What. A. Year.
2020 has thrown every curveball imaginable at email marketers but we’ve still pulled through. It’s been a year for the history books, which is why we spent some time talking through those challenges, our favorite stats, trends, and email campaigns of the year, and what it all means for 2021 and beyond. Special thanks to Jen Capstraw for sharing her thoughts on the hardest year in living memory.
Didn’t have a chance to watch the webinar live? Don’t worry. You can access the full recording at any time and read the Q&A below.
Thank you to everyone who chimed in during the webinar with a question! Here’s a recap of our answers to the most popular questions, along with our take on some of the questions we didn’t get to during the live webinar.
Do you have any B2B technology emails to share? Who’s doing B2B well in 2020?
Jen Capstraw: I’m actually a big fan of emfluence’s email strategy. And the best way to get on their list and get inspired by all of their terrific email is to go to https://emfluence.com/shop to test their abandoned cart functionality–just add an item to your cart and follow their instructions. The campaign you receive is a really clever B2B strategy for showcasing their technology. Their other campaigns are gold as well.
Do you have any suggestions for staying agile in highly regulated industries?
Jen Capstraw: That’s a great question. A shift to agile marketing requires cultural change. And that’s tough. Legal and compliance can’t live outside of the agile bubble. It’s a team effort that transcends siloes. That means the directive must come from top brass. Executive-level buy-in is essential to that transition.
Jason Rodriguez: Agreed that it requires buy-in from everyone, especially leadership. There are a ton of blogs, books, podcasts, and more out there about agile processes that are worth checking out. But I’ve found that “agile” means a lot of different things depending on the team and company where it’s being adopted. For email marketers, we actually published a guide on agile email marketing practices that’s a good place to start. Our Going Agile: The New Email Workflow ebook goes into what agility means in email as well as pushing back against resistance to adopting agile practices.
How would you recommend emailing about booking travel packages while the pandemic is still going on?
Jen Capstraw: You have to alleviate fear. Fear of getting sick. Fear of the unpredictable leading to cancelations. Customers can’t feel like they’re taking a risk. Your campaigns should get them excited about our impending return to “normal” while making them feel safe.
I noticed in one of the examples, the use of image backgrounds – are you seeing that used more often (in spite of challenging legacy Outlook support)?
Jen Capstraw: I think this is in reference to the Drizly creative. There’s actually no background image. Just a clever design that looks like live text over an image. You can check out the code for the father’s day campaign here.
Jason Rodriguez: Background images are awesome! While they don’t work everywhere, you can design and code your emails to make sure they fall back gracefully in clients like Microsoft Outlook. They are an excellent way to create visually arresting emails while keeping those emails accessible for users. If you want to get started with background images, there’s no better way than with our Ultimate Guide to Background Images in Email.
Do you think any of these trends might be different for senior audiences (ages 65+)? Our audience is primarily seniors and our leadership isn’t on board with sending out emails in support of things like BLM because that could truly drive a good portion of our audience away. Even though our company is supportive of social justice issues and even donates to organizations like BLM. Any tips there?
Jen Capstraw: A lot of brands shy away from social and political messaging. It’s a choice. To be successful, these types of campaigns have to be authentic representations of the company’s stance, and something we didn’t have time to discuss today was the risk of appearing as though you are virtue signalling. Alienating subscribers with a different point of view is one risk, but coming across as performative is another risk.
The company that’s been the boldest about their political position is Penzey’s Spices. Founder Bill Penzey doesn’t mince words, and a lot of conservative folks have sworn off his brand for good. But he’s laughing all the way to the bank. In 2018, he revealed he achieved 98% year-over-year growth thanks to promotions strongly tied to criticism of the Trump administration. Being controversial can be wildly profitable. In Penzeys’ case, the wave of support more than compensated for the folks he scared off. But it’s not a strategy that any brand can easily adopt.
Are you seeing a decrease in email open rates recently? Possibly due to the increase in emails being sent. Any strategies on how to stand out with subject lines?
Jen Capstraw: Yes, I have heard some marketers say they’re seeing declines this year and reach out to email communities to see who else is seeing that trend. But I hear marketers say that all the time! It’s hard to know if there’s a universal trend, but there will be some new benchmark reports out next month that might reveal if this is a larger trend (but be sure to take any benchmark report with a grain of salt). If you are sending higher volume and seeing lower open rates, I’d encourage you to take a look at open volume. It’s possible that there are more eyeballs on your campaigns than ever before and you don’t have anything to worry about. Are clicks holding strong? If yes, then again, this is probably not a worrisome situation. It’s tough to weigh in on a subject line strategy without a lot more context, but a basic rule of thumb is that subject lines that inspire curiosity tend to get high open rates and low click rates, while subject lines that are very specific produce low open rates and high click rates.
“Look inside to find out our special spirit of the month!” = curiosity
“Rum is our spirit of the month! Special savings inside” = specificity
What matters most is which strategy is best aligned with your ultimate objective. Which approach sells more rum? Open rates are often nothing more than a vanity metric, and not a primary indicator of campaign success.
What are your thoughts on allowing the individuals to pick the types of email content to opt into when downloading an offer to essentially choose their own lead nurture sequence?
Jen Capstraw: Your lead acquisition strategy has to be as simple as possible. Any extra friction will affect conversions. You can route new subscribers to a preference center or do some other form of progressive profiling during your onboarding campaign if you think there’s value in presenting those options before they get frustrated enough to click unsubscribe.