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Introduction

With all the flashy new tech available to today’s marketers, it’s easy to take tried-and-true channels like email for granted. But we were curious: In an industry hungry for the latest strategies—be it AI, live video, or chatbots—have we even mastered the fundamentals?

To figure it out, we surveyed over 200 marketers and interviewed 25 leading experts to learn where we are (and where we’re going) as an industry. Which strategies are marketers using? What’s working? What’s on the horizon?

Let’s dive in.

Chapter 1

5 key takeaways from this report

  1. Email is still the king of digital marketing.
    No matter how many channels try to challenge the throne, they all come up short. The majority of respondents said they spend a quarter or less of their time on email, yet 59% said it continues to generate the most ROI for their organization. That places email far ahead of any other digital channel—long may it reign.
  2. It’s time to get personal with subscribers…
    Forget the dreaded batch-and-blast: Email works best when it’s used to serve up the kind of relevant content and offers consumers have come to expect from brands. However, many marketers aren’t there yet. 39% of respondents said they never personalize their emails, while 21% never use segmentation.
  3. …and begin using tools like testing and automation.
    53% of marketers never A/B test their emails (subject lines, CTAs, or send times), and an overwhelming 51% haven’t started automating, even for a welcome email. The reason we keep talking about these
    strategies is because for the most part, people still aren’t using them.
  4. Marketers struggle with competing goals.
    We understand that delivering useful content is key to creating lasting customer relationships, but internal goals don’t always line up. 58% say generating sales or leads are their most important indicator of success, versus just 34% who said fostering engagement is the most important.
  5. For the most part, industry buzzwords are just that.
    Chatbots, AI, live video, influencer marketing… thought leaders love to talk about what’s possible, but the majority of marketers aren’t ready to invest in those strategies quite yet. When polled, fewer than 10% of our respondents said they planned to use any of them in the coming year.

Chapter 2

59% of marketers see the most ROI from email.

Every year, someone writes an article proclaiming that email marketing is dead—and every year, they’re proven wrong. Batch-and-blast email marketing may be dead, and if it’s not, someone should put it out of its misery. But timely, relevant email marketing? It’s the beating heart of any successful digital marketing program, especially as digital saturation makes it harder than ever to compete for consumers’ attention.

 

 

 

TAKE ACTION

It’s easy to get sidetracked by flashier channels and feel like you have to master every new thing that comes along. But if you’re looking to drive measurable results for your organization, make sure you have a strong email marketing strategy in place first.

Here are three things you can do today to improve your email results:

  1. Focus on growing your email list
    (it’s your most valuable marketing asset).
  2. Make sure you have a mobile-optimized email template
    (it’s long overdue).
  3. Have a single, focused CTA for each email
    (and use a button, not text links).

Chapter 3

Great marketers understand the value of their base

Existing customers have long been one of the largest untapped resources in marketing. After all, 80% of a business’s revenue comes from 20% of their customer base on average. Today’s marketers have begun to realize the power that comes with dedicating time and resources to their current customers, with just over two-thirds devoting at least half of their time to customer marketing.

 

 

TAKE ACTION

Rather than focusing on that initial conversion and moving onto the next lead, make it a priority to maximize the lifetime value of existing customers. They’re more likely to purchase again, are less price sensitive, and are more likely to engage with your content… so how do keep them around for the long haul?

First, make a positive connection from the start with an automated welcome series that introduces your brand and sets the right expectations for content, send cadence, etc. Second, build loyalty by serving up content based on their behavior, like clicking on a link in an email or browsing a certain page on your website. Finally, listen and learn. Rather than doing the same thing over and over again, pay attention to your response results and adjust course from there to ensure your emails continue to hit the mark.

LEARN FROM THE BEST: Jay Acunzo

“It used to be enough for marketers to acquire attention.
Now we have to hold attention.”

 

 

They’re loading up on email.
30% plan to increase spending during the next year.

Email is where they’re seeing the most ROI.
68% said it’s their most effective digital channel.

Hard dollars are everything.
82% said leads and sales are their measure of success.

They could be scaling more efficiently.
Only 47% are using email automation.

Chapter 4

It's high time for marketers to get personal.

Batch-and-blast marketing certainly has its allure. It’s just so much easier, right? But it isn’t how you get results. According to a study from Adestra, a whopping 96% of organizations believe that personalization can improve email marketing performance and conversions. But we’re not talking about simply sticking your recipient’s first name in a subject line and calling it a day: You have to use the data at your disposal (a lack of data certainly isn’t an issue for the majority of marketers) to create a truly personal experience.

 

 

TAKE ACTION

It’s long been understood: Targeted, personalized marketing is the secret to success. So stop wishing you could execute more targeted marketing, and start doing it. Connect your data sources with your email marketing platform, analyze what you have (what content does your audience like best, when are they engaging, in what channels, etc.) and use it to deliver a personalized experience to every subscriber.

LEARN FROM THE BEST: Kindra Hall

“Great marketing appeals to the human in us.
Take that extra bit of time to consider the real person you’re trying to reach.”

Chapter 5

Segmentation should be a primary focus.

List segmentation is absolutely key to sending your most targeted, relevant messaging possible—and it leads to big-time results. According to eMarketer, 39% of email marketers that practice list segmentation see better open rates, 28% see lower opt-out and unsubscribe rates, and 24% see better email deliverability, increased sales leads, and greater revenue. But while some marketers have realized the power of segmentation, we still have a long way to go.

 

TAKE ACTION

The best email marketing relies on relevant messaging, and segmentation is what will get you there. Some key things to segment by:

  • How they signed up
  • Location
  • Engagement (highly engaged, inactive, etc.)
  • Purchase history
  • By any action, really. If you have the data, use it!

List segmentation helps you guarantee you’re sending the right messaging to the right folks, and small tweaks can make a huge difference.

LEARN FROM THE BEST: Cher Fuller

“People are tired of being spoken to like they’re part of a mass—they want to be treated like individuals.”

 

 

Email and social are neck-and-neck on ROI.
45% see the most ROI from social.
45% see the most ROI from email.

They struggle with competing goals.
Engagement and sales are both measures of success.

Email is a low priority.
64% dedicate less than a tenth of their time to it.

They’re stretched pretty thin.
64% work on a team of 5 or fewer.

Chapter 6

Marketers could be getting even more from email.

Email is like pizza: Even when it’s bad, it does the job. Despite its impressive ROI and standing as the top digital marketing channel, marketers could still be getting more from their email marketing. One of the best ways to improve your results over time is continual testing, yet 53% of marketers never A/B test their emails. Similarly, over half of marketers surveyed haven’t begun to use automation.

 

 

TAKE ACTION

Automation is the most effective way to send more timely, relevant messages to your audience at scale, and it helps you save precious time. We’re not talking about some clunky, overcomplicated program that takes forever to get up and running: Start with a simple welcome series, then consider incorporating a few date-based workflows.

The same goes for testing. Even if it’s just a quick subject line test, every piece of data you can collect about your email audience will help you improve your strategy. And you should never stop testing, from sender names to email content to send times.

Chapter 7

What does successful marketing look like?

Marketing teams are increasingly being held to a higher standard, and that often means bringing in more dollars and cents. More than ever, marketers are working arm-in-arm with their colleagues in sales to develop campaigns that go beyond simple brand awareness and make a measurable impact on the organization’s bottom line.

 

 

TAKE ACTION

Vanity metrics like impressions, open rates, and views might look great in a presentation to leadership… but your executives don’t care. They want to know how much you added to the pipeline, how many new donors you brought in, or how many people actually attended your event.

Take it a step further and really dive into your Google Analytics and CRM. For example, of the people who opened your email, what percentage took advantage of the sale or downloaded the guide you offered? Of the people who downloaded the guide, how many signed up for your service? There’s a lot more you can learn about your audience (and your marketing) when you start scratching below the surface. It allows you to tie your efforts to real business results and paints a clearer picture of how your marketing is contributing to the success of the organization.

LEARN FROM THE BEST: Megan Hassell

“As budgets get tighter and companies focus more on hard revenue, the lines between marketing and sales will continue to blur.”

 

 

Email rules the schools.
53% say email marketing generates
the most ROI.

They’re investing more into their email marketing.
73% plan to increase spending in the next year.

There’s opportunity to do more with email.
63% aren’t testing, and
68% aren’t automating.

They have limited resources.
58% work on a team of 5 or fewer.

They’re focused on engagement.
63% said it’s their ultimate measure of success.

Chapter 8

We need to get back to the basics.

The majority of marketers don’t have the time, team, or the resources they need to get on board with trendy tactics. Instead of focusing on the next big thing, we need to get better at what we’re already doing (like email) to create the highest possible return for our efforts.

 

 

TAKE ACTION

When it comes to adopting new and trendy tactics, we first have to make sure we’re getting the basics right. Take email marketing, a channel that’s been around for decades. To do it right, you have to leverage your data in ways that lead to personal experiences in the inbox, not experiences that come across as condescending, creepy, or simply don’t make sense. Email automation is hardly new and is one of the easiest ways to scale, but we’ve all seen automated emails that miss the mark with personalization because marketers have fallen prey to “set-it-and-forget-it” or deployed them with no human context or intuition.

Marketers must first master how to provide the type of relevant experiences their consumers expect using the tools they already have, then turn to new technology to amplify those experiences.

 

LEARN FROM THE BEST: Amy Landino

“The biggest challenge for marketers today is that it feels like we need to be everywhere and do everything. Instead, hone in on where your perfect prospect is and really own that space.”

 

Chapter 9

Why Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor’s email marketing platform makes it easy to create beautiful emails that drive results. That’s why more than 200,000 growing businesses around the world choose us to take their email marketing to the next level. From our professionally designed email templates to our award-winning drag and drop editor, we have all the tools you need to capture attention in a crowded inbox.

 

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