Scale Trust, Not Lists

Stop obsessing over the size of your email lists. It’s distracting you from the real work of quality growth — of building audiences, developing customers, and nurturing relationships.

When you’re consumed by list growth, your job is merely about the numbers rolling in, contained to the hunt and capture of one more email address. Great email marketing is not so simplistic or shallow.

That’s not to disregard the fact that businesses have to make money. But there are deeper values at stake when it comes to how you email. As Justine Jordan, Litmus’s VP of Marketing, told us:

Email is the ultimate way for a marketer to connect with their audience. Too often what happens is marketers just think about it as a high ROI channel.

That opinion leads us down a path of bad behavior, where we look at email like it only has capabilities to make our companies money. Often that comes in the form of shoving promotions, discounts, and deals down people’s throats.

Every email is not a sale, though your inbox may show otherwise. Let’s look at what it means to turn your focus from lists to the people behind those rows of email addresses.

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What’s in an FNAME?

How did email personalization become synonymous with merging in a name field? “Hello FIRSTNAME” isn’t what makes people run to grab their credit cards.

The power of personalization is no secret. It generates compelling emotions that persuade, support, and connect. We hear about shiny increases in email success. Marketers keep resolving to prioritize personalization, especially as we face dwindling attention spans and intensifying readiness to hit unsubscribe.

When you hear “personalization,” you expect a message that’s relevant to you. Instead, the term often describes the simplistic use of static identity attributes, like popping a first name into a subject line.

Popular data sources being used for personalization today

Most marketers rely on demographic and geographic data. According to research by VB Insights, over 60% of marketers target fewer than 15 segments — half target fewer than 10. But a person is (thankfully) more than the sum of their demographic parts.

Marketing personalization comes to life when you use real-time behavioral data. Yet marketers still have a long way to go, and the proof is in your inbox. Only a third of consumers feel like they’re getting personalized experiences, cites one recent Forrester study. What’s at stake, as VB Insights analyst Andrew Jones lays out, is that: “Without advancing to more mature efforts, most marketers are leaving money on the table.”

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Stop Blasting Your Email

Once upon a time, email marketing was all about email blasts. You’d set up a single message to broadcast to the masses, rinse, and repeat.

Now, this “batch-and-blast” method of bulk-sending promotions willy-nilly to any email address you can get a hold of is obsolete. Not only are there technical capabilities to easily segment and target our messages, we’ve developed a smarter understanding of effective email marketing.

Despite this, the lingo and attitudes of batch-and-blast haunt the way many people still talk and think about email today. Think about it: “blasting” people with email or employing the ol’ “spray and pray” approach uses the language of violence and recklessness. Marketing isn’t a war but a process of persuasion, getting people on your side rather than assaulting them.

The supposed collateral damage of batch-and-blast actually harms your email marketing performance. It subtracts rather than builds goodwill, it’s counterproductive to your deliverability, and it’s just not a smart way to work.

So what’s the modern, more peaceful, model for how to approach email marketing?

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