AgencyInsights: Email Marketing with Brightwave CEO - Simms Jenkins
BrightWave is North America’s leading email marketing agency based in Atlanta, Georgia and is part of the AgencySparks Network. BrightWave has an impressive track record that showcases their focus on creating and managing exceptional email and digital messaging programs. This award-winning firm has worked with some of the most recognized brands of the world and continues to provide successful email programs for their clients.
Simms Jenkins is the founder and CEO of BrightWave who started this email marketing services firm eleven years ago from a tiny Inman Park cottage in a spare bedroom. He began BrightWave when he realized there weren’t a lot of agencies helping to make email better as he was previously the head of CRM at Cox Interactive and email was a big responsibility of his. At first he didn’t know if his business would have some legs to it or it would simply lead him to his next job. Lucky for his world-class client list and BrightWave, he positioned his agency nicely to be specialists in email marketing and since then it has been ranked among the fastest growing private companies. Simms Jenkins is also the author of two books on email marketing, The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson’s Financial Times Press in 2008.) He talks a little bit about his two books during this interview if you would like to know more about them. There’s no doubt that Simms is a leading expert and great source in the email marketing world. Today, AgencySparks CEO, Joe Koufman, interviews Simms regarding the services that BrightWave offers, key messaging elements, and email marketing best practices to growing your subscriber base, and reasons why people opt out of your email program. Click on the video above to see the full interview!
Why choose email marketing?
Before we jump into the topics mentioned above, first lets talk about the advantages of email marketing and the reasons why a strong presence in the inbox plays an integral role in the larger success of most digital marketing programs.
According to Simms, email continues to be the digital hub of marketing. Yet, a lot of people view email as that annoying thing that prevents them from getting any work done. He says, “We let our own frustrations of managing the inbox at work and in our life [cause us to] ignore the power of permission.” Think about the thousands of people that have raised their hands asking for more information about your company/brand or requested special offers. Any kind of marketer should be able to appreciate that power because those are the people who are probably going to be more receptive to your brand message as opposed to the other million people that you are targeting that do not know about your brand or care. Simms adds, “Email does not really get as much credit for impacting the brand, its great conversions, transactions, and generating revenue.” Search does fantastic job at driving sales but if you don’t capture an email from that click that you just paid for it might be media buy that is wasted. Social is focused on the engagement and nurturing relationships, but it can be even more beneficial if you use it to drive email acquisition. That’s because email is so measurable and can sometimes determine the success of a campaign quicker than other marketing channels. Simms feels that as the channel matures even more, the focus will be on how to make email better for my subscribers, customers, and prospects.
Some of the services that BrightWave offers
BrightWave is full-service email marketing agency. They do everything and anything related to email marketing rather than selling other digital services. BrightWave has three different practice groups: creative, strategy, and campaign management. For most of their clients, they are doing all three by acting as an extension of their team as their email marketing partner, managing the technology, working with their legal, writing the copy, getting the emails out the door, and doing the analysis. Their strategy team is really good at figuring out complex situations and then having actionable items that lead to business results. Simms mentions that sometimes part of their job is to figure out where to start and where to make improvements to the current program. Their creative team figures out how to translate a client’s brand standards, develop awesome emails, and ensure they render properly on mobile devices, tablets, and desktops. Once all that is set is up to the campaign manager ensures flawless execution, is tied into other parts of the business, and sets success metrics. All of this is easier said than done, but BrightWave has the right people that really impact results and definitely get it done. That is what differentiates BrightWave from most people that “do email”.
What are some of the key messaging elements for a successful email program?
One cannot argue with Simms when he says that mobile was the biggest game changer for email. People are constantly checking email throughout the day because it never leaves their phone. The variety of digital media options have created many distractions, but email remains the persistent/consistent medium that is most utilized, especially on mobile devices. Simms made it clear that the mobile phenomenon puts email even more front and center, but there is even more competition to get your email recognized and responded to. It is a lot harder to get away with mediocre programs.
Here are a few key elements that Simms mentions are important for a successful email program in a world where consumers have a lot of choices:
1) Subject line: It is incredibly important because that is the first thing you look at that will determine if you are deleting it, saving it when you back to work/home, or looking at right now.
2) Pre-Header: This is the first snippet of text that you see on a lot smartphones that used to get deserted. It often says “view this as a webpage” or “click here” or some default text. That is often one of the more critical areas that will determine if customers will read, click, or delete the email. The pre-header has become so much more powerful.
3) Content: You have to be realistic about what people are doing. They’re scanning the email. One thing that does not work in today’s email world is writing an eight-paragraph email with the payoff at the bottom. Therefore, the creative has to be killer and look great on mobile. You have to make sure that is super scannable because you have fewer than five seconds before the user moves on.
Marketers often try to accomplish everything in a single email, and they need to realize that because they have five seconds to grab the readers attention, they should be shooting for only one goal. Email’s initial job isn’t necessarily to sell, it’s to get you to the next stage of the funnel.
What are the best practices that a company can use to help grow their subscriber base?
Are you acquiring email addresses at point of sale? Are you acquiring email addresses in the different places where your customers/prospects are interacting with your brand? Most likely the only place you’re trying to capture an email address is your website. Simms mentions that unless you’re Amazon or another high traffic site, it’s going to be very difficult to acquire a lot of email signups on your website alone. Simms pushes his clients to capture email everywhere they touch the customer, whether that be at a retail store, sporting event, catalog, direct mail. Another simple tactic can be asking for someone to text their email address to an SMS phone number. There are various technologies that can be used to grow your subscriber list outside of the digital world. BrightWave also works with a lot of restaurants that encourage people to join their “e-club”, but there has to be a value proposition there for the customer. On websites, make sure that the email call to action stands out, is simple to complete, and that you deliver on promises from the email opt-in process. Rewarding people for signup can be highly effective.
Why are people opting-out of email programs?
According to Simms, studies show most people unsubscribe for two reasons: One, the brand is no longer relevant because of job changes, moves, lack of proximity to a store, and mis-targeting, or receiving articles rather than promised coupons. Better segmentation leads to higher relevancy, says Simms. The second and the bigger problem is the frequency of email. One can get away with higher frequency, if there is unique and compelling content, but if there is not a value exchange from the brand, then often customers opt-out stating the emails are too frequent.
Advice from Simms
“It is unfortunate that so many marketing departments are siloed. You have to be able to go to your search person, social person, and your different agencies and say ‘Guys, I need you to help drive email acquisition. It’s a perfect opportunity and it’s not going to distract you from the experience.’
Click here to see the full transcript of this AgencyInsights interview.
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