The State of AI-Powered Email Marketing

email marketing

Despite its age, email remains one of the most effective (if not THE most effective) marketing channels across every single industry.

As effective as email might be for your marketing team, there are ways artificial intelligence can help you supercharge your email marketing success. AI-optimization may be a relatively new chapter in the long history of email marketing, but it’s a chapter that will help you and your brand generate some incredible returns. Specifically, AI-powered email marketing optimization will help you achieve higher opens, higher clicks, and higher conversions.

For this infographic, we analyzed millions of emails that were personalized using AI against millions of emails that weren’t. Based on that analysis, here’s what we discovered.

 

email marketing

10 Marketing Automation Do’s and Don’ts For Your Business

using automation to personalize at scale

Today’s consumers expect customized experiences and on-demand engagement at the channel of their choosing.

Nearly all marketers now appreciate the impact personalization can have on improving customer relationships and conversion. According to recent research by Researchscape, almost all believe it has at least some impact while “Seventy-four percent believe personalization has a ‘strong’  or  ‘extreme’ impact on advancing customer relationships.”

marketing automation personalization at scale

Understanding the power of personalization is the easy part. Executing it is much more complicated. Serving thousands, or even millions, of individuals with customized content and tailored experiences is a formidable mission for even the most dynamic CMO. No marketing department or agency on the planet can deliver handmade marketing to every single customer at any significant volume.

There’s only one way marketers can personalize at scale: automation. But not all automation is created equal.

Smart Automation: How Marketers Can Personalize at Scale

Marketers have been drawn towards tools that enable them to send tailored content to their leads and customers for years. Some 49% of companies are already using marketing automation and more than 55% of B2B organizations use the technology.

However, most of them have yet to realize its true potential. They still rely mostly on basic rule-based marketing automation software rather than responsive, adaptive artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions.

 


You should also read: The Artificial Intelligence and Personalization Buyer’s Guide


Are You Making the Most of Your Automation Budget?

Global spending on marketing automation will crest $25 billion by 2023. Unfortunately, much of that investment will be put toward suboptimal technologies or get hamstrung by ineffective policies. Make sure your ROI is optimized by following best practices and taking advantage of the most powerful tools available to provide compelling personalized experiences for your audience.

How Marketers Can Personalize at Scale

Editor’s note: This is an update of an article and graphic published last year by our partners at Boomtrain.

What Makes a Good Email Copy? Characteristics of Compelling Templates

good email copy

Drafting a good email copy is not everyone’s cup of tea. Just like writing, for some people it just comes naturally whereas some of us have to hunch over the keyboard and scratch our heads for eternity before we figure out the tone, structure and visual elements that would go in the email. While there is no strict recipe for a perfect email copy, there are a few guidelines which when followed would make for compelling reads. In this post, we’re going to discuss these guidelines along with interesting real world examples for the same. Let’s jump right into it:

1. The readers shouldn’t have to be superheroes to scan through the copy

People today are busier than ever. While some may argue that this is just a perception problem (studies have shown that people today have more leisure time than before), you can’t help but notice how everyone seems to be in a hurry today. In such a time-is-money mindset, most of us would hate to focus and concentrate to read a long unstructured marketing email. Whether it is an email about an offer or about a new product launch, we want to go through it fast. That’s why, your email copy should be easily scannable. Break up the copy with headings, subheadings, images, bullet pointers, etc to make them easily readable. Here’s a nice example by Evernote:

evernote email2. The placement and messaging of the CTAs

No matter how enticing the subject line of the email is or how compelling the content copy is, unless the receivers know how to act on the message, the email is a failure. That’s why it is imperative that the email template has the right number of CTAs, placed at the right spots within the copy. Apart from the placement of the CTAs, the messaging should also be perfectly aligned with the content that aides it. Remember that ‘Buy Now’ and ‘Sign Up Today’ don’t work all the time. Here’s a nice example by Shutterstock to inspire you:

Shutterstock
3. Talk more about the uses and benefits than the features

What’s in it for me? That’s the question that your prospects or customers will have when they receive an email. This is especially true for customers/prospects of product companies. That’s why, the content of the email copy should talk about how the customers would benefit from a feature rather than harping on and on about the feature and how it works. Here’s a good example by Dropbox:

dropbox email
4. Be succinct — Avoid unnecessary information

At times, you don’t even have to say much in the email copy. Just tie together important pieces of information and lay them out neat and clean. Check out this beautiful design of the password reset email by visual language app Lingo:

lingo app email
5. Be friendly and assertive in the tone

The tone of your email should be friendly and assertive so that the readers take an action on their own accord. However, be careful because there is a thin line that separates friendly and assertive from creepy and cocky. Custom apparel platform Teespring does it nice with its nudge email here:

teespring email


Useful read: 6 Advanced Ways to Personalize Your Emails


6. Add a personality

Add a dash of personality to your emails. Try to come up with a character or a phrase that would set your brand apart from the rest. Something that would stick with the customer even after reading the email. Email delivery service Sendgrid does it really well in their emails. Most of their emails are signed off with the phrase ‘Happy sending’ – a relevant and clever wordplay that will be stuck in your head.

sendgrid email

What do you think?

What makes a good email copy? Have you ever received an email so incredible that it left an indelible mark on your mind? Please share it with us and we’ll add it to our repository of good email template examples.

Emails Reaching Recipients’ Spam Folder? Here’s How To Avoid It

email spam

Note: This guest post has been authored by Reuben Yonatan. Reuben is the founder and CEO of GetVoIP and GetCRM, trusted VoIP and CRM comparison guides that help companies understand and choose a business communication solution for their specific needs.


One of the most maddening frustrations for email marketers is to spend time crafting detailed content that can help their leads, only to have it reliably end up in spam folders. There are many different factors that contribute to marketing emails being flagged as spam, so it’s crucial to know what mistakes you might be making right this moment.

Following are the common reasons why business emails land in the spam folder and ways to avoid that:

The recipient hasn’t opted in for your emails

Many marketers don’t see the problem with sending email messages to people who haven’t given their express permission to receive them, but this practice can be actively harmful to your email marketing campaign for several reasons. First and foremost, anyone who hasn’t expressed interest in your content is unlikely to engage with you, and chasing these kinds of leads is a waste of resources (no matter how small).

Additionally, people who keep receiving emails which they don’t want are likely to manually mark them as spam. This, in turn, can harm your deliverability with the rest of your audience.

Your content is getting flagged due to low open rates

ISPs rely on algorithms that evaluate email senders by reputation in order to determine what goes in a spam folder. Senders with low open rates and high bounce rates are often flagged as potential sources of spam.

At first glance, this seems like a catch-22: your emails aren’t getting to the recipient because you have low open rates, but you can’t improve your open rates without making sure they receive your emails! So how do you get yourself on the right track?

There are two proven strategies that can help. First, follow the advice above and only target people who have given their consent to receive your emails. Don’t waste your time with purchased email lists. Second, work to lower your hard bounce rate by removing addresses that have bounced more than once.

Your emails don’t include a valid address

At some point during email marketing’s rise to prominence in the digital sphere, many people began to equate all forms of promotional email with spam. But nothing could be further from the truth. People actually want to receive promotional marketing emails from companies that have potential value to offer, because they are a great way for nurturing relationships.

The problem for spam filters has been learning to distinguish between the legitimate companies and the armies of bots and spammers. One way to do this is to check for a valid street address, which every legitimate business has. Make sure your company’s address is included in every email you send.

You aren’t giving the reader an easy way to unsubscribe

People don’t like feeling trapped, and that’s exactly the sensation that is conveyed when they end up on an email list and can’t figure out how to remove themselves. Not only is it a good practice to include a clear, easy-to-access unsubscribe button on your marketing emails, but failing to do so is actually illegal in the U.S. and many other countries.

Periodically pruning your email lists is always a good idea, and manual unsubscribes act as an aid in this task. These unsubscribes come from people who have indicated that they aren’t interested in engaging any longer, and their presence on your list will only contribute to lower open rates.

Your subjects feature spam trigger words

One of the most common causes of emails ending up in the spam folder is the presence of certain words, phrases, or symbols that instantly trigger spam filters. Many potential leads and repeat customers who actually want to engage with you could be missing out on important content, and it could all be because you’re using words that you don’t realize are problematic.

There are numerous categories of spam trigger words, including those like “sale,” “% off!,” and certain hyperbolic adjectives. It’s best to keep several lists on hand and consult them for every subject line you write.

You are ignoring HTML best practices

HTML formatting has been a boon for marketers because it allows them to connect to audiences using high-quality imagery and visual data. However, that doesn’t mean that you have carte blanche to do anything with HTML formatting—there are still several rules that should be adhered to.

For instance, you should keep your images as small as possible, and also limit the number of total images you include in one email. Make sure to include appropriate alt-text for email clients that block images altogether, and always offer a plain-text version so that your content will be readable on any client’s platform.

Build a variety of spam protection measures into your strategy

While there’s no single way to ensure your emails make it to your readers, following these guidelines will help protect you against most spam filters. Seek engagement with your readers by getting their permission to send content, and fight to improve your open rates by pruning with strategic unsubscribes.

Ensure the filters recognize you as a legitimate entity by including your physical address, avoiding common spam triggers, and proofreading carefully (one study shows that 80% of recipients believe spelling and grammatical errors are unacceptable). Finally, put the power of HTML formatting to good use by showing restraint and focusing on readability. Implementing these simple measures will help you reach your audience more consistently and improve your email marketing ROI.

Wrapping Up

Marketers don’t like watching their skillfully-crafted emails ending up in spam folders. Following a set of best practices, marketers can significantly reduce the number of emails that are being considered spam not only by email clients but also by users.

The Art of Upselling and Cross-selling to Your Customers Using Marketing Automation

upselling and cross selling

The concepts of upselling and cross selling have been around for a long time. From traditional businesses like hotels & restuarants to new age enterprises like eCommerce; almost everyone uses them to increase their bottom line. However, most sales personnel are usually apprehensive of upselling. They get nervous while pitching extra services or add-ons to their customers since that might put them off. Afterall, nobody likes the feeling of being sold to right? However, when done right, upselling doesn’t feel like a sales experience. Rather than scaring the customers away, it actually brings them closer to the brand. That’s exactly what we’re going to explain in this article. We’re going to discuss how marketing automation adds a whole new dimension to upselling and cross selling strategies.

Before we begin

For the uninitiated, upselling refers to techniques used by a seller to persuade customers to purchase similar but more expensive items, upgrades or other add-ons to make a more profitable sale. Whereas cross selling is the practice of selling an additional product or service (which is often complementary to the first product) to an existing customer. The two practices can affect both your top-line sales and bottom-line revenues all the while ensuring that the customers are still served with a great experience.

Now to the question: How important is upselling and cross selling for a business?

Studies have repeatedly proven that, after a point, upselling and cross-selling can be more fruitful than finding new prospects and customers. Just sample these incredible stats:

  • According to a Gartner report, on an average, 80% of a company’s future profits come from 20% of their existing customers.
  • Only 10% of B2B companies’ revenue comes from initial sales. 90% of the revenue actually comes from upsells and cross sells after. (Source)

upselling cross selling

How Marketing Automation can help

One of the prevalent misconceptions regarding upselling and cross selling is that they fall under the kitty of sales teams and marketing doesn’t have much to do with them. But marketing (especially automation) actually plays a vital role in enabling the sales team in this regard. Here’s how:

Personalized recommendations

Most B2C companies today rely on the power of personalized recommendations on their website to drive extra sales and revenue. eCommerce websites in particular can make a killing by showing personalized recommendations to their customers based on the product that they’re looking to purchase or based on their past browsing history. Amazon has one of the best recommendation strategies out there. Browse any product on their website and you’ll see sections called ‘Frequently bought together’ and ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’; that list down other related items that can be purchased along with the product.

Amazon product recommendation

recommendations by amazon


We in fact did a detailed article on the same topic. You should check it out: How to Ace Product Recommendation like Amazon


Transactional emails

One of the simpler uses of marketing automation is the triggering of transactional emails. Any email that is triggered by a user’s interaction with a website/app is called a transactional email.

Examples:

– The welcome email that you get whenever you create an account in a website

– Order confirmation email that you get after purchasing a product from an eCommerce website

Apart from relaying important information to the customers, transactional emails can also be used to upsell other products or services. Check out this order confirmation email by online shop Huckberry:

Huckberry transactional email

It not only conveys an important information (i.e., confirmation of the order for the mugs), but also showcases other products that can be purchased from their online shop.

Use purchase information to cross sell

The purchase information of a user gives businesses a great opportunity to cross sell auxiliary services or products. Travel booking brands utilize this the best by offering other relevant services like airport transfers, hotel bookings, etc.

redbus cross selling

I got the above email by redBus, a popular bus booking website, a few hours after I booked my travel to the town of Kathgodam near Nainital, a popular hill station in India. You can notice that the email gives me an option to book hotels for my stay in Kathgodam. This is a perfect example for cross selling of services based on your purchase.

Leverage lead nurturing and customer onboarding

Lead nurturing is the process of developing relationships with customers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the customer journey. It involves customized communications that are sent to the customers based on their activities and behaviors. Lead nurturing processes are usually aimed at customer retention but can also be used to upsell or cross sell services.

For example: A software product company provides self-help tools for SEO optimization. The company also offers personal one to one counseling sessions (which come at a nominal cost) to its users who are unable to optimally utilize the different features of the tools. It tracks user behaviors constantly and uses that data in its marketing automation campaigns. If a customer is found to be using the features intermittently, an automatic email is sent showcasing the personal counseling service.


A great read: The Art of Customer Onboarding using Email Nurturing


What is your upselling and cross selling story?

Have you tried incorporating upselling and cross selling strategies into your automation campaigns? If you have, how has the experience been? Let us know in the comments below. If you haven’t tried it yet and want to know how your business can leverage automation to upsell products and services, you can reach out to our customer success team here.

The Attribution Conundrum – Understanding the Best Attribution Mix for Continued Growth

attribution mix

With 2017 at its halfway mark it’s the perfect time to assess your marketing performance and the analytic methods you use to measure growth. At Zeta, we help our clients improve their marketing performance through a variety of approaches, including attribution analytics.

In a survey conducted by the Relevancy Group, Zeta Global confirmed that marketers aren’t satisfied with current attribution analytics methods being implemented—and, as a result—are experimenting with different approaches. The chart below (featured in the white paper, The End of Last Click) demonstrates what marketers have adopted:

The dangers of planting all our attribution seeds in one place

There’s no doubt that the best marketers still rely on a basic last-click model for channels like email. Last-click is often how marketers break ground on attribution measurement. For retailers, email is a strong closer, and last-click is an easy way to calculate marketing return. That said, relying on this single model to value a channel miss-values the channel and limits the understanding of how channels support each other to close the sale. Identifying the role that email plays in the purchase path, for example, can help a marketer target and respond to trends and coordinate media decisions across channels. The End of Last Click defines marketer’s attribution maturity and how influencers, and disruptors like mobile, are impacting a marketer’s ability to evaluate channel effectiveness.

Our directive is this: Marketers, move away from single interaction models!

Last-click may certainly have a place to help make certain decisions, but being clear about how, when and why companies should use the model is the key to getting the most out of analytics.

Easier said than done? If you’re simply using last-click, where can you begin to diversify? Here are some business questions CMOs ask when identifying the need for expanded use of attribution:

  • Do I have concerns about diminishing returns both within and across channels?
  • Do I need to better understand channel redundancy?
  • Do I understand the value of each marketing touchpoint?
  • Do I need a confident way to allocate marketing investment or incremental spend?
  • Do I understand the role of channels in supporting the sale?

And of course, channel owners need to ask these important resource questions:

  • Do I have the right resources available to me to establish the right attribution measures?
  • Is our attribution platform delivering reporting that is solving for our business needs?

The resource questions are often where we see brands get caught up so it is critical that brands establish the following so attribution analytics is optimized:

  • Ongoing data source identification, assessment and integration
  • Process to select, test and validate model techniques
  • Ability to translate complex model results into terms that have a clear message and action plan for the business
  • Ongoing education within the organization to ensure adoption and understanding

Attribution data can be extremely powerful in understanding the level of demand ROI channels drive. However, it’s not Miracle-Gro and marketers need help getting attribution to a point where it’s an efficient and effective measure for business change and growth.

We’ll come back to this topic in future blog posts, and in the meantime, Zeta Global is here to help you solve your attribution conundrum.

How to Use Data Backed Marketing Automation to Earn Customer Loyalty

data marketing automation

There was a time when most businesses just focused on customer acquisition in their marketing efforts. Brand loyalty was just a byproduct of the scheme of things. Today’s businesses however have to deal with a lot more competition and customers who are always ready to switch to a better brand; a brand that gives them products and services of better quality. That’s why, customer loyalty marketing has become an important piece of the marketing puzzle these days. Maintaining a steady customer base has become more important than ever to survive in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

Providing offers and discounts to customers is arguably the easiest way to build customer loyalty. But that’s not enough to convince the savvy customers of the internet age. They know that there is always a better bargain around just a click away. Brands need to do a lot more to keep them hooked and engaged. And the key to building such a strong engagement with the customers is data. Data that can tell the brand a lot more than just the name, email and location of the customers. When the marketing efforts are tuned to collect vital data signals, marketing automation can kick in and do wonders. In this article we’re going to look at how marketing automation can help brands earn the much needed brand loyalty from its customers:

The Importance of Customer Retention

If you have a great product/service, customers will develop a brand loyalty on their own. That’s the belief that most people had before the marketing world started to take customer retention strategies seriously. While it is absolutely true that loyalty follows great products and services; one should also remember that this only works in short term today. The market is so competitive that your customers will eventually find a brand that is better or cheaper than you. The only way to build brand loyalty is to make them feel that you care about them and listen to them; apart from providing a great product/service.

According to a research conducted by Harvard Business School, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases the overall profits of a business by 25% to 95%! No wonder data oriented marketers take customer retention seriously!  It has become an important metric to measure the effectiveness of their marketing strategies. Most companies however measure the opposite of retention rate, i.e., churn rate (Percentage of customers who decide to quit using the products/services of the company). Both of these metrics have gained high importance even for investors while they study the viability of a business.

customer retention stats

How Marketing Automation Helps

Marketing automation allows businesses to better understand their customers’ preferences and desires. When marketers use this information strategically, it translates into a stronger relationship between the customers and the brand. Let’s discuss this in detail:

Event Based Automation

Imagine this scenario: You’re planning a trip to Agra to catch a glimpse of the Taj Mahal. You want to check out multiple travel deals and booking sites before you make up your mind about a place to stay. You search Airbnb, Trivago, Kayak and a bunch of other booking sites but still aren’t sure. After a while you’re tired and are in no mood to do all the searching again. But you still want to book your stay because the travel is already planned.

Just when you’re about to throw up your hands in exasperation, you get an email notification! Airbnb has sent you a pick of places that you can choose from in Agra! Wouldn’t that be awesome?! That’s the power of event based automation. You realize that the brand that you wanted to try out actually knows your needs and is ready to make the experience smoother for you.

airbnb email suggestions

(Image Source)

Sending cart abandonment emails, discount emails based on your previous purchase are a couple of other examples for event based automation aimed at building brand loyalty.


Useful read: Marketing Automation Mistakes that You Should Avoid


Customer Data is a Goldmine

When thinking about data signals related to automation, marketers usually think about activities and behaviors of the customers. They forget that some of the most basic information that the customer provides during his/her interaction with different touch points of the brand can also be really useful. Check out how popular fashion brand Macy’s does it effectively, by sending out emails to customers on their birthdays:

macys birthday email

(Image Source)

Likes and dislikes of the customers

It’s a hot day and one of your close friends comes to visit your place. When you’re busy cursing the temperature, he takes out a pack of your favourite beer and gives it to you! Won’t you feel ecstatic? The fact that he went out of his way to buy a pack of beer proves that he is your friend. But the fact that he knew which brand of beer to choose, proves that he is one of your closer friends who knows what your likes and dislikes are.

That’s exactly how it works in a customer-brand relationship as well. When the brand sends messages or emails to the customer about things that he/she cares about, the customer feels closer to the brand. Internet’s foremost fact checking website Snopes does it really well with its customized newsletters. All of its emails are one-to-one personalized. The articles mentioned in the email are all placed there based on the reader’s’ topic preferences.

snopes personalized email content


Check out this interesting article to know how Snopes does it.


Customer opinion matters the most

Feedback emails is one of the most effective forms of communication that a brand can send to its customers during their lifecycle. Feedback emails not only give valuable insights that can help improve the products/services, they also show your customers that you genuinely care about doing things better. And that has a major impact on brand loyalty. Gifting platform Artifact Uprising does it really well in this feedback email:

artifact uprising feedback email

(Image Source)

But care should be taken to ensure that feedback emails are only sent to customers who have tried the products/services for a good amount of time. There is no point sending a feedback email to a customer about a phone that was bought just one day ago! Marketing automation can help you set the feedback emails to go exactly when they’re supposed to go.

Wrapping it up

Have you tried leveraging Marketing Automation and user data to build brand loyalty in your customers? If you have, how was the experience? Please share it with us in the comments below. You can also share some of the other ways of building customer loyalty to help us enhance and improve this article.

Unsubscribes – Learning from Love Lost

unsubscribers

Email marketers watch unsubscribe rates as closely as open or click through rates, breathing a sigh of relief when the number of opt-outs hold steady or decline. Seeing the numbers stack up can induce panic, although having it increase is not the end of the email world.  Marketers can embrace this as an opportunity to learn if you analyze the past, take action in the present and ultimately make an impact for the future.  Special thanks to Zeta Global Planner, Marta Sloan, for her expertise on the topic.

Analyze the Past

There is a reason for every unsubscribe. And while you can’t go back to your historical records and ask people why they opted-out, you can still learn by:

  • Examining Unsubscribes: Are there commonalities you can find that would speak to a specific ‘unsubscribe profile’?
  • Investigating the Timing: Can you pinpoint a timeframe between signing up and unsubscribing?
  • Reviewing Previous Engagement Behavior: Were consumers opening / clicking through or were they never really engaged with the email program?
  • Purchasing Behavior Patterns: Were they previous buyers who disengaged? Were they never buying? Or, perhaps they continue buying after unsubscribing?

Collect all the information you can glean from past unsubscribes, and let it help you with current ones. Based on the collected information, you can make some assumptions about the reasons for unsubscribes. To further investigate and confirm your predictions, analyze present behavior.

Act in the Present

  • Survey: Create a short unsubscribe survey that includes basic questions that will help uncover the reasons why customers decided to unsubscribe.
  • Analyze Responses: Using a statistically significant number of answers, analyze the stated reasons for unsubscribes and plan changes that will make an impact. Responses may justify a business case to put in place frequency measures, or drive you to revisit segmentation, targeting and messaging if customers tell you the communications they receive are irrelevant.

All the analysis of past unsubscribes and fact-finding actions you take in the present should lead to a better understanding of your customers and to an improved email program moving forward. Once you have the answers, both data-based and customer-provided, there is only one thing to do.

Impact the Future

  • Optimize the Future: Continue to learn from unsubscribes and optimize the process to help make changes that will reduce unsubscribe rates.
  • Provide Opt-Down Options: Consider incorporating an opt-down feature, allowing customers to decide how often they receive emails and/or what topics the emails cover.
  • Maximize Social Channels: Direct customers to social channels or apps on unsubscribe. Email may be a bit too intense and personal. It’s okay to be friend-zoned in other channels.
  • Know Your Customers: Combine customer information provided during sign up with transactional data, browsing patterns and interactions with different channels, to be able to talk to the right customers, at the right time, on the right device, through the right channel, all while focusing on the right message.
  • Welcome Them Back: Let them subscribe again. A customer might just need a short break from your brand. The inbox can be a cluttered and overwhelming place. Welcome them back and rekindle the relationship, getting it right this time.

Whether you make one small change or revamp your entire messaging strategy, most likely you will reduce the number of unsubscribes, but you will not stop them completely. Sometimes the email subscriber relationship is just not going to work. There will always be customers who unsubscribe even from the most personalized, smartly targeted, well-segmented email program.  At the end of the day, that is not a bad thing. Your metrics and engagement will grow from it.  Your reputation will be less likely to be tarnished with spam reports and unsubscribing helps you keep a clean and current database, so every upcoming email will reach the right person.