“Email Is Deceptively Complicated”

You’ve probably heard it 1,000 times already, but less is more when it comes to email marketing. The surprising thing about hearing it this time? The advice came from Brennan Carlson, SVP of business development and product strategy at email service provider Lyris, whose job is to provide “input into what we build and how we make money from it.”

When we met to discuss trends in email marketing, Carlson was no holds barred in giving his opinion—pro-email or not. “Email is deceptively complicated, whether it’s in-house or in the cloud” he said. “But, it’s the Trojan Horse of digital marketing. It delivers the most efficient return in digital marketing; it’s a better contributor to website traffic than search and display.”

Better, that is, when done right. “There needs to be a shift in how email is done,” Carlson asserted. “Using email as a bullhorn is not the way to go. Most customers are not on a ‘customer journey’ or looking to engage with your brand. Marketers think in touchpoints; customers think, ‘Please don’t touch me.’ There’s lot of talk about customer experience, but most of the action is still company focused.”

One example of that inside-out approach, Carlson said, is customer lifetime value. “CLV is about extracting value from a customer. Marketers need to think about how to deliver value to a customer,” he said, adding that the idea of moving customers and prospects through a purchase funnel is old school. “The supply chain industrialization of marketing is bad. Email drip campaigns are a great concept but they’re inhuman. This type of approach misses the point of getting the customer in the center of everything. Marketers need to create a win-win environment. It’s time for supply chain managing a pool of customers through to a transaction to be dead.”

Putting customers at the center translates to relevancy, Carlson said. “Relevance isn’t just for savvy marketers,” he said. “Everyone needs to be relevant or they’ll wind up in the spam filter. You need to know your audience—and know what you don’t know.”

Two other assets that email marketers need, according to Carlson: an authentic brand voice (what’s the brand’s tone and message and how accurately does its email marketing reflect that reality); and  digital marketing prowess, which includes mastery of right tools. Plus, “vendors need to provide a set of tools that [marketers] can build with, so there’s more innovation faster,” he said, adding that this is especially important because “email will continue to be a stalwart pillar of digital marketing.”

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