There's still room for innovation in email marketing.

Many are quick to write off email as old-fashioned, but think about the customer experience: Members of your audience no longer sit down to check their Hotmail account once a day or once a week; email is now a habitual part of the consumer and customer experience.

People refresh their email while waiting in line at the grocery store. Bills and informal updates alike are filtered through their inbox. Social media updates are delivered to the email inbox, even as social is predicted to overtake or eclipse traditional email.

Speaking to a group of marketing executives at Yes Lifecycle Marketing's Innovation Day, Chris Marriott*, vice-president of services and principal consultant at The Relevancy Group, said innovation in email is tied to the customer conversation. Email marketing geared toward driving sales is formulaic, yet the conversation shouldn't stop after a sale. If marketers don't keep their end of the conversation up between purchase cycles, they risk becoming irrelevant or forgotten.

The solution is what Marriott described as a permanent campaign, or a never-ending customer conversation. Here's how to initiate that conversation.

Ask the right questions

"Ask questions. Ask what you want the customer to do after he or she has done what you originally wanted them to do," Marriott said. He then compared the ideal marketing campaign to former President Bill Clinton's approach to politics some 20 years ago: As soon as he was elected to the presidency in 1993, he began campaigning for his second term.

"The media dubbed it 'the permanent campaign,'" Marriott said. "Think of your customers as part of your permanent campaign. If you want to keep the dialogue going, what do you do after they've opened, clicked ,and completed a purchase? You have to continuously be campaigning and setting the stage for the next purchase."

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image of Michael Fisher

Michael Fisher is president of Yes Lifecycle Marketing, where he is responsible for conceiving and deploying integrated multichannel solutions. His 20-year career in relationship marketing includes positions at Alterian and Epsilon.