It's Not Email Marketing. It's Engagement Farming

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Too many brands leverage email marketing to drive sales. That's it.

But Coherent Path CEO James Glover contends that retailers should use email marketing to build stronger relationships and help consumers discover new opportunities, and, yes, drive sales.

He calls this approach "engagement farming". It's based on the idea that customers should look forward to getting email because it engages and deliver values. If they also buy something, that's great. 

 For more about James and this episode of Marketing Spark, check out the show notes

My name is Mark Evans and I'd like to welcome you to marketing spark, the podcast that delivers small doses of insight, tools and tips from marketers and entrepreneurs in the trenches. By small doses, it's conversations that are fifteen minutes or less. On today's show we're going to talk about email and how to create campaigns that dry better results. I'm excited to have James Glover, CEEO, with coherent path assass platform that takes reachail's content and distribute its as a diet through email to maximize customer engagement and lifetime value. Welcome to marketing spark. Thanks for having me on the show, Mark. Now, one of the things I want to ask you, James, is that email is still alive and well. There's all kinds of different ways to connect with customers, yet email never seems to die. I mean, people still embrace a people still open email. How do you explain that? I think one of the ways to think about this is, you know, we're data science company, so we like to look at what data we have on hand in order to help with the conversation with your customers. And when we look at the data, we see at gap, for example, they might email their customer something like five or six hundred times a year. That same customer probably buys from the gap four or five times a year and visits their website ten or twelve times a year. So when you think about the email channel in that context, you know five hundred of your five hundred and twenty interactions with your customer, it's easy to understand why it's still viewed as one of the primary vehicles for communication that large brands have to reach their customer. It's also a channel where they can control the conversation. You know, when the customer visits the website, they visit for a reason, whereas when you decide to send out an email, you get to decide what to talk about. Of course, it's hugely important that that that topic be relevant to the person that you're sending it to, but you get to decide what you want to talk about with the customer, and so I think that's another reason why email is still a great vehicle for building your brand and having a customer a conversation with the customer. ...

Now, one of the things about emails we live in this world of marking automation. I mean marketers love these tools that allow them to do a little bit of work but get maximum impact, and it has driven this whole idea of drip marketing where you continue to hammer away at your your prospects and customers with all kinds of different offers and information. But my sense is that there's there's email fatigue because after a while the drip marketing refuge isn't as effective because it's yet another email from a company to a prospect hoping they'll do something. How can companies take a smarter, better approach to email marketing and how does drip marketing fit into the scheme of things? I think part of it is you meet a lot of retailers that think of email kind of like an ATM machine and when you get behind, Uyd at the end of the quarter, how are you going to make up that revenue? Oh, send out another email and if you're still behind, send out another email. And so what you're trying to do when you do that is leverage the people that are at the bottom of the funnel, the transaction funnel, in order to get some revenue. Today, and that is certainly a reality for many retailers. That that number is important and and they use email in order to help them hit the the number. What that scres though, is that email is also the primary, like we said before, the primary vehicle for building your brand, for having a conversation with your customer. So for me it kind of reminds me of when I read that book by Michael Paullen called the omnivores dilemma, and he went down in and he met a farmer and the farmer sold chickens and eggs and rabbits and and all kinds of different things, but he described himself to Michael Poland as a grass farmer, that if he took care of the grass which all of the animals eat, then you know, he would always have a great farm that would continue to produce for many, many...

...generations. And I kind of think of email marketing as engagement farming. You have the right to capture that customer at the bottom of the funnel because you've continued to engage them in a conversation, you know. And so you know, retailers need to think about using email to build hold their brand and to encourage customers to shop in new categories, to use it for, you know, discovery of things that the customers never seen before, and in that respect they should think of themselves as building engagement as well as also doing the important sort of make the cash register ring and important moments. When I think about email is that there's conversions are often equated to sale. So if I send an email, want somebody to buy something. But should conversions be looked at in different ways? So, for example, should we as marketers and retailers, look a at email campaigns as opportunities to engage, in educate, where the sale may not be the primary objective? I mean, at the end of the day, that's what you want people to do, but your your emails have different you're looking for them to deliver in different ways. Is that the way to look at at conversions these days when it comes to email, if you think about sending out a hundred emails, you'd be excited if one person converted. And, as I said, for the average retailer you might see a frequency of four or five conversions per year regardless of channel, let alone driven through the email channel. And so from the email channel it might be one conversion a year. And so if you focus your six hundred emails around trying to get that customer to convert exclusively on trying to get that customer or to convert pretending that they're always at the bottom of that conversion funnel. Well then you'll see an email diet that kind of looks like the American Diet...

...in the sense of being very rich in promotions and, you know, trying to take advantage of the buy right now sort of thing, as opposed to telling the story, in building the brand and taking the opportunity to educate the customers. L being one of our customers, said this. Customers only bought shirts from us. We're pretty sure they wear pants, you know. But if I use every email as an opportunity to try to sell them another shirt on a discount, I'm going to miss out on the chance of educating them about the pants and the socks and the shoes and all the other things that I sell. And so we need to use the balance between, okay, this customer hasn't purchased in a while, a promotion might be a good tool to try to get them to to convert. Need to balance that with the reality that they're going to convert five or six times a year and I'm going to get five hundred at bats to talk to them and I need to be as broad as possible in terms of and still being relevant for them in order to, you know, keep the relationship and keep them opening the emails at a sufficient rate. If I don't, if they don't open an email for nine months or something like that, I don't get to I don't get to continue the conversation. The other thing that I think about when it comes to email is the idea that a lot of companies embrace a one size fits all approach, or what they do is they they do a little bit of segmentation based on customer personas and they believe that is the way that they can deliver relevant content and offers. But when I'm wondering about is if whether there's a better approach, whether we can use machine learning, for example, to deliver a personalized diet of content, as you say, content that is relevant to people's interests, their activities, what they're buying, behavior all those other variables, so that when you get an email from a company, you say to yourself, this is this is for me. They're there, it's a line with who I am and what I do and want to like to buy. Is that kind of the promised land doesn't make customer Personas anachronisms. For that matter, when I think about this question, I kind of think of it...

...into respects and and often I'm talking to a large retailer and they say to me, how do I get to kind of the stage where I my program looks like some of the great programs that are out there? Your l beans is a great example. How do I get my program to look like l beans program and I kind of break it down into respects, and the first I sort of use. The first one is like slay the dragon and the second one as married the princess. If I can slay the Dragon, I get to go back home and marry the Prinson. What do I mean by that? So you know, there are lots of things that I'm doing that just simply don't scale, and so a lot of the reason why I'm not providing relevant content to my customers is because I can't scale to the place where l being is sending out five million different versions of its email every day. How are they doing that? How do I scale to the place where I can? I have the the infrastructure to send out five million, let alone knowing what each of those five million people want for dinner tonight. But how do I serve five million different meals to five million different customers? And and that's about having a library of content that's available. It used to be that folks like blooming dals or others of our customers would create an email today and they would send it out and then that email would die, you know, perfectly good creation, investment in creative and and and yet something that they would just let live for one day. Now they add it to a library that's building up over time and so at any given time there might be two or three hundred options in the l being or the blooming Dales Library. So that's about how do I get better use out of my creative in order to scale to to the place where I can have a personalized, relevant conversation with the customer. And then there's a template standardizing the templates, making them ready for dynamic content. You know, there's a lot of work that goes into the idea. You know, if you thought about how would you QA five million...

...different emails while you'd have to standardize a bunch of different things and have templates that were ready for personalizing events. And so there's a lot of work that goes into the work that you would do with your email service provider in order to get you ready to be at a place where you could send five million different emails. And what we found is that often, you know, when you're doing some segmentation and you're sending out six versions of the email in a relatively manual fashion, going from six versions to five million versions, you're automating a ton of stuff that you used to do manually and in fact it's less labor. And so in this current economic climate, we see a lot of people driving towards automation as a way to reduce cost. And so if you can do that and and put in an infrastructure that will enable you to send out five million different versions of the email with less labor, we call that slaying the Dragon. Now you're ready, and then you know the Mary, the princesses. Okay, what is the how do I get to take advantage of this infrastructure to kind of get my program to the place where I'm having a relevant conversation with each customer? And that's the machine learning that is required, where you're taking in all of the different information that you're getting from each of your different channels and you're thinking about it as a diet. Through time, what we found is that if you rely on segmentation, you're very likely to over represent some of your categories while neglecting others. You know a simple example of that one of our retail partners. They would apply a label of women or men to each of each of their customers and that seemed to make sense to them. But what we showed them was that if, even with respected gender, you approach it as a diet. So, for you know this customer, it makes sense that about ninety percent of their content comes from the women's part of their catalog. But by sprinkling in ten percent of the content as men's content at the right time of year and in the right when...

...the right great piece of content comes along, you can do much better at keeping the conversation interesting and monetizing that customer to a greater extent. So by investing in that infrastructure, get to feet, to be in the place where you can have a more engage in personalized conversation with the customer. One of the things I did want to ask you is, in terms of the current landscape amid covid nineteen, so as consumers are not going to physical stores as often. A lot of retailers are counting away on email to drive sales and inboxes are being overwhelmed. There seems to be this rising tide lifts all ships phenomena happening. So a lot of retailers are seeing higher ecommer sales. But hopefully, as we battle covid effectively and consumers sort of kind of returned to normal buying activity, what happens to email marketing and and how do the stronger brands who can leverage email, I'll flank the competition? I think there are a couple of things that are important from that perspective. So one of them is what we talked about in terms of building an infrastructure. You know, maybe you're doing it now for the purpose of reducing costs and automating a lot of your email campaign execution in the in the hopes of putting an infrastructure in place that will allow you to create dynamic emails that are one to one personalized at the scale of a gap ral being where there are five million different version. We talked about that. You can win this covid experience partly by reducing costs through automation, but that automation can put you in a position where you can send millions of different versions of the email. So that's the first thing. And then I think the second thing is recognizing that you are acquiring a lot of customers and you know your ability to win this circumstance will hinge upon...

...whether or not you're able to continue the relationship with that customer. And so you know if, when you only have one piece of transactional data from that customer, it's going to be awfully tempting to continuously reinforce that one category that they've purchased from you as opposed to a balanced diet. That kind of presents your entire about value proposition. So I think the companies that are smart will use that first transaction. And this is what we see folks like blooming nails and front gate doing. Where are you know, they're getting a new customer and they're using that new customer, that new relationship, as an example or as an as an opportunity story, to tell their story. These are all the great things we do at front gate, you know. And what which of these are you? Are you interested in? Now they have a sense of who that person is and what that what what kinds of products they're likely to be interested in, be a based on what transaction data they have, and then that starts to build up through the interaction with the email channel as they explore the catalog in a dialog through that email channel. So I think customers are companies that can leverage the opportunity to to upgrade their infrastructure in order to be ready to come out of covid strong, and then companies that use those new customers that they're acquiring as opportunities to start a conversation rather than just to reinforce that one part of the catalog that they purchased in that first transaction. Well, this has been great insight, James. Really appreciate it. Thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, please leave a review rate it, as well as subscribed by itunes or your favorite podcast APP. For show notes of today's conversation, visit Mark Evans dot see a James Glover. If you have questions, feedback, world like to suggest a guest or you're looking for help with be tob marketing, send an email to mark and Mark Evans dot see a talk to you next time.

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