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3 Ways to Future-Proof Your Email Marketing

05/06/2015 04:06 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2016

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Remember the days when you needed to drive a quick increase in signups, sales or downloads and you could simply send an email to your 'list'? While you still may be able to do this in some respects, all future trends lead to more and more control being snatched from marketers and placed in the hands (literally) of the customer.

Couple this with the fact that consumers' attention spans are short, their choices are endless and their expectations are becoming harder and harder to satisfy. The end result is a very noisy and very crowded journey as customers move from awareness to purchase.

A supporting stat to the noisy customer journey shows that although open rates are up for email marketing messages, click-through rates have been decreasing over the past several years.

Begin with End In Mind
For business owners, these realities beg the question: how can I future-proof my email marketing efforts? The quick and easy answer is clear: get started now! Begin with the end in mind by being a more relevant partner/problem solver to your existing customers and expert/source to potentially new ones.

1. The Answers are in the Questions
Start being more relevant and authentic by asking your customers these two questions:

"How did you hear about us?" and "What is the one thing that almost kept you from becoming a customer?"

Include the first question as part of your on-boarding series of messages to new customers who sign up for your email content. Sure, you have tracking in place to determine how they found you, but this question lets them tell you an anecdote or story that could reveal a unique opportunity that improves your email marketing.

Pose the second question to customers who have been with you for at least 90 days.
Knowing what nearly blocked them from becoming a customer will help identify reasons why other visitors to your website may have left. You'll be able to collect themes then improve your relevancy by updating email messaging and customer segmenting ideas.

Read every answer. Adjust your website content, email messaging, customer service response times, expectations, etc. accordingly. Acting on the responses shows that you care
more about building customer relationships and less about being just a brand.

2. Become Your Customer
Seems obvious, but are you receiving your own marketing messages? Reading your brand's email from the 'sender' side (even with preview tools) does not paint the entire picture. Do you recognize your own message in your own noisy inbox? Does that subject line you wrote cut through the clutter while you're looking at your inbox between meetings, traveling...you know, doing what your customer is doing?

It's not an exact science, but it will give you more context on the effectiveness of your cadence and messaging. You may end up adjusting subject lines, image vs. text ratios and time of day you choose to send your emails.

3. Start Building Your Assets
In 2011, Google's ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) study showed that the average buyer required seven hours of interaction across eleven touch points (e.g. newsletter, social ad, radio ad) in four mediums/locations (e.g. email, website, in person) before completing that purchase. That was almost five years ago. You can imagine that these numbers have only increased given the increased competition for your time.

How can you compete? Customer testimonials. How-to videos. Team member interviews. A-day-in-the-life video. Audio books (not just those downloadable PDFs). A Periscope or Meerkat live video stream account. Podcasts. These represent just a small sample of the many brand assets that you should have, or plan to have, ready this year. Tomorrow's attention spans require messaging that can be consumed quickly, but in an authentic and entertaining way. And in a way that helps to build and strengthen customer connections.

How does email marketing fit in? As the key introducer. Email can be used to directly announce your new video series, exclusive audio book or launch of your new podcast.
Also, you will use email as the relationship-building hub; leveraging your assets to help continually build your database of subscribers. Most networks can be integrated directly with your desired email list so add a sign-up form at the end of those videos or a vanity URL at the end of that podcast. It's an all-around win.

These assets alone are not guaranteed to grow your business overnight, but testing programs that leverage these types of assets will give you a much better sense of what does resonate with your customer of today. Ultimately, this will help you focus your efforts for the customer of tomorrow.