3 Key Takeaways from the Litmus Email Design Conference
I was fortunate enough to attend the Litmus Email Design Conference (#TEDC14) in Boston, Mass., Aug. 18–20. It was three days packed full of email design and strategy sessions and workshops. The energy given off from over 500 email geeks in one place was palpable. For me, personally, it reinvigorated the passion I have for email marketing. Although perhaps not the shiniest, newest object in a marketer’s toolkit, email remains crucial to any complete CRM program. It continues to be utilized more than ever and, when designed and executed well, can bring a tremendous return on investment.
There were many takeaways from #TEDC14, but three that resonated with me the most included the importance of email content relevance, the collection and use of audience data, and crafting smart calls-to-action.
Make It Relevant
Gone are the days of email being a deliverer of mass content. Consumers are simply not going to take the time to read a lengthy message to search for something relevant.
Email marketers need to know their audience and only serve them up content that adds value to their relationship with the brand. Elisa Haidt of TripIt.com spoke of the “so what” test that she uses before sending an email communication. Looking at your email content from the reader’s point of view and asking “so what?” will oftentimes give you good insight into whether the content will resonate with the reader.
How is this going to influence their relationship with your brand?
Is it something that they need to know or is it simply something you think they need to know?
It is an important distinction. Remember that oftentimes you are not your company’s core audience.
Sprout Social’s Zachary Hanz (@zacharyhanz) summed it up nicely with his “VENT” method for looking at email content:
The Data Is There — USE IT
As marketers in 2014, we are blessed with the amount of data that is available on our audiences. Oftentimes the amount can be a little overwhelming; however, it is the key to having a solid understanding of who our subscribers really are. What content are they consuming? What device are they consuming it on? What time of day are they reading their emails? What calls-to-action are they taking, and which are they ignoring? Knowing the answers to these questions will serve you well to ensure you are sending only relevant content. In his session “Get Relevant or Die Tryin’,” Brent Walter (@brent_walter) from DEG pointed out that 94 percent of subscribers that receive non-relevant content will either delete the email immediately; unsubscribe; or, worst of all, mark it as spam.
Brent spoke about two ways to collect user data: explicitly and implicitly. Explicit data is the type of information that a subscriber gives freely and does not require interpretation — data such as their name, birthdate and ZIP code. Explicit data is typically easy to collect using registration forms and specific calls-to-action in an email or on a landing page. Implicit data is information that a subscriber freely gives us that does require some interpretation — data such as their browsing behavior and content consumption. To me, this is the most important data we can use to educate our database and content delivery. What can we learn about a subscriber without specifically asking them? This type of data sometimes requires making assumptions, but can be invaluable when trying to learn the habits and interests of your subscribers.
Sell the Click
Of course once you “know” your subscriber, you still must convince them to take your call-to-action. Jared Campbell from Angie’s List presented “Using Deep Linking Calls to Action to Improve Conversion.” In this session, he spoke about thinking of email design as a step-by-step process for the user. In his experience, commitment to an email will come from decreasing the perceived amount of work for the user. For example, instead of asking them to “take the survey now,” use a simple yes/no question in the email to get them to a landing page where they are more apt to spend time interacting with a full survey. The email CTA is the first step of the conversion path. Simply put, sell the click in the email; sell the offer on the landing page.
As I mentioned earlier, there were a ton of takeaways from the Email Design Conference. A simple search of #TEDC14 on Twitter will open up a treasure chest of #emailgeek knowledge . To sum up the experience, below are a few of my favorite tweets from the show:
Matt Byrd @mparkerbyrd
Forget industry “baselines” ... Your own audience is unique! Only try to beat yourself. #tedc14
Starr Pagharion @starrrwars
Best thing I've heard all day: “Use data to inform, not dictate. It’s OK to say no to data if it harms in the long-term” - Vicky Ge #TEDC14
Matt Byrd @mparkerbyrd
Email is not a JPG, print ad or one-page website. #TEDC14
When a person subscribes to your emails, they want more than messages. They want a relationship with you. #TEDC14
Justine Jordan @meladorri
“Best practices are training wheels.” Do what’s best for your business/brand, not what someone else says you should do. Test! #TEDC14