Scoring Strong with Email Marketing

Email marketing is still viable. Social media consultants, gurus, and (even me included) have spent the past decade telling you it’s all about the social networks. And there continues to be a LOT of value in those channels. However, the truth is that through it all, I have never abandoned the email channel.

In an effort to explain this email I'm an avid fan of the Orlando City Soccer Club (MLS) and the Orlando Pride (NWSL); I'm also and insatiable fan of great marketing. Weird, I know. Therefore, when I saw opportunities for future marketing success I thought to share it with everyone, not simply the team's outline. That said, read the following email looking through the lens of how best to market to some of the greatest fans in the MLS and NWSL.

Here are some suggestions and best practices for successful email campaigns:

All content must be responsive:

  • Desktop
  • Tablet
  • Mobile
  • Wearable (tiny screen)

Create an email marketing SOP that aligns with your brand standard manuals for all scenarios. This manual will be a biblical introduction to the next point:

Modular template environments

Modular Template Environments – Type 1: Like any publication, you need to create an environment where different departments and calls to action (CTAs) can be represented, categorized, and moved based on need and action.

Modular Template Environments – Type 2: Ads are getting overlooked or confused with real content because sizes for each are the same. Therefore a user will skim an email and not know what’s an ad or an article. So you must change sizes and locations. Example: header, 50/50, 1/3, 1/4, panels, etc., assigning a character count or word count for each.

Modular Template Environments – Type 3: Sizing and layout options. This way, assets will be consistent when you’re collecting and assembling them from various vendors or departments.

Rewarding VIP Status

When creating a revised email programming campaign for SeaWorld, the first item on the list was a newsletter/email for “Pass Holders” and “Non-Pass Holders.” It’s essential for retention efforts that the park offers exclusivity to those with annual passes.

Here is how we could apply that philosophy Orlando City Soccer Club season ticket holder and fan emails. This action should be replicated for Orlando Pride as well.

Contextual emails: Invite users to update their email account to give them a more personalized experience. Right now you only talk about yourself and it plays thin and will eventually work to your detriment. 

Suggestions might be:

  • "Club & Country” – emails about OCSC/OP and all MLS
  • OCSC/OP – calendar alerts
  • “This day in Soccer” – random history and trivia
  • Player Spotlights
  • Soccer EDU – history, trivia etc.
  • Gear Head – product reviews that piggyback merchandise and e–commerce efforts
  • Social Roundup – fans not only love social media, they love to read what they might have missed from other fans. Create a BuzzFeed-like weekly email that highlights 12 great posts from around Central Florida. This is a great “social proof” area as well “70% of people that read the article on our last game agreed that the red card was understandable”

These emails should be designed (in color, voice, and contextual directive) and sub-branded uniquely to avoid confusion with other segmented emails.

Hearing your email subscribers is key confirmation and welcome messages are a must.

Length: With more email options you’ll be able to cut down on your copy. Your current footprint is trying to be all things to all people and it comes off as noise.

Deployment consistency: You need to drop an email on every “X” day. It’s fine if you want to run alternate days for special categories or quick alerts. Just don’t overdo it.

Custom iconography: Create a series of icons that can be subtended throughout all your emails to indicate sales, events, recent news, coming soon and alerts!

Add motion: GIFs and click–throughs to video are eye-catching and a way to repurpose your efforts with channels like Giphy.com.

There are NO ASCII links in your email: This is a HUGE red flag. More people will click on a hyperlinked word than they will an image.

Heat mapping: Run heat mapping on your best and worst emails and find out where/what people did or did not engage with.

Spam scoring: Run all email wording through a spam scoring algorithm. I prefer Apache Spam Assassin – this procedure will lessen the blow on some email servers that might blacklist your content due to trigger words or perceived illegal formatting.

Subject lines: Run “split testing” on outgoing emails to see what a small percentage of our lists will open the most. Once activated, deploy the highest-testing subject line to your audience for maximum results.

Test email launch variables:

  • Subject line
  • Copy amount
  • Image amount
  • Offer/CTA
  • Time of day of send
  • Placement of the CTA
  • Personalization variations
  • More ads, less ads etc.

Create age–specific content: If you intend on cleaning the list (going back and asking your audience to confirm receipt of emails and allow for further customization of content), this is a perfect time to profile your user in basic terms: age, race, family, and other bits of basic demographic granularity will allow you to serve up better content for their needs.

Add native advertising in your written content: Allow brands to pitch association to teams within content outside of events, and make the association within the content as well. “After the game, the club was treated to a BBQ dinner from [sponsor] followed by a night on the town at [sponsor].” etc.

More contests for fans: T-shirt designs, shout-outs, video programs, etc.

Add buttons: Your emails are currently only using the images as linking mechanisms. Keep it simple in for folks to connecting to additional content and offers.

Squeeze emails and quit to reengage: With inactive email accounts, send out a series of emails stating that you’ll be unsubscribing them giving that they’ve not opened their emails in “X” # of days/weeks/months. This allows you to clean your list, as well as “poke” inactive recipients into reconnecting or disconnecting.

Cheat sheets: Send more PDFs and infographics to facilitate deeper learning and understanding of the game and allow them further interest in team members. For instance, offer things such as a “game day” lineup and so on.

Feedback emails: Send a minimum of two emails per season asking fans what they want from their email. This email is an excellent way for them to simply reply or for you to link them to a survey.

Humanize your brands: In player spotlights for example, create content that connects fans in a personal way with causes or groups that players are passionate about. This galvanizes fans to subject matter that they will then positively associate with the teams.

Encourage activity: Create email content where you TELL fans what do. Step-by-step; FYI; DIY and tour-based content works well in this format.

Use social and cultural trends: Connect to current trends by using tools like https://www.google.com/trends/ leverage topical positions that incentivize participation in programs.

Thank you emails: Announce and reply to fans regarding successes and participation in events and programs.

Use the "Inverted Pyramid Method: It drives users to a CTA or actionable button.

 

Journalism Marketing (Part 2.): Church and State

I've crafted a career on persuasive messaging to tap into want, desire, fear, love, or any other points of note that hold importance to you. However, there have been very few instances that I've done it for companies that have puritanically lied, and in all cases, I don't think I knew it with any certainty.

I think the time is now; we need to separate journalism/content creation from marketing/native advertising. We need to construct the following:

  • Fact-check content through online browsers, tools, email and all mobile devices as part of the operating systems (a user can choose to manually turn off this feature).
  • All content must meet certain criteria for marketing articles, as well, articles that might not be considered as marketing.
  • All monitoring algorithms must be progressively optimized by both the content creator as well as the readership's ability to flag content for review from both the creator and an independent party must be progressively optimized by both the content creator as well as the readership's ability to flag content for review from both the creator and an independent party.
  • Content creators, bloggers, videographers, photographers and others must all meet various criteria in an effort to seek compensation from viewership or advertorial partners.
  • Ongoing tools, metrics, and transparencies of ALL content (streaming, hosted, archived or otherwise) that is deemed "public" will be required to index it in a fashion to inform users as to the nature of the content.
  • Lastly, the onus needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the social channels themselves. As we're ONLY NOW seeing with Facebook in a step towards minimizing this trend with the ability to "flag" content as false or misleading. Is it enough, probably not yet, but that remains to be seen.

A tall order? Yes. But so was the idea of the Internet 20 years ago.