The upcoming year is bound to be one that is full of challenges and opportunities for online marketers. To help our readers navigate throughout these treacherous waters, we asked some of our most popular contributors for their thoughts on what will be ahead throughout 2011 in a variety of different arenas — SEO, PPC, Conversion, Local Search, Email Marketing, and Social Media. Each week for the next six weeks, we will present their thoughts on one of each of those fields to help you get off on the right foot in the new year. Four weeks ago we read suggestions regarding Search Engine Optimization (SEO), three weeks ago the topic was Pay-Per-Click Marketing, two weeks ago was Website Conversion, last week was Local Search, and this week, we explore Email Marketing.
As we head into 2011, how should marketers adapt their email marketing?
Andrew Bernero of Relevancy Media — “As always, do the math on all fronts before renting a list or sponsoring an email as you are battling deliverability rates, open rates and clickthrough rates before visitors even step foot on your site. If you are managing your own list, be sure not to over-email it in order to promote a healthy subscriber count.”
Bill Slawski of SEOByTheSea – “I’m a firm believer in creating a situation where not only are you focusing upon a permission-based approach, but that you also provide things of such value within your email marketing that people don’t think twice about signing up, and wouldn’t even consider unsubscribing. If you’re the world’s expert on a particular subject, set up a way to get feedback from your audience so that you address the questions and concerns and suggestions that they may have on that subject, both in future emails and in the services and goods and website content that you may provide.”
Guy Hill of DroidINDUSTRIES — “Email marketing seems to be call “lead nurturing” now. This is just a trick marketers play on themselves… but I see a lot of folks on the advertiser’s side now that never talk about email, but go on and on about lead nurturing. That’s fine. Lead nurturing is like “super-advanced” email. Set up for these programs is extensive, and difficult. I recommend simple email-only programs (even if you use a lead nurturing tool). You can start to try to take on additional features and “automation” in later iterations. Folks are currently biting off more than they can chew, efforts fail or roll out in unsophisticated ways. The bar is too high for most marketing departments. The promises of “automation” from the vendors make this worse.
I am a big fan of email. I think email has been displaced in some ways by legacies of spam, the noise caused by “social” marketing (Facebook in particular), and finally by new terms like “lead nurturing.” Email is not trendy, which is too bad, as it works, and is a very smart practice. It’s simple, non-exclusive, understandable, easy to customize, etc. Great tool. True classic.
I have seen many businesses abandon or neglect email for Facebook-instead communication strategies. This seems to be to be a de-evolution. Yes, Facebook as aggregated lots of folks, but their messaging systems, in their micro-universe, is no substitute for a proper web strategy. AOL was once seen as its own thing, sort of like Facebook is today. Advertisers had AOL-only strategies. That’s a mistake. Companies should have their own websites, they should focus resources there. Then they should have their own email strategy (even if they call it “lead nurturing”). Then… post copies of those message to Facebook, etc.
Finally lead nurturing, and the role of lead scoring as it applies to email, is very smart stuff. I would encourage businesses to explore lead scoring (even in an hand-built, offline sort of way). The big lead nurturing companies can help, but advertisers would be wise to be skeptical about how “easy and automatic” it all is. There is nothing easy or automatic about intelligent programs. If doing simple email alone, that is hard, and a full lead nurturing process is very hard, much more complicated, truly “upper division” work to implement, run, optimize. This strategy needs very smart, seasoned folks to lead and implement. If you buy a license for Marketo and hand that over to your intern… you’re going to fail, and run up a big bill with Marketo!
Avinash’s 10/90 rule applies: For every $10 you spend on tools, you need to spend $90 on folks to implement that program. A $25k investment in a lead nurturing tool, would require something like $200k in very smart/seasoned folks to derive the proper value. Companies that think they can save payroll by buying a series of very complicated marketing tool to “automate” the process will make those vendors wealthy while they fall on their faces. There are no shortcuts.”
Watch for next week’s entry — our last in this series — which covers what is ahead for online marketers in 2011 as far as social media is concerned.