Hi %%First_Name%% is dead: how to power your business with email marketing
An interview Luke Harrison, email marketing specialist
Luke Harrison has orchestrated the delivery of millions of emails.
And it is an orchestra.
An email campaign presents many variables.
All working in harmony.
All designed to deliver an outcome.
Like an orchestra, and in the right hands, email marketing can be powerful and beautiful.
But too many marketers are swept up in social media.
According to Campaign Monitor, there are more email accounts than there are Facebook and Twitter accounts combined. Yet email marketing is strangely in the shadows.
To illuminate the dark art of email marketing, I spoke with Luke Harrison, whose experience includes Suncorp Group and national retailer Pillow Talk.
What is your background and how did you start a career in email marketing?
Luke: After speaking with several people in the digital marketing industry during university I knew I needed to be able to learn some basic coding and how to handle data to set myself apart.
After I graduated from QUT in 2012 with a Bachelor of Business majoring in marketing I secured a graduate role at an email service provider.
Over the next three years I enjoyed roles within digital marketing agencies, a leading Australian retailer and finally one of the largest financial institutions in Australia.
I’ve also am an independent consultant with a focus on email marketing automation and developing customer journeys.
Where have you seen email marketing evolve over the last 2 years?
Hi %%First_Name%% is dead!
Basic personalisation and a non-responsive campaign simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
Mobile first design is now required. The majority of opens are now on mobile take advantage of that by designing your content for mobile first then for desktop.
Forget about showing a customer that you know their first name. It’s not impressive.
We have these huge pools of data available so there’s no excuse for most businesses out there to not be focusing on generating targeted relevant content.
Where is email marketing heading?
What I’m really excited about is the integration of website interaction data directly into companies email marketing campaigns.
This means you can create highly targeted automated sends to your existing subscribers based on their activity on your website. The opportunities for automation are almost limitless here.
For example if a subscriber goes to your website and looks at a page displaying “Shirts” and then exits without browsing any of the options available.
With this data synced two days later you could have an email send to that subscriber with the subject line “Did you see our top selling shirts on your last visit?” and generate content based what’s trending in that category.
What is the most successful email campaign you’ve conducted and why?
I started with a goal to reach out to disengaged subscribers and ask them to get in touch with our call centre.
I wanted this to be very intimate so I had the subject line as “Talk to %%StaffMember%% and showed an actual image of the person they’d talk to.
Over two months I vigorously tested this and managed to end up doubling the amount of calls per day as a result of the campaign.
The average order value from these calls enabled it to easily surpass any other campaign in terms of revenue.
We also found recipients were dialling in to raise product issues or to report they had a poor experience. This was fantastic because it was acting as a preventive and enabling us to address complaints before the customers took them to visible channels.
How are the big players of email like Hotmail and Gmail impacting email best practice?
A big goal of internet service providers has always been to minimize junk mail and improve the overall experience for their users.
Look at Gmail's recent change to a “Tab” interface. Emails now are sorted into categories, like Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums.
Initially a large number of marketers panicked about this. They feared if their emails went into say the “Promotions” category they’d never be viewed. Senders started trying to “Trick” their way into the “Primary” category.
What we later realised was the tabs improved deliverability, increased open rates, and decreased spam complaints. By making it easier for the customer to navigate their inbox they actually increased engagement with marketing emails.
I often refer to this story as it provides a great insight when designing campaigns. Always remember to make it easy for the customer whether you want them to click, buy or subscribe the easier it is the more of them will do it!
Other email marketers or sources who inspire you?
We’re a pretty solitary bunch at times so I love the group on Linkedin “Email Marketing Gurus”.
I regularly jump on it to ask questions and participate in conversation. It’s an amazing resource to be able to interact with over 22,000 other marketers who are also (hopefully) experienced in email.
A few times I’ve been struggling with a piece of code or integration issue but by jumping on here it’s been solved straight away.
What are typical email mistakes a marketer can avoid?
I can’t begin to state how important final checking your work is as you can’t change the majority of an email once it’s deployed. (You can change images and even links though.)
A big ongoing mistake I often see is a lack of analysis.
What I mean by this is that often a campaign is forgotten once it’s activated or deployed.
Email marketing is a continuous process of deployment, analysis and refinement that should never truly end.
No campaign is ever perfect.
What are practical do now tips a marketer can implement?
Look at the time you’re spending on once off sends versus those that are automated.
If you look at the return per email you’ll see automated sends soar ahead but most of the time the companies I work with aren’t focusing on these.
If you’re sending two once off emails a week you’ll be significantly better off cutting this down to one and creating an automated campaign in its place.
Always look at where your time is going versus what is providing the most value to the channels you work on. The portion of your time should mirror what’s most valuable.
How does big business treat email as part of customer communications and marketing?
The biggest players are now aware that email is a one to one channel.
Few other marketing avenues give you the opportunity to speak directly to a customer who at some point has asked to receive material.
It should be an intimate form of communication and now we finally have the data required to create that kind of personal touch.
Sometimes it’s very overwhelming at larger companies as with the sheer amount of data available it’s hard to know where to start. I find the easiest way is picking a single customer record and identifying based on their information what touchpoints are available to target them on.
Play the email orchestra wisely
In summary, 6 takeaway action points that will power your business:
- Must be mobile responsive - think mobile first
- Use data wisely
- Make it personal - email can be an intimate conversation. Make the content specific and relevant, and go beyond the first name in the subject header
- Set up email automation - make email an integral part of customer communications
- Double check before pressing send
- Approach email with view of customer lifetime value
Follow me on Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org