Simple and elegant - the future of email marketing that works

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan March 10, 2015
Summary:
Email marketing is still a winner, but it needs to be elegant and simple. That's the mantra of Campaign Monitor as its ramps up into the next phase of its own journey.

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A common theme of reports and studies into marketing tech is the conclusion that when push comes to shove, there’s nothing that’s much more reliable in terms of ROI than good old-fashioned email marketing.

Or perhaps to put that more accurately, nothing much more reliable than email marketing done properly.

That’s certainly the ethos underpinning Australian firm Campaign Monitor, set up in 2004 to offer “simple and beautiful” email marketing and in 2015 setting its sights firmly on global expansion with new executive management and new product offerings.

The firm’s two founders, Ben Richardson and Dave Greiner, have stepped sideways to focus on product engineering and development as CTO and Chief Product Officer, while Alex Bard, formerly head of Salesforce’s Service Cloud operation, has taken up the role of CEO.

A San Francisco office has opened its doors, buliding on the November 2014 acquisition of online survey provider GetFeedback. The acquisition also saw that firm’s founder Kraig Swensrud, also a Salesforce alumnus, take up the positiion of Campaign Monitor’s CMO.

Powering recent developments, and fuelling what looks to be an uptick in sales and marketing efforts, is a $250 million funding round from Insight Venture Partners in April last year.

There are also product functionality enhancement plans in place, such as today’s push into more sophisticated email automation capabilities.

The company’s thesis is that email marketing remains ‘the digital workhorse’, but while businesses want to personalise customer interactions, this requires too much time and energy. Addressing this, Campaign Monitor users can now create workflows to send personalized emails triggered by:

  • Someone joining a list.
  • A specific date.
  • An anniversary of a date.
  • Site or blog updates.

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I caught up with Bard yesterday when he talked me through the firm’s plans. The first principles of the founders back in 2004 to enable the creation of simple, elegant and beautiful professional email campaigns for business are still as pertinent today, he says:

People talk about the Attention Economy and that’s as relevant to day as it ever was. We are all as busy as ever, but we have communications coming at us from every channel now.

Email remains the channel with the highest ROI and able to attract attention better than any other if done properly. You can get 40% more engagement than other channels.

Alex Bard
Alex Bard

In terms of the market’s competitive landscape, Bard divides the firm’s rivals into two main camps:

You have the simple, easy, self-service tools, that can be used by teachers, boy scouts and so on. These are easy to use, but not built for business or for the sophisticated demands of business.

At the other end of the scale, you have the likes of ExactTarget [now owned by Salesforce], big enterprise tools that costs millions of dollars, take a year to get up and running and that you need to go to ‘enterprise school’ to use.

We’re the best of both worlds.

As for the audience into which Campaign Monitor pitches, it’s a mixed bag:

Agencies with a design-minded approach are a big part of our audience. Agencies and designers user us on behalf of their clients, people who are focused on creating beautiful communications.

Does the CMO use us? Well, in a large enterprise like Coca Cola, it’s not the CMO making the decision about using Campaign Monitor, it’s someone in the marketing division with responsibility.

Given that CMOs and marketing decision-makers are typically in search of the next big thing and chasing bleeding edge technologies, the tried-and-tested nature of email marketing might be assumed to be a ‘less sexy’ option. Bard suggests:

The reality is that. depending on maturity and industry, there’s a blend of tactics used to capture the attention of prospects. But the one ingredient in the cocktail that is tried and true is email. It delivers the best ROI and will continue to do so for some time to come.

Now that doesn’t means that marketing shouldn’t experiment with social media and other tools as they complement the email strategy.

So what does simple and beautiful look like? It’s a tricky one to pull off as a lot of this boils down to a ‘less is more’ mentality that sometimes sits uneasily with marketing’s ambitions. Bard says:

If you look at global trends, peeople are demanding better experiences, simple elegant experiences. In order to send comms that are going to be clicked on, you need to ask how clear and concise is that communication. You want to be pixel perfect. We all get emails in our in-boxes that are just overwhelming and you go ‘wow’.

A mobile-first mentality is of course essential, adds Bard:

The world has gone mobile. Over half of all emails are opened on mobile devices, but we all get emails that haven’t been optimised for mobile. You have to optmise them so that they can be delivered and formatted on mobile devices.

All of which brings us back to the new automation capabilties. Bard explains:

At the core of all this is personalisation. But personalisation isn’t easy to do. When you think about the enterprise tools available, you can get caught up in a lot of complexity. We’re trying to do automation in a simple way. When you try to do too much, you lose sight of the obvious.

The marketing tech sector has of course seen a lot of M&A activity over the past 2 years, with the likes of Oracle and Salesforce buying their way into beefing up their portfolios. In such a febrile market, is there room for a privately-held independent firm like Campaign Monitor? Bard argues that far from being threatened by all the enterprise giants actions, it represents an opportunity:

There has clearly been a lot of consolidation. but that will create lots of opportunities for us. I don’t really see Oracle and Salesforce as competing with us. If they’re distracted by competing among themselves, then that’s good for us. I don’t worry about rolling out and fighting with Oracle, Salesforce or others.

My take

Never underestimate the power of 'old-fashioned' email; equally never underestimate how easy it is to screw up email campaigns.

Campaign Monitor's been something of a stealth success story over the past decade with some cracking blue chip customer names under its belt. The appointment of Bard and Swensrud and opening of a San Francisco HQ is indicative of a company moving into the next phase of its development at a time when the marketing tech sector is a busy place. The founders are to be applauded for passing the reins over to experienced executives to navigate what may be choppy waters.

One to watch over the next few years I think.

Disclosure - at time of writing, Oracle and Salesforce are premier partners of diginomica.