EMail and Social CRM: links for reference

Most brands have used email marketing for years as part of their marketing communications programs. For brands that don’t sell directly to consumers, email was an early form of social networking, seeking to establish dialogue with consumers, and providing content that customers would want to forward to their friends. With the rapid growth of Facebook and other social tools, brand marketers have asked if email is still relevant. My answer is a hearty YES! I thought I would share the articles that led me to this conclusion. My comments relate to brands that do not transact business online, and use email for brand building. 

1. Email is still an important component of brand communication strategy and should be integrated  with everything else in the marketing mix. “Email [is] the connective tissue in the media mix based on the ubiquity of its use, the amount of time people use email throughout the day, and the ability for marketers to proactively communicate with their customers through the medium. ….Focus not only on how email can integrate with social and mobile platforms, but how it can be integrated with traditional media as well.”
.. EMail insider: The State Of Email Marketing

2. Mobile access and social inboxes must be addressed in email design and content. Your words matter even more when many recipients receive your message in plain text. The good news is, SMS copy development will also benefit from the increased emphasis on words over images.  
..EMail Insider: How Email Marketing Will Evolve In 2011

3.  Email can now focus on engagement and deep brand relationships, and let social networks and mobile tactics do the heavy lifting of recruiting. Once someone signs up for email, you know they really want to hear from the brand, so the brand email strategies can focus on identifying consumer interests and needs, and delivering content to meet the need.  
..EMail Insider: Email Trends For 2011 And Beyond

4.  Helpful ideas for making social and email work together: 
..Archive email newsletters online and post links to them on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to extend the reach of that communication
..Include links from blog posts or YouTube videos in an email newsletter to encourage subscribers to explore new social media efforts
..Add newsletter subscription links to social sites through blog badges, Facebook applications, or HTML
..IMedia Connection: How to turn casual connections into passionate customers

5. Statistics that reinforce the continued importance of email: Folks that are heavy users of social channels are also heavy users of email. 58 percent of online consumers check their email first as they begin their day, compared to the 11 percent who start their day by checking Facebook. Email dominates time spent on mobile devices and computers. 
..NielsenWire: Is Social Media Impacting How Much We Email?
..IMedia Connection: Are your consumers Facebook-first or email-first?
..EMarketer: EMail Dominates Mobile Web Time

Email is alive and well, and is important component of any Social CRM program. As the perhaps less glamorous older sister of social networking, email has the wisdom of years, and can help the younger siblings understand how to create, execute and measure communications to build strong and enduring consumer relationships.

The Art of Conversation

In a recent post about the evolving agency model (The future of advertising isn’t advertising), Robin Grant discussed how agencies will  transform themselves to support consumer conversations. We can expect that brand marketing organizations will also evolve to reflect the new way the consumers interact with brands. If the brand is the sum of all the conversations about the brand, an important part of the brand marketer’s role is to move beyond the delivery of a message, and find ways to influence and participate in the “ongoing conversation with different audiences in multiple different places”. 

As Robin notes, the important thing to remember is that the ” nodes you see in networked media models … are people and the connections between them are conversations.”   Real conversation can’t be fully planned. Sure, the brand will still operate from an editorial calendar, but in a conversation, the brand has to be ready to respond to a question that wasn’t expected,  or a comment that isn’t in the agreed-upon talking points. The brand conversation take places in all sorts of places: on a Facebook page, through an e-mail exchange initiated by the brand or by the consumer, when a consumer tries the product at an event or a promotion, in reviews and product rankings on a website, with a mention on in a show or article, and through advertisements that tell a brand story and invite consumers to respond. Sometimes the brand isn’t even a party to the conversation, but there are many digital tools at our disposal to allow us to listen in, so that the conversations we initiate can be informed by what is relevant to our listeners.

E-mail marketing that has been used for years to communicate with consumers can now be augmented with tools that allow consumers to share that information with their network and add value to the brand’s communication. Rather than replacing e-mail, social networks can augment, introducing consumers to a brand in a casual way, and making it possible to build a deeper relationship over time. Indeed, a recent Nielsen study showed that social media use causes people to consume e-mail even more.

So, how do brands become better at having conversations? Milton Wright wrote The Art of Conversation in 1936; much of what he had to say is particularly appropriate for brand seeking to have genuine conversations with consumers: 
1 . Don’t talk too long before waiting for a reaction.

2. The main purpose of general conversation is to entertain.

3. Attempting to steer the conversation round to your pet subjects will engender resentment in your listeners.

4. (Since I work for a beverage alcohol company, I particularly like this one:) alcoholic refreshment has historically been considered important to general conversation.

Brands can build trust and loyalty with their consumers by listening more than we talk, by using a tone of voice that sounds like a real person, by giving the consumer the chance to talk about themselves and what is important to them, by giving them a chance to respond to things that we say  … in short, by practicing the art of conversation.

Digital Marketing Training in 10 minutes a day

I sometimes work with brand managers that are enthusiastic about digital marketing, but feel a bit overwhelmed in evaluating all the options available to them. Because I learn best by doing, I suggest they commit 10 minutes a day to the 5 steps outlined below. By learning these 5 behaviors common to all aspects of digital marketing, brand managers can think clearly about how to leverage these consumer behaviors to build brands.

Step 1: Join a network. Choose one network in which you will participate. It doesn’t matter which network you choose, you are just trying to learn the behaviors that are common to all networks. If you are already a member of Facebook, LinkedIn or twitter, use that – you have already completed step one.  If you are not already a member of any network, choose one your friends or coworkers already use, create a profile there; you can always delete your account  later. If you really don’t want to join a network, subscribe to an RSS feed.

Step 2: Find interesting content. In the network you have chosen, or on a search engine, do a search on a topic that interests you: sports, movies, books, entertaining, cooking, whatever. You will find content in all different sorts of formats: blogs, videos, reviews, web pages within large portals, small web sites.

Step 3: Commit to doing this 10 min. each day. No more, no less. Over time, you will find more and more content sources about the topic you chose. You will learn whose opinions are reliable, which sources are the ones you value. Make notes out your favorite sites. If you want to keep digital notes, I recommend Evernote.

Step 4: Follow the links. When you read something interesting, click on all the links within the article or post. Or the site may recommend other content to you: try it out (but stick to your ten minute limit!).  This may lead you to another content source from which to learn.

Step 5: Share. When you read or see something interesting, entertaining, or intriguing, share it with others. If you joined a social network, you can use a status update to share the content. If not, you can just send a link to someone in an email. 

It is been said that the Internet is no longer a network of websites, but has become a network of people. By recognizing the digital behaviors of our consumers, we can create a digital brand presence that is compelling and engaging, and a welcomed member of the consumer’s own network.

Making an Impression

Advertising investments are often evaluated on a cost-per-impression basis, and digital advertising is typically seen as a very efficient medium when cost is a deciding factor. In Paul Gillin’s post yesterday, he said ” the only way to get make an impression is to be helpful, entertaining or memorable”.  And it hit me – we have always used the word “impressions” to talk about advertising, but in reality, how many of the “impressions” we buy is actually making an impression? 

How does a brand truly does “make an impression”? I think the reverse of Paul’s statement is also true: if you are helpful, entertaining or memorable, you will make an impression. And the digital world gives us a unique opportunity to move beyond just a hope and a prayer and to actually see whether the impression we purchased  actually made an impression: whether, and how, someone reacted to the message.

Of course, opinions about a brand form over time. in Fast Company’s great article on the Future of Advertising, they noted that “digital is incremental, experimental, continually optimized — “perpetual beta” — and never, ever finished”. More and more brands are moving to a more continuous communication plan, rather than being so strictly “campaign”-based. Paul’s article gave me a whole new way of thinking about the media plans and creative proposals that are presented to me: How will this build on the impression they already have of the brand? Will this plan really make an impression on the people I’m seeking to reach?