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A change in calendar year is an ideal time to think about where things have been and where things are going. For email marketers, the future is bright—as long as we take advantage of important trends and apply best-practices.

1. Embrace mobile, but don't abandon the desktop

Although at least half of emails are now being read on mobile, that doesn't mean email on the desktop is dead. In B2B, in particular, only 35% of users check email on mobile compared with 59% for personal email.

Mobile is best for things that can be dealt with and consumed quickly, in real-time. Of those who do check work email on their smartphone, many open the email again on their desktop or tablet if the message requires more consideration or a longer, more thoughtful response.

For email marketers, this means a multi-device approach is best, and that requires careful planning to formulate calls to action that account for how their audiences behave.

In other words, mobile-desktop balance is critical when creating content.

2. KISS your customer and prospects

"Keep it simple, stupid," or the KISS principal, is alive and well in 2019. When designing email marketing campaigns, resist the urge to use elaborate graphics and highly formatted emails. While you might love the way they look, they're not necessarily the best performers. Graphic-intensive emails are much more likely to trigger spam alerts, which means fewer of your messages will get through.

Recent studies have found that many email users actually prefer plain text over HTML-style emails that are heavy in graphics. The reason? They look more like personal messages from someone they know, and they feel more sincere and less sales-oriented.

So stick with the basics, and don't overcomplicate the emails you send. By keeping them simple—i.e., both their messaging and their formatting—you'll avoid distracting people from what's really important.

3. Engage with more with interactivity

In addition to prioritizing plain-text emails, you should increase the amount of interactive content you send. This type of material offers value and can significantly increase engagement from audiences.

A survey by Zembula found that interactive content outperformed every other category, when done right. When participants in the survey saw two emails and were asked which message they were most likely to engage with, interactive content beat out static content by an overwhelming margin: Just 18% of survey respondents preferred traditional static email campaigns; 82% said they were more likely to respond to the interactive message.

Based on those findings, you might want to create app-like or microsite-inspired experiences inside your emails. Think creatively when deciding how to present content so that you encourage users to actively interact instead of just passively consuming it.

When you do it right, your audience will engage with the content to access the full experience.

4. Send fewer, but smarter emails

Email will always remain a valuable marketing tool—as long as you develop smart campaigns. And in 2019, and beyond, smarter means emails that are more relevant and engaging. And that requires not only using better segmentation and targeting but also sending timely, nonintrusive emails that keep the business at the forefront of the customer's mind.

That might seem too much like playing the long game, but building relationships simply makes for better customer retention.

One solution is to tell stories. Personal stories feel genuine and can capture people on an emotional level. Stories are also memorable, which is key, because people tend to forget facts but they remember stories.

Engaged customers are far more important and valuable than uninterested ones. They will interact more, and your marketing efforts will become more effective as a result.

5. Get real with artificial intelligence

Everything I've discussed so far in this article is possible only if you have the people and resources to execute properly. Few organizations have enough people with the knowledge and experience to fully understand and evaluate and act on all the available marketing and customer data. Luckily, help is on the way.

In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has been slowly making strides across all industries. For marketers, the tipping point is here. Technology is ready to help eliminate the human-caused annoying bottlenecks by making sophisticated analytics capabilities more accessible and providing actionable recommendations to help teams execute.

Companies are now using artificial intelligence to strengthen their email marketing and make it both more personalized and more effective. Marketers can now use AI to create more effective subject lines and images and predict how audiences will respond to each email.

Best of all, AI is only getting better. As it does, the door opens for more personalized content to be sent at the right times to the right people.

* * *

You, too, can find success with email marketing in 2019. Keep it simple, know your audience, and take advantage of the latest tools. You're guaranteed to find more success. Rinse and repeat.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Eric Wanta

Eric Wanta is CMO at Zive, maker of Kiwi for Gmail and Kiwi for G Suite, which takes Google apps like Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and Slides out of the browser and helps companies improve G Suite rollouts and user adoption.

LinkedIn: Eric Wanta

Twitter: @ericwanta