Last week three of VR’s marketing managers attended the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011 in Las Vegas. The trio not only took on Sin City in style (they networked and socialized with other summit attendees at PURE Nightclub), but they aced the event and returned to San Francisco with heaps of new ideas to put into action for our marketing and social media strategies.

The best ideas are ones shared among friends, so here’s a sampling of their takeaways that you can try for your business!

Megan Buell, Conversion Marketing Programs Manager

I am always looking for creative ways to engage our newest users. The Email Summit gave me some inspiring ideas and reminded me to stick to the basics with my email marketing strategy.

Paint a Picture for Your Audience: At VerticalResponse, I am often trying to explain the individual benefits of VR to my audience, however at the Email Summit I noticed some companies taking it one step further by connecting with their audience on an emotional level. You may be wondering what I mean by this. By painting a picture that portrays the end result of using your product and how it’s going to have an impact on your customers overall well being, you can help them visualize the true value of your product.

For example, at VR we offer email marketing to help small businesses grow. So I asked myself, why do our customers want to grow their small business? The most likely answer, because they want to be successful, they want to be able to take their family on a nice summer vacation, buy that sports car they’ve always wanted or just simply not worry about paying the next bill in their mailbox. That’s the picture I want to paint for my recipient. What picture do you want to paint?

Test the Basics: We talk a lot about testing at VR, but sometimes we forget it’s the simple stuff that can really make a difference. In one case study I attended, the presenter tested the color of her call-to-action button and was able to increase engagement by a landslide. If you get the VR Buzz newsletter, you may have noticed green buttons instead of our usual blue this week; that’s becuase we’re testing blue vs. green buttons! We’re still waiting to see the final results, but so far it’s looking good for green!

Amber Ricchetti, Retention Marketing Programs Manager

I attended the B2C track of the summit and got some great insight into engaging customers and building strong relationships. Here’s what stood out the most to me:

Build Customer Relationships: Building customer relationships is always top of mind for me in my role at VR. That’s why the Yahoo! case study, presented by Sue Coakley (Sr. Director, Customer Strategy, Yahoo!), really caught my attention. Coakley emphasized Yahoo!’s contact strategy, and it made me think – is our contact strategy working? In what ways can I improve it? As some food for thought, here are the “3 R’s” of Yahoo!’s contact strategy which were presented to the group:

  1. Build the Relationship (think about why it was started and continue to fulfill on that value)
  2. Keep It Relevant (listen and don’t assume what you don’t know)
  3. Respect Preferences (do all you can to retain permission to email)

Engage and Personalize: Mark Sniderman, Air Canada’s North American Marketing Communications Manager, discussed the success of their award-winning webSaver email program. In this email loyalty program they aim to create an engaged and personalized customer experience by using customer profiles for targeted content. We hear a lot that relevancy is key, and webSaver does it well. They send targeted fares and offers based on a customer’s home airport.

This example doesn’t apply to all business, but there’s a large lesson in relevancy here and it starts with customer profiles. What customer data are you collecting? Are your customer profiles up to date? In order to make sure ours is in top notch condition, I’m going to send a dedicated email marketing campaign and encourage our customers to update their information so we can continue to provide the most relevant and useful content. You can do a campaign like this, too.

Poppy Thorpe, Social Media Manager

I was excited to attend an Email Summit as a Social Media Manager.  I learned a ton and it was fun to see how much social media and email work together!  Think of Social Media as Real Time Marketing: David Meerman Scott, the keynote speaker believes that too many companies are run by “MBAs and spreadsheets,” and are looking at data from last week, last month or even last year, and forecasting out as far as five years. He said he didn’t have anything against long-term planning, but David asks; “What about now?” Focus on today. This is something small businesses can use to their advantage and really tap into the real time aspects of social media when they work off of things that are occurring in real time and in real life. Look to current events and pop culture to give you content for your real-time and email marketing.

Connect Social Media to Your Other Marketing Channels and Maintain a Consistent Voice: Liz Ryan, Email Marketing Manager at Threadless, a graphic t-shirt company, mentioned that engaging Threadless’ email audience in social media requires a balanced approach that incorporates elements from both channels. She reminded us that you need to engage your users and not just promote your business. Ask questions and encourage a community environment.

Obviously, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas! We just couldn’t resist giving you the juicy details – we hope you enjoyed them as much as we did!

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