Social, Mobile & Email Expected to Dominate at Connections ’14

Late last year Exact Target surveyed thousands of marketers to learn their top marketing objectives and priorities for the year to come. They published the results in their 2014 State of Marketing report.

As the company’s annual industry conference, Connections, kicks off this morning, it’s easy to see many parallels between sessions on the agenda and 2014 priorities identified in the State of Marketing report.

The report’s executive summary listed a number of marketing priorities (data & analytics, marketing automation, email marketing, social media marketing and content management), most of which could be classified as either reporting or promotion concerns. Interestingly, priorities tied to content creation were less prevalent, suggesting that promoting and measuring content is more problematic than creation of the content itself.

Engagement was a leading concern and a challenge for marketers (65 percent of survey respondents listed subscriber engagement as their primary lifecycle challenge) and increased efforts in brand awareness were expected to result in an uptick in social media, mobile and personalized web experiences in 2014.

This week at Connections, experts and thought leaders from all facets of the digital marketing industry will take the stage to talk about their personal journeys navigating the challenges laid out in the 2014 State of Marketing report. Three specific topics (social, mobile and email marketing) will be recurring themes throughout the conference.

Social

Eighty-six percent of survey respondents believe social efforts will or do provide ROI. Accordingly, they are dedicating resources to newer social marketing efforts at volumes comparable to those allocated for email, a longtime marketing staple. However, social listening and advertising have yet to be established as reliably effective (just 31 percent and 23 percent respectively) and are thus still being adopted across the industry.

While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were the most popular social channels in 2013, the report predicted an increase in brands present on Google +, SlideShare and Pinterest in 2014. Blogs and podcasts were also expected to see an uptick in usage. The recent news of the end of Google Authorship, however, may cause marketers to pay slightly less attention to Google + in coming months.

Exact Target provides the following advice for marketers looking to build a strong social strategy that produces measurable results: Start with one or two social channels and firm up a strategy on a small scale before going all in with every channel on which you aspire to have a presence.

Any marketer looking at expanding their presence to new channels would also be remiss to overlook the power of content repurposing.

Recommended Connections Sessions for Improving Your Social Game

  • Social Content Marketing in a B2B World (Tuesday 1:45-2:30 PM)
  • Raise your Marketing Game with Killer Community Management on Social Networks (Tuesday 2:45-3:30 PM)
  • Social Marketing: from Getting Started to Executing at Scale (Wednesday 11:45-12:30 PM)

Email Marketing

Sixty-eight percent of marketers surveyed said that email marketing was core to their business for a variety of reasons – the top being:

  • Email indirectly impacts business performance
  • Email is a critical enabler of products/services their business provides
  • Their business’s primary revenue source is directly linked to email operations

The report also predicted that 58 percent of marketers would increase their email spend in 2014, justified by the fact that 88 percent of marketers believe that email marketing does or will produce ROI; 59 percent have a dedicated email marketing team; and 49 percent are sending more than 500,000 emails annually.

In short: If you aren’t using email marketing, you are definitely doing it wrong.

The report identified two key areas for improved effectiveness of email marketing: responsive design and creative, engaging campaigns.

Recommended Connections sessions to improve on these & other factors of email marketing success:

  • The Strategic Formula for Email Conversion Success (Wednesday 10:45-11:30 AM)
  • Data for Designers (Wednesday 11:45 AM-12:30 PM)
  • Personalization and Predictive Intelligence: Driving Optimal Engagement from Your Email Marketing (Wednesday 2:15-3:00 PM)
  • Connecting the Dots: Customer Engagement Through the Email Marketing Lens (Wednesday 3:15-4:00 PM)

Mobile

The 2014 State of Marketing report presents a notable gap between those who think they will eventually see results from mobile marketing (51 percent) and those who actually do see ROI (29 percent). What will it take for that optimistic 22 percent of marketers to actually see the fruits of their labor and how quickly will it come to focus?

Keep in mind that a user can do all of the following from their mobile device:

  • browse products on your site
  • access customer service portholes
  • send emails
  • engage with social media
  • watch branded videos
  • download and explore your app
  • receive in-app alerts and push/SMS notifications

The report also discusses SMS at length, suggesting it’s an important tool that all marketers should have in their toolbox, given the prevalence of mobile content consumption. However, the concept of marketing though text messages seems invasive and old fashioned.

Moreover, SMS requires fewer resources to design and implement than email marketing or push notifications, and is thus attractive to digital marketers. Keep in mind, however, that most consumers visit their text message inbox to communicate with friends and family, not brands and businesses. A thorough evaluation of your audience and their mobile content consumption habits is recommended before deciding on a mobile strategy.

But one thing’s for sure: you absolutely need a mobile strategy.

Recommended Connections Sessions for Advice on getting started with Mobile Marketing:

  • Making Mobile Moments Matter (Tuesday 1:45-2:30 PM)
  • Get Started with Mobile Marketing: Email, SMS, Push and Responsive Email/Web (Wednesday 4:15-5:00 PM)
  • The Future of Mobile Acquisition and Engagement (Wednesday 4:15-5:00 PM)
  • Any number of Developer-focused breakout sessions

Where do we go now?

From a high level, strategic vantage point, the report made the following recommendations:

  • Focus on customer engagement
  • Develop a clear data strategy
  • Consider your channel options

Regarding a firm’s data strategy, it’s worth noting the importance of collecting data over time and across multiple customer interactions; asking for a lot of information at once can be a barrier to engagement.

The single biggest takeaway for email marketers should be to ensure that your communications can be consumed on any device; responsible design will soon be a point of parity if it’s not already.

On the topic of mobile, it’s imperative to know that it can no longer be ignored. If you’re unsure of where or how to implement mobile marketing methods, conduct research to see what pioneers are already doing and see how you can apply it to your own strategy. Realize that this channel is still in its infancy, so the time is ripe for innovative experimentation.

When it comes to social media, it’s most important to remember to establish measurable goals early, lest be perpetually unsure of whether your social media efforts are effective or not. Consistency is also important in social media; develop a posting cadence and create processes for social listening.

Stay tuned for a full report on top moments and lessons learned at Connections 2014. In the meantime, check out what you missed at another recent industry conference, Content Marketing World.

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