, 81 percent of marketers believe that social media does extend the reach of email content to new markets, and 78 percent think it enhances brand reputation or overall awareness.

Social media shouldn’t be seen as a replacement to email marketing, but instead a complement or enhancer. The fact is, email itself is social. When people want to share something on the Internet with others, 78 percent of them do so by emailing a link. There’s a lot that email marketers can do to leverage this trend optimally in 2010.

How does social media benefit email?

• It expands the reach in between the email sent.
• It grows your opt-in list virally.
• It increases response exponentially.
• It establishes online reputation and trust, which improves email deliverability.
All this improves results and ROI! The following are a few quick tips to take advantage of the social media trend:
• Establish your company on a relevant social site.
• Link across programs.
• Contribute to an existing blog and get others to contribute to yours.
• Automatic post and share.
Trend #5: Get mobile!
That thing we call “the phone” isn’t just being used as a voice mechanism anymore. According to ABI research, mobile marketing revenues are expected to reach $24 billion by 2013, which is a huge jump from $1.8 billion in 2007.

With mobile, you can expand your reach beyond your standard email opt-in list, and also develop mobile opt-in lists to reach new targets and expand your overall subscriber base. A bigger pool of qualified, engaged prospects equals more revenue prospects.

Mobile also allows you to extend your campaigns virally. Mobile (like social media) is another vehicle for information sharing, forwarding, adding comments, and so on. All this ultimately leads to nice bottom line results.

Here are a few simple ways to weave mobile marketing into the mix in 2010:
• Offer mobile-only incentives for opting into SMS or email alerts.
• Ask prospects to text for a free guide and encourage email opt-in.
• Deliver your email content via mobile to expand your reach.
Check back for the last five trends in next week’s issue!

---Source: American Marketing Association webinar on Jan. 12, 2010 ( J.D. Peterson in the VP, Product, for Lyris Inc. Email him questions at .

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