Marketers amaze me. Every day, I marvel at the creativity and linguistic verve on show in the messages sent by our thousands of customers. But one of my biggest challenges is convincing them that database fields are as crucial to email as an engaging catch phrase.
Every marketer I've met has one thing in common - their digital creativity is, ultimately, constrained by technology. With that in mind, here are five key tech considerations your marketing team needs to know when developing an email strategy.
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1. Start a relationship with a geek
Too often, marketers have bold plans for their email campaign, without first establishing whether their ideas are even achievable; they can spend weeks crafting ambitious plans that can't even get off the starting line.
I know of one big brand whose agency hatched a grandiose campaign, without first realizing that the brand's CRM didn't even hold relevant customer data - resulting in three months of additional development time. Embedding your tech team early in your creative briefings will help establish what's possible from the get-go, avoiding needless delay, cost and disappointment.
2. Know where data is at all times
Multi-channel marketing these days means many distinct repositories of customer data - purchase information, browsing behavior, customer service interactions, social profiling and more. Does your team know how to access all this in a holistic way, or does it exist in silos?
Before starting a project, be sure you know whether your campaign depends on a central database or many different data sets. The answer will determine how much effort is required to achieve your outcome. But, in my experience, most marketers grow weary enough of silo-hopping to dream of super-centralization.
3. Segmentation is a powerful beast - but it needs feeding
Segments are not just for Trivial Pursuit boards - they are also a great way to reach different users with different messages. Imagine targeting a segment of females in their 30s in California who have made two prior purchases - this ability could drastically change the offers or news you emailed them.
But this kind of targeting needs hard work - if you haven't first turned customer behavior into many database indicators, you don't have the raw materials from which to build a segment. Start today by seeking opportunities to capture or generate these indicators from customer actions and characteristics that might seem mundane today - but which could be gold tomorrow.
4. Mobile opportunities demand new commitments
Nowadays, your mailing list is able to receive real-time emails about your products and services on the go. This is a tremendous opportunity - for example, when a loyalty club member completes an in-store purchase, you could immediately send a corresponding email to incentivize a second, follow-up purchase.
But the mobile opportunity will never be realized if your technology isn't synced up for the mobile era. This example alone requires fast connections between data stores holding customer history, transaction information and email systems. Mobile rewards can be healthy - but the upfront demands are significant.
5. HTML for email is behind the times
Most marketers know that HTML is used to build websites. Unfortunately, HTML for email is like the web language's ugly old aunt.
Many email applications, even webmail services, simply don't support the kind of snazzy design tactics used these days on sites. So building emails to be read means undoing a decade of advanced web design tactics and, instead, using simplistic techniques like tables to ensure maximum readership. Remember - if a tree fell in the forest but no-one heard it, it never happened.
What other tips or advice do you give marketers when they look to you for email campaign help?