Monday, May 12, 2014

crafting your email marketing strategy - part 3: technology in strategy

by kirk r gray

in part one we talked about the nurture series, part two we talked about what happens when a prospect either becomes a customer or exhausts the content. in this post we'll discuss personalization but from a tech point of view. personalization isn't just "dear first name".

we are by no means done with the actual emails that you should be sending...i promise we will get back on track with those in the subsequent posts... but i wanted to take a break and talk about how technology needs to be a part of your strategic plan, and how they are connected. recently i was told that at times i can be much more technology focused then i am strategic. i might be inclined to agree if you don't think the two are connected...but i think that technology and strategy go hand-in-hand. technology has a place in your strategic plan, i promise.

when i first drafted this post it was going to be about personalization - fields and tokens - and technology, but as i wrote it, it dawned on me that there is a lot of blogosphere-buzz about how your should be coded as responsive or adaptive designs. while i see all of those points that bloggers are talking about, i think you need to look at your strategy and where this design style can fit in your strategic mix.

a lot of industry insiders have been serving up adaptive design kool-aid. a lot of us have drank it, but that kool-aid is missing the sugar. trust me, nothing warms my heart more than to see a great responsive email, but let's face it. responsive is:
  • a drain on the marketers resources (especially if you do it all) - coding, testing, learning...
  • not 100% compatible with all clients in all mobile environments
  • not enough rules or too many rules with the esp's for what they support - marketo for example,  may accept this code and send it fine to an inbox while exacttarget looks at you and says "really, are you nuts?"
so keeping those things in mind, how can i sit here and say that adaptive design and technology can be part of your strategic plan. here's how.

in my current role, working for a major online higher education provider, i've been looking at data -  how we collect it, where we collect it, and what kind. because of research, i had an aha-moment. it made me think that the way we present information is just as important as the message, when we send it, and where (not just the segment but the physical environment). here's what i found.
  • a prospect enters our funnel through a landing page, they submit an rfi. the majority of our rfi's come from desktop (anything other than a mobile device) browsers. this makes sense - you're told in the office that to climb the corporate ladder you need a degree. you search for options on your work computer or from home when you are paying bills or something like that.
  • our classroom is best viewed and participated in from a desktop environment. so when a student communicates with us, they usually do so in a desktop environment.
  • advanced degree candidates are plugged into smart devices. they are working, they are on the move all the time.
  • alumni, like advanced degree candidates, are in the workforce. they have mobile devices, they are tied to them for work, life, and family commitments - everyone is beyond busy and packing 28 hours into a 24 hour day.
great that i know this about large group segments, right? but how does that information direct part of my strategy?

ever wonder why you see certain commercials during certain shows on tv? basically companies have profiled customers and prospects and are addressing that segment where they live and by what they watch...why not do that with email? taking the intelligence from above, we're developing templates and communications that does just that:
  • a prospect gets a mobile friendly email (even though rfi's are completed in the desktop environment, it's best to cover all bases)
  • a student gets a mobile friendly email (cover all bases)
  • advanced degree students get adaptive emails
  • alumni get adaptive emails
using adaptive design in our strategy is making it easier to address the person where they are, just like the commercials. we've taken adaptive design and correlated it to life-cycle. this isn't difficult, and may not work for you, but it is a strategy to look into.

this just isn't important from a "where they live" point of view, but readers are more likely to unsubscribe from your emails if they render poorly or look bad in the mobile environment, that's why we do a mix of mobile friendly and adaptive emails.

okay great, now we have our templates and design strategy, how do you further personalize that content? we'll address that in part 4. stay tuned....

Other posts in this series you might be interested in:
part 1: nurture campaigns
part 2: customer or exhausted content
part 4: personalization
part 5: meet with your stakeholders

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