Kath Pay, Marketing Director at cloud.IQ, explains why email marketers should focus on what they want their campaigns to achieve, rather than on the technology and method of delivery
Time and time again I discover that many email marketers are delivering a lot of customer emails, but they aren’t applying many principles of marketing and therefore missing out on better results, whatever their goal. I’ve trained thousands of marketers at a lot of B2C and B2B brands over the years – many of them from well-known brands, and I often talk about how disheartened I am to see email marketing being turned in to a production line of create and send, when more marketing could be injected in to emails.
I know there could be reasons for this – a big one being that budget for email is quite frequently hard to come by as many companies quite wrongfully see it as channel not worthy of investment, so without budget and resource it’s hard to justify the time and effort. But if we take a minute to think about what our pals in Direct Mail all too often deliver – a campaign that has defined its objective, follows a clear strategy and is measured by specific metrics to gauge whether the required success is achieved – these essentials of marketing are often a missing entity in a large number of email marketers daily lives.
It’s also worth noting that email marketing is predominantly seen as a technology-led channel – rather than a marketing channel. It’s great that a host of advanced technology is out there to help support the creation, delivery and targeted distribution of our email communications – but we shouldn’t let the tech lead the show. If technology leads the strategy of our email programme, it’s easy to forget that our aim is to communicate with and motivate a human being, who doesn’t care about the tech.
It’s tempting to focus on the features and impressive capabilities that technology offers, but by doing so means we start at the wrong place. A lot of email marketers work back to front and end up with a programme centred on the tech frills, instead of identifying the objective first and designing a strategy that will ensure we achieve our objective and utilise the technology to bring our customer-focused strategy to fruition.
How can we re-focus? We can start at the beginning and define the key marketing principles on which we can base our email campaigns on. Email is an extremely effective push channel that can deliver a fantastic ROI even when a marketing and customer-driven approach is not leveraged. If everyone based their programmes on clear marketing principles, think how much more powerful and valuable this channel could be for you? Then think about the increase in revenue you can drive for your business.
Be the director
In short, we shouldn’t focus on the method of delivery (i.e. the technology), but rather we should focus on what we want to achieve from the campaign and how we can achieve it. We need to leverage this wonderful technology to support our email marketing campaigns and programmes – not base our email programmes around the features of the systems we use.
By thinking about emails to convey a human message, there are persuasion and psychology techniques that you can leverage within your email programmes. By doing so, we begin to harness the strengths of this very personal push channel and start to deliver emails that resonate with our consumers and trigger the desired responses.
Such triggers that marketers can use include implicit and explicit directional cues. An eye tracking study performed by Neuromarketing suggests that our brains process visual cues incredibly quickly, especially in comparison to text.
Over the years, many web usability studies have shown that most people don’t read emails and web pages word for word – they skim, quickly looking for relevant information. To encourage conversions (whether from an anonymous visitor to a known sales lead, or from a qualified lead to an actual buyer), designers have learned to provide visual cues – to not only help guide the reader to relevant content, but to influence them to take action.
For much more detail on how to leverage the power of persuasion, I am running a webinar on ‘How to Create a Persuasive Customer Journey’ later this month. It will explore common ecommerce journeys and provide examples of how to make each step of the journey a persuasive one, including within email.
Below is an email using implicit and explicit design cues from Anthropologie. From a design perspective, you can see the implicit directional cues that visually guide the buyer to the call-to-action. A viewers eye is first drawn to the model (and her necklace), and then will follow the diagonal line, which is an explicit directional cue.
In the west viewers read from left to right, and will instinctually follow the line to the right and arrive at “the”, where the implicit directional cues of text style, and weight help move the viewer’s eye down to “New Exotics” to then finally land on the call-to-action.
Another tactic is to engage your reader emotionally. Today, people tend to pride themselves on making “rational” decisions, carefully analyzing all the available information before determining the best choice. But, like it or not, people subconsciously make purchasing decisions based upon emotion and then rationalize the purchase by coming up with explanations for the decision after the fact.
As Douglas van Praet writes in his book, Unconscious Branding, “Influence is born by appealing to the emotions while overcoming rational restraints.” In fact, he claims that we make 90% of our decisions without consciously realizing we’re doing it. This is based on recent research from Timothy Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of the book Strangers to Ourselves. He indicates that our senses take in about 11 million bits of information every second, but we are only consciously aware of about 40 bits of that information! Which means the remainder of those 11 million bits of information is being processed without our ever knowing.
So while buyer education about your products or services is important, marketers must focus on engaging consumer emotions in their email communications. A good example of this is an email from Hilton’s HHonors program. The text is evocative and persuasive – “Exclusive Travel Specials,” “escape to your paradise,” “unforgettable memories,” which then leads to the call-to-action: “Treat yourself to the getaway you deserve.” This email example uses persuasive and compelling text-copy aimed to trigger an emotional response from the reader.
Start in the right place, with a marketing led approach that focuses on your customers, and you can begin to realise these changes. To become a conversion-driven email marketer that uses marketing principles of persuasion and psychology will enable you to deliver engaging and valuable holistic email programmes to your consumers, and in turn more results for your business.