Enhanced automation tools can make email a well-targeted and personalized marketing medium.

Enhanced automation tools can make email a well-targeted and personalized marketing medium. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/cnythzl

In the age of social media, email may seem outdated.

But when it comes to retaining customers, 52% of marketers cite email as their most valuable marketing channel, according to a recent report from Merkle, a Columbia, Maryland-based global data-driven marketing agency.

In fact, thanks to enhanced automation tools, email has evolved to become a more targeted and personalized marketing medium, say experts.

“Email is not dead,” says Jose Cebrian, senior vice president of marketing strategy at Merkle. “From a marketer’s perspective, it’s one of the few active marketing channels that exists.”

Many other marketing channels are “passive,” he says, meaning consumers have to happen upon it (i.e., if they happen to be on social media site and see a relevant post).

But with email, you can reach your audience right in their inbox to drive an action, whether it be attending an event or buying something, says Cebrian, noting, “It’s a lever marketers can use to drive results.”

And its abilities to become much more targeted have expanded over the years thanks to enhanced software and automation tools that can both segment your message by audience and automate communications, says Andrew Catalano, chief digital officer at Austin Williams, an ad and marketing agency in Hauppauge.

Popular marketing automation software platforms that can integrate with existing email programs include HubSpot and SharpSpring, he says.

These type of tools allows marketers to set filters/parameters and target leads based on a particular action. So, for example, if a consumer came to your website and looked at coffee tables, that consumer would then get an email in their inbox on coffee tables, says Catalano.

 “At the end of the day, it comes down to sending the most relevant messages to each individual,” he says.

To be sure, personalization is key, says Chris Ulrich, president of Direct Response Group, a Melville digital marketing and online lead generation firm.

Meaning the content should be specific to that person (i.e. their name, product they inquired about, etc.), he says.  

And it should be relevant in that it speaks to things that matter to your audience, not just you.

A helpful formula is 75% of email messages should contain shareable, relevant and useful information and the other 25% could have a direct marketing message or call to action (i.e., a call for a consultation, etc.), says Ulrich.

To increase the odds of the recipient reading your message, your subject lines must be “engaging and intriguing,” he says.

And considering that more than half of people read their emails on their phone, it’s also important they are formatted to be mobile-friendly, he says.

Luckily, most standard email marketing platforms like Constant Contact or Mailchimp will automatically render them to be mobile-friendly, says Ulrich.

Yet even with these advances, to be truly successful at email marketing, businesses need to have a mechanism for customers to share their email address or provide it through some opt-in mechanism, says Catalano.

Bottom line is, if you can’t reach your audience, you can’t market to them, which is why 68% of marketers identify email as the highest priority customer data type to acquire, according to Merkle.

Nikki Sturges, an associate real estate broker in the Huntington office of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, says she is proactive about asking prospects and customers for email addresses.

 “They are genuinely happy and want to give you their email because their interested in getting exclusive information,” she says.

She has an email list of more than 4,000 people and will send them real estate news, selling tips, or information about homes either sold or on the market.

 “It keeps you communicating with people at all times of the day,” says Sturges.

She uses other tools like social media, advertising and even handwritten notes, which are good tactics, say experts.

“Email is just one part of your marketing arsenal,” says Cebrian. “It’s not the only one.”

Getting to Know You

Having good data and analytics is important. According to the Merkle report, 78% of marketers deliver a personalized customer experience in their emails using customer data.

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