Earlier this month, New Orleans was on high alert – an email nerd alert, that is. That’s because more than 500 email marketers converged on the city for the Email Evolution Conference 2016 to learn about the latest and greatest in everything email – from technology and process solutions to creative, content, automations, and more. Here’s four of the overarching themes I observed during the two-day event.

One of the key elements of email content development is not development, it’s curation.

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You always have content

One of the biggest pushbacks from brands looking for email content is “we don’t have any and we don’t have the resources to develop it.” Nine times out of 10, that’s just not true. One of the key elements of email content development is not development, it’s curation. Leveraging content from other channels like blogs, landing pages, and even social media is a great solution for email marketing. A simple teaser, pull quote, or intro paragraph in an email gives subscribers just enough hook to garner that click through to the full content.

Buzzfeed is a great example of re-using and repositioning content to appeal to a wide array of subscribers. One speaker noted that after the infamous “Left Shark” craze during Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance, Buzzfeed published 47 articles on the topic of Left Shark. While it may be that some of the editors at Buzzfeed were very passionate about the performance, it’s more likely that they were using the topic to perform A/B/C/D/E… etc. testing on things like format, layout, article length, and so on. So not only did Buzzfeed milk this less than 10 minutes of action into (what some might call) a month’s worth of content, but it also likely gained some great insights for future content efforts.

Laura_EEC recap_Buzzfeed left shark

“Done” is better than “perfect”

We’ve all been in those great brainstorm sessions where we land on the perfect idea that addresses all of our challenges, until we realize it can’t be achieved with the current data limitations, strapped resources, the list goes on and on. So we completely abandon the idea and go back to our desks for business as usual, not even exploring the possibility that a smaller, more manageable aspect of the big idea actually could be accomplished somewhat immediately. This is where the idea of crawl, walk, run comes into play; start with a small part of the big idea and test into it. Apply your theory to a section of your subscriber list to see if you get your desired results. If you do, you now have a great case for senior leadership to pursue an even bigger part of your big idea. If not, at least you didn’t spend years making changes just to find out it didn’t work. Either way, you have something that’s “done” that you can learn from.

BONUS Theme 2.5: Always test

Consider testing the length of drip campaigns, frequency of messaging, and segmentation vs. batch sends.

Because there are always insights to be found, business cases to be made, and conversion rates to increase. More than just the standard A/B tests for subject lines and CTAs, consider testing:

  • Length of drip campaigns
  • Frequency of messaging
  • Segmentation vs. batch sends
  • Drip campaigns vs. one and done

Take a step back to see the big picture

One of my favorite keynotes was from Patrick Scissons, Chief Creative Officer for GREY Canada. He walked through the creative brainstorm process he and his team use, and how they challenge the brief question to develop innovative “Solvertising.” The main example he used was for the Missing Children Society of Canada, which asked Grey to help it develop a fundraising campaign to employ more investigators to find missing children. After brainstorming for a while, Patrick and his team said “why don’t we just go straight to finding the kids?” and Milk Carton 2.0 was born. A reinvention of the U.S. campaigns of the 70s and 80s, Milk Carton 2.0 uses social network accounts to announce and share when children go missing. Because the team challenged the original ask, it was able to accomplish the ultimate goal in a more efficient way.

But don’t forget – little details can make a big difference

Another great session looked at the “Science Behind Emails” (see, told you we are email nerds!) that looked to apply “decision-making shortcuts” to email marketing to ultimately increase conversion. Some of principles included:

  • Social proof, or the idea that people will follow what others are doing. Applications in email marketing include testimonials, ratings and reviews, or pulling in commentary from social channels.
  • Visual composition and eye tracking – emphasis your focal point with visual cues subscribers are trained to follow
    • Eyes – humans focus on the eyes of other humans, so include eyes when possible, and have them looking where you want your subscribers to look (offer, CTA, important content, etc.)
    • Font size – in one study, researchers found that subjects interpreted prices in smaller fonts to be a better value. Maybe they think marketers are hiding something?
    • Dashed lines – we’re all so trained that dashed outlines = coupons, and coupons = value, so we’ll immediately look at something inside a dashed line, even if it doesn’t end up being a coupon
  • Eye magnet words – words that usability and eye-tracking studies confirm that the human eye is naturally attracted to, including, but not limited to:
    • New
    • Free
    • Secret
    • Alert

Thanks to the Email Experience Council and DMA for putting on this event – it was a great mix of tactical solutions and high level thinking for the email marketing crowd.

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