Brian Carroll

Email Marketing: Where’s the Innovation?

I always look forward to the announcement of the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Award winners; they’re a great source of inspiration. In fact, just couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the B2B Best in Show Winner’s unexpected email approach grew its subscriber base by millions.

But honestly, I think B2B marketers might be more disillusioned with the power of email, if the feedback from 1,745 marketing organizations in the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report is any indication.  Email marketing remains one of the top three lead-generation tactics, just below websites and SEO.  Yet they claim its effectiveness dropped from 40 to 26 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Maybe this year’s Email Marketing Awards can point to one of the reasons why this is happening. If you look at the list of winners, you will note no one won the top award for innovation.

I asked Adam Sutton about it. He’s a senior reporter for MarketingSherpa. He edits and writes for their email and inbound marketing newsletters, has easily interviewed hundreds of marketers about their email marketing initiatives, and he’s one of the event judges.

“We don’t give out an award unless a company deserves it and an entry really ‘wows’ us,” he confesses.

But he also concedes that impressing the judges is getting tougher every year. “Email is a mature tactic as far as digital marketing goes; the low-hanging fruit is gone and you have to be more creative to reach the fruit that’s higher on the tree,” explains Adam. “But there’s still plenty there – especially when it comes to reaching people through newer technologies like smart phones and tablets. Of course, you want to make sure it’s worth targeting that segment of the marketplace, and you want to make sure you can measure the results. But I think there’s opportunity that companies aren’t taking advantage of.”

But what if your audiences aren’t avid users of iPads or smart phones?  

“I think it’s a running joke here at MarketingSherpa: I’m sold on triggered emails, like confirmation emails and thank you emails,” says Adam. “Triggered emails are marketing for you all of the time. When you’re on vacation, when you’re sleeping, when you’re working on another project, they’re still out there driving business without you having to add any resources.

“I would look for every opportunity to create a triggered-email campaign. Frankly, I’m surprised that I’m not seeing more of these.”

While it may be more challenging to innovate within the larger email industry, Adam thinks the B2B space is wide open if you’re willing to learn from your B2C counterparts.

“Analyze how B2C marketers nurture leads with triggered email, follow-up email, or cross-selling opportunities. Think about how to use those ideas to reach your audience,” he advises. “I’ve learned in my years of writing newsletters that there are very few case studies that aren’t universally applicable. If you think your email efforts are stale, we have hundreds of case studies to give you some fresh ideas.”

Adam points out a number of case study resources:

“Tell us what you’re doing, and think about entering the Awards next year,” advises Adam. “Whatever you do, I encourage you to set aside time to contemplate your email program. If it’s not something you’re impressed with, if you consider it more of an expense and a hassle than a performance-driver, strategize a fresh approach and consider getting professional support.”

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Email Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Thought Leadership