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Are traditional email marketing techniques dead? Q&A

Most of the hype around online marketing these days seems to revolve around using social media, big data and other tools to predict what the customer wants.

It would be easy to assume that outbound marketing techniques like email campaigns have become a bit last century, but Victoria Godfrey, chief marketing officer at B2B data provider Avention thinks otherwise. We spoke to her to find out why.

Does email still have a place in a social media world?

VG: Social media marketing is effective at keeping prospects and customers engaged and informed on a daily (or even much more frequent) basis. However, email campaigns are still king when it comes to conversion, especially for B2B companies. In today's marketing landscape, social media and email are both relevant and required - they're just doing different jobs. Through email campaigns, marketers can use lead scoring and event-based triggers to target prospects that are already in their database, further along in the funnel and more likely to make a purchase. These targeting techniques increase the chances that a prospect will respond by up to 600 per cent. While social can contribute to lead conversion as well, email allows marketers to track the prospect-to-customer journey more efficiently so that they continue to optimize campaigns.

Isn't it true that email marketing in the past has simply been about throwing out large volumes of material and hoping some of it sticks?

VG: By now, the availability of big data should have done away with any remnants of the see-what-sticks mentality. Modern marketers know that reaching decision-makers requires far more specificity, and they also know that the information to reach that level of precision is readily available. The email campaigns delivering returns on investment today are those driven by big data analytics. Rather than mass emails, these brand messages are targeted down to the prospect’s position level, the region of his or her business activity, the market sector, the stage of the prospect’s business and any number of other factors.

How can companies increase the effectiveness of their marketing emails?

VG: One of the most useful strategies for increasing effectiveness is tracking milestone events. These are the changes that indicate prospects are likely ready to buy, and marketing campaigns tied to these moments have higher success rates. For example, if a prospect company announces it has hired a chief information officer (CIO), is expanding into a new city or is laying off workers at headquarters, those events might be essential information to brands selling technology, recruitment tools or outsourcing services, respectively. Marketers can set trigger alerts inside their data to look for these moments like these when significant change is occurring inside a prospect company.

How can they monitor that effectiveness?

VG: The great thing about email is that it's relatively easy to track the effectiveness of campaigns and adapt accordingly. Any campaign should include at least one clear call to action, whether it’s signing up for a webinar, visiting a landing page, following the company on social or downloading a case study. Marketers should monitor campaigns closely to see how these calls to actions are performing and how those metrics compare to previous campaigns. If you're seeing a decrease, pivot and try a new message. On a macro level, marketers should always keep an eye on whether email lead sources have helped to contribute to an overall increase in closed or won opportunities. It’s important to keep in close touch with sales to assess what’s working and what’s not.

What are the most common emailing mistakes?

VG: The most common mistake in email today is a hesitation to apply big data analytics to campaigns. This data is obtainable, but because marketers don't always understand what to do with it or why they should shift their methods to embrace it, some fail to do so. This is a mistake. To get ROI from email campaigns, brands have to invest in technology that automates the process of collecting dynamic data and identifying targets based on defined ideal profiles. Once this segmentation is obtained, the messaging must be tailored to specific audience segments. You can’t send the same campaign to five different email lists and expect to see the same results.

How much difference does the shift toward mobile devices make?

VG: Increasingly, prospects are reading - and screening - their email on mobile devices. That makes it easier than ever for recipients to swipe a screen and delete a marketer’s message before reading it. Therefore, those messages have to be as finely targeted as possible in order to reach the right prospects at the right times. On mobile, compelling subject lines and responsive design also influence how effective email campaigns will prove to be, so marketers need to be tuned into best practices in these areas, as well.

Victoria Godfrey is the chief marketing officer of Avention. Prior to joining Avention, she spent five years running her own marketing and research company, Godfrey Research. Previously, Victoria was the chief marketing officer of Zipcar. She has an international MBA from Thunderbird (The American Graduate School of International Management) and a bachelor's degree from The University of Vermont. Since 2001, Victoria has taught marketing at the Gordon Institute at Tufts University.

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