Barry Eitel

With everyone at ad:tech buzzing about Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the new belle of the ball, Pinterest, it’s easy to forget the original social media—email. Email is one of the pillars of Internet culture and the workhorse for most individuals and companies (try sending anything detailed in a direct message on Twitter).

However, bulk email “spray and pray” techniques are a thing of the past. Email is still very much alive in 2012, but a successful email campaign requires as much sophistication as any social media. Andrew Bailey, the Marketing Principal of FedEx, led the “State of Email in 2012” session, with presentations by companies such as LifeScript and the World Golf Tour. From this session, five easy-to-understand pieces of advice were presented—techniques that can assist a one-person-and-a-laptop operation or an international corporation firing off millions of emails a day.

1) Develop a Uniform Approach

Bailey pointed out that a centralized and standardized email platform saves time. And because time is money, it saves money. On top of that, winding through the byzantine legal side of global email is easier with a centralized approach, saving the company from potential lawsuits and, thus, more money. A switch to a more standardized email approach enabled FedEx to deploy messages within 24 hours compared to 2-3 weeks previously. This keeps customers happy and content relevant.

2) Focus on Quality Content

In a post-content farm age where everyone craves honest and educational information, quality content breeds subscribers. LifeScript, a health website and newsletter focused on women, knows this is key to monetizing their operation. Their email newsletter is the main driver to the website, which features ads from pharmaceutical companies. Without these crucial hits, the site would go under from lack of ad revenue. But because they keep their newsletter focused, fresh and informative, they have a seven-figure subscriber number.

3) Practice Good List Hygiene

Unknown users, inactive addresses and SPAM traps can suck in your email blasts to a dark place where no one will ever read them. Big deal, you say, I’ll just send out more and more emails, even if there is no person behind the “@” sign. No good, claims Craig Swerdloff of LeadSend, who provides email validation for LifeScript’s campaigns. Sending emails to deadbeats lowers ISP scores and lowers where your email goes. Without good list hygiene by requiring validation, your well-written email will end up in the bulk bin. Also, sending emails to inactive users is a waste of time and resources—there’s no one to click any ads.

4) Make it Relevant

Most successful emails hit a customer when the right message is sent to the right person at the right time. This requires engagement and forethought, not luck. The amount of engaged customers is always a better message than the total number of subscribers. Kara Trivunovic of StrongMail helped golf computer game World Golf Tour target their messages for relevancy. After joining the game for the first time, players receive five specific emails over 30 days with deep and interesting content.

5) Experiment

Email is a constantly changing field and how we interact with our inboxes changes. Trivunovic mentioned that a good campaign focuses on the lifecycle of a customer, from sign-up to unsubscription. Try to reel them in at the beginning and try to win them back after they’ve been away for awhile. Coupons, gifts and other offers are all fair game. Even subscribers who appear dead on arrival—they registered but haven’t used the site once—can be won over. WGT sent tutorials and technical information to these DOA subscribers in case they were discouraged by their bad shortgame or couldn’t figure out how to log in. Because of this testing, WGT enjoys an opening rate of 20 percent.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech San Francisco event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.