Why email marketers are struggling to focus

27th Jul 2017

The marketing technology landscape is more complex than ever. In what has now become an anticipated launch of the year amongst marketers, ChiefMartech.com actually renamed its infamous illustration the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic as it now includes over 5,000 vendors. 5,000. From only about 150 in 2011. No wonder marketers are confused when it comes to understanding where to focus.

In a recent study from Econsultancy and Adestra taking the pulse of the email industry, marketers’ answers to their use of martech clustered around certain themes, but were somewhat inconsistent showing a concrete need for clarity in the midst of the landscape complexity.

Automation or personalisation?

Both of those are core parts of first-person marketing, but we all know what happens when you chase two rabbits. When asked which they consider the top attribute of an Email Service Provider, automation was marketing's top choice for the first time in the Census’s history, showing just how important it has become. Yet the top answer for the area they want to focus on most this year was personalisation, chosen by 30% of company respondents and 25% of agencies (second in this case to behavioural response marketing which is arguably a more advanced form of personalisation).

ESP Attributes  

Of course, looking at charts can only help one infer how marketers approach email as part of the wider marketing mix. But one thing is certain: use of a tool or strategy without a plan is doomed to fail. Make sure you don’t regard automation or personalisation as a checkbox you tick and forget about it. Both require significant effort and planning to really be successful, especially if you set a high standard of personalisation in your email marketing and the rest of your marketing is general and untargeted. Don’t confuse potential customers with inconsistent experiences because they might not give you a second chance.

If automation is really the most important attribute you need from your ESP, consider how you can integrate your existing personalisation strategy into it before you create your first program. And don’t be afraid to start small. Incremental innovation is a great approach to email because small and regular improvements to your email strategy will make you more agile in the choices you make as you test, optimise and identify what makes your audience tick.

If personalisation is your focus this year with a view to improving it, automation will play an important part but it should be the engine making the car go forward, not the driver of it. Think about your customer journey and what you want to achieve by using more personalisation. Once you’ve established that, it will be obvious where automation can help and where you need a different approach.

Database health is an oversight in measuring success

For the first time in the report’s 11 year-history, the survey respondents were asked what they consider metrics of email success. The top results were, as expected, clicks and opens. What is worrying, though, is that database health indicators like delivery rate and inbox placement were only chosen by 37% and 8% of company respondents respectively.

Metrics success

Sure, the way you measure success depends very much on the industry you operate in, but the quality of your database can be a major indicator of your reach. There is no point having 1000 people on your email list if your carefully-crafted copy and beautifully-designed layout is only seen by 200 of those.

With upcoming data regulations imposing a stricter control over data management, monitoring the health of your email programme will only become more important.

Performance could be better than suspected

If you’re looking for a reason as to why you should invest effort into the email channel, look no more. Email has been topping the charts for return on investment for a few years now with 73% of in-house marketers and 76% of agency respondents rating it ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. That is considerably higher above social media’s performance who 23% of marketers actually rate it as poor’.

However, when it comes to looking at email campaign performance over the years it seems to have actually declined. The proportion of marketers rating it ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ has gone from 56% to 52% since 2016, though it has remained fairly constant since 2014.

Email performance

This begs the question: how can marketers accurately measure their performance is if their use of metrics is so low and their answers so inconsistent?

What the results of the Email Industry Census Report show is that, fortunately, marketers are on the right track. There is growth in use of automation and personalisation which is what their customers expect. However, there is also a lack of joined-up thinking. The simple fix for that is to take a step back to see the forest from the trees. Modern marketers are faced with an incredibly complex marketing landscape but also more exciting opportunities than ever to address consumers in an individualised way at scale. They just need to make sure all the marketing fundamentals – personalisation, automation, integration, optimisation - are working together towards one common goal. Not simple, but not impossible either.

Original article by Anca Staples, Content Executive at Adestra 

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