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Interview with Jeanne Jennings from Digital Prism Advisors

When email marketing has proven to be the most quintessential & effectual way to generate genuine leads, many email marketers miss the mark and fall prey due to campaign ROI. Poor email design strategy, inaccurate personalization, irrelevant information, etc. could be some of the reasons.

To attain a coherent view on segmentation & profiling, personalization, and effectual email design strategy, we interviewed one of the experts in the email marketing industry, Ms. Jeanne Jennings. The Managing Director of Digital Marketing, Digital Prism Advisors, Ms. Jennings shared her valuable views.

EmailMonks: What according to you could be the upcoming trends that might revolutionize the email completely?

Jeanne: I don’t really see anything on the horizon to revolutionize email – but then again, I don’t believe email needs to be revolutionized. That said, there are a lot of trends that are making email marketing even more effective for organizations.

Marketing automation is one of these. The ability to trigger email messages based on an action the recipient has taken is huge and, done properly, can greatly increase relevance. Triggered email messages have much higher open rates (52.1% vs. 31.0%) and click-through rates (11.4% vs. 3.5%) than business-as-usual messages, according to Epsilon’s Q3 2015 Email Trends and Benchmarks Report. Much of my work for clients today is developing strategies to help them fully leverage their marketing automation opportunities.

Another trend worth taking note of is smart data. More companies are getting on board with the idea of using the information they collect from customers and prospects (both reported and observed) to deliver more relevant email and online marketing content. The trend toward ‘marketing stacks’ which come with CRM and Marketing Automation systems fully integrated makes it easier to leverage data that could boost bottom line performance.

EmailMonks: With smart connected devices and internet of everything coming into the picture, how do you see email marketing adding the value to multi-channel strategy?

Jeanne: I rue the day when a message from my refrigerator is more engaging than one from my Aunt Jane!

But seriously, the Internet of Things (IoT) is amazing. The advances in digital communication that I’ve seen in my lifetime to date are huge. And the IoT will likely take things many steps further before I leave this earth.

I went to work for CompuServe in the 1980s and we had this ‘vision’ of the world that we sold businesses on. At the time it was amazing – and now it’s all come true and it’s very ‘ho-hum.’

I think the IoT is going to be same. I think the things we are talking about now are just the tip of the iceberg. Talk about smart data! Your refrigerator automatically ordering you more Gruyere cheese when you are low after hosting a fondue party is just the beginning.

Does email have a role? Most certainly. Right now we believe it will be to alert you that the refrigerator has arranged for your cheese monger to replenish your Gruyere – but that’s certainly just the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait to see what else the IoT brings…

EmailMonks: What is your take on big data? How can it help in boosting the email campaigns?

Jeanne: I’m not a fan of big data – but I love smart data! Collecting smart data on your customers and prospects – and leveraging it in smart ways — allows you to deliver more relevant marketing messages in email and all channels. With many of my customers we’re using smart data to improve the relevance of their email and other online marketing campaigns.

Email and other online and offline channels can also be used to collect smart data – what people click on, what they purchase, what they search for, what they share in social channels – all these are smart data points which can and should be collected and then used to deliver more relevant content in the future.

In a 2015 study conducted by eConsultancy and ResponseTap, 73% of marketers stated that data was critical to understanding the customer journey; but only 5% rated their company’s ability to act on insights provided by data as “excellent.” Another 29% said their abilities in this area were “good.” So only about a third of companies out there are able to execute on something that three-quarters of them feel is critical to success. That’s a problem.

EmailMonks: How do you see the value of direct response digital marketing in the process of brand building?

Jeanne: Every touchpoint, every interaction with a customer or prospect factors into their perception of your brand, whether or not you consider it marketing. Too often direct response promotions go for the sale at all cost – and damage the brand’s reputation with the customer, causing a loss of future revenue. This is something I work with my clients to avoid at all costs.

Many brands only use digital marketing channels to sell – this is a mistake. Email and other online channels can be great at building relationships with customers and prospects. It’s so easy to personalize an email or a landing page with the person’s name and to use smart data to customize it with non-promotional content that is (a) relevant to the recipient and (b) helps them get more enjoyment out of activities related to the brand’s products. Again, this is something I am working on with my clients.

Years ago we did an exercise with a large telecommunications client. We tracked impressions and then looked at what it took to turn someone into a customer. Turns out the most effective combination had a mix of branding and promotional messaging. So there’s a place for both in every online marketing program.

EmailMonks: While implementing a creative email campaign, what are the challenges that marketers face the most and how to overcome them?

Jeanne: The biggest challenge I see with my new clients is a lack of time. Many are crunching to get their email messages sent, so much so that they don’t focus enough on the content and what they are sending.

The solution is to slow down and put in place realistic production schedules to allow for adequate time to strategize and execute ideas that can boost performance. I often draw a line in the sand with my clients and – from that point on – all campaigns run on a realistic production schedule.

Marketing automation is a great way to free up time. By creating control campaigns which can be sent automatically you free up time for testing to improve performance.

Also a good idea – not recreating the wheel every time you do a campaign. Too many organizations create unique messages for every send – this is a mistake. While you don’t necessarily want to send the same email message to the same people every week, there are smart ways to repurpose complete messages or pieces of messages – but many organizations are too busy meeting send deadline to take the time to think about it.

EmailMonks: Just over a year ago you joined Digital Prism Advisors (dprism for short), a boutique consultancy focused on digital transformations, as a Managing Director of Digital Marketing. What gives? Have you given up on email?

Jeanne: Heavens no! I still love email. Email delivers the highest return-on-investment (ROI) of any channel, online or offline, according to the Direct Marketing Association. And I’m all about the revenue.

But it’s time to break down the silos and focus on marketing strategies which leverage both online and offline channels working in harmony to provide a consistent and exceptional customer experience. This experience should delight the customer or prospect and improve the bottom line performance of the organization. So I still do email – but the focus is more on multi-channel campaigns.

Joining dprism gave me the opportunity to extend my online marketing reach – and to work with a group of exceptional people who have a variety of skills, especially around data and technology, that I don’t have. It also reunites me with Adriaan Bouten, our CEO, who I worked with back in the late 1990s as we built a Website (a big deal back then) for Congressional Quarterly.

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Kevin George
Kevin is the Head of Marketing at EmailMonks, one of the fastest growing email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers, and enjoys sharing his thoughts on the latest email marketing best practices at EmailMonks Blog.

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