The MarketingSherpa Email Summit is one of the longest-running events dedicated to sharing and exploring email marketing-specific strategies and research and, true to form, there was a lot to take in. The agenda was chock-full of expert speakers on a variety of email topics. Giving credit where credit is due, the DEG email strategists in attendance at the conference, Brent Walter, Tony Toubia, and I, collectively prepared this post to share what we felt were the most important takeaways from the event.

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Testing and Data-Driven Strategies

It wouldn’t be a proper MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa) event without a lot of presentations on testing. Several of the presentations were actual case studies on the results of tests conducted by different companies, but even the presentations not solely focused on testing incorporated results and data to prove the value of the strategies presented. While the idea of testing has gained full acceptance among email marketers, the actual practice is still often overlooked during an email marketer’s busy day. It’s always refreshing to see MarketingSherpa’s strong emphasis on the proper way to construct a test to glean results, and I hope the marketers in attendance were inspired to dust off their testing schedule and actually begin implementing some of the ideas presented.

 

Responsive Design

There were several breakouts showing the success brands are having with responsive design. With mobile opens over 50%, this was an important theme, given that the market has been slow to embrace this positive experience for subscribers. The presentations showed ways that marketers can overcome the hurdles to getting responsive design implemented into their email programs. Justine Jordan of Litmus, an expert on responsive email design, presented twice at the conference. I highly recommend following the Litmus blog for the latest from her.

 

Consumer Motivation

There were two phenomenal keynotes from psychology experts that challenged marketers to think more critically about what motivates consumers to make the decisions that they do. Dr. Dan Ariely, the keynote from the first day, presented several interesting points about how people interact with their world and how they make decisions, all backed by compelling research.  Similarly, Dr. Noah Goldstein discussed the psychological aspect of persuasion as it relates to marketing. His principles included Social Proof, Unexpectedness, Reciprocity, Consistency and Scarcity. Each of these principles can help influence the average consumer and are approaches that differ from those the standard marketer might take. I look forward to digging deeper into Dr. Goldstein’s work and encourage you to do the same.

In addition to the presentations, the DEG team had the opportunity to work one-on-one with several brands during our coaching clinics and a roundtable. The coaching clinics were opportunities to have an intensive, 30-minute conversation about a specific topic that a marketer is considering, or to attack an issue they’re finding particularly vexing.  The roundtables were formatted as a gathering of marketers for a directed discussion on a specific topic, a discussion that we had the privilege of moderating and listening to.  Despite their varied backgrounds and the fact that they came from a number of different verticals, there was a significant amount of common ground in the questions/concerns voiced by the groups. Here’s what we heard:

  • Marketers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work they are tasked with on a regular basis. It is difficult to prioritize testing, creative optimizations such as responsive design, etc. Attendees were looking for efficient ways to implement new ideas in a way that wouldn’t cause a tremendous amount of work. Here is one tactic marketers can employ right away to gain efficiency and improve results, but we also recommend that agencies look into leveraging the abilities of qualified partners who have expertise in the channel or tactic they want to explore — and even better if that’s a partner with omnichannel experience.
  • Design is important. Many attendees showed us their email designs and wanted quick recommendations on how to improve the visual presentation of their emails. For design ideas and inspiration, take a look at the ExactTarget Swipe File.
  • Lead nurturing is a challenge. The marketers we spoke with didn’t quite know how to approach this process. Additionally, if this process was tied to a B2B business, the challenge was even greater, as there is a knowledge gap in this area. You can read more on lead nurturing and B2B marketing on the ExactTarget blog.

Overall, the conference was a great way to meet a lot of like-minded email marketers and being in Las Vegas made it that much more fun. The marketers we spoke with were impressed with the level of discourse and felt they were walking away better armed for the challenges they face in email. When you begin evaluating your 2015 conference budget, we recommend that you consider MarketingSherpa. It’s long been a great gathering of marketers who are intent on driving value for their brands, and you can seemingly always discover something in the way of strategies than can help email marketers regardless of business type.

To see Twitter conversations from the conference, search under #SherpaEmail.

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