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Supporting image for How Mobile is Changing Email Marketing – @heatherkjackson
How Mobile is Changing Email Marketing – @heatherkjackson
The Agents of Change

Heather JacksonBy now everyone knows that your email list is gold, as far as your business is concerned. Unlike social media sites such as Facebook, where you’re basically just “renting space”, your email list is your very own property, as well as an invaluable business commodity. But in this ever changing and evolving world of mobile marketing, finding a way to mesh the two together is key. .

In order to stay on top in the mobile marketing era, you need to balance keeping your email marketing efforts relevant in this age of social media. Keeping in mind how much time the average person spends on their smartphones these days – and reaching out to them there – will help to keep your business front of mind, authentic, and open up other creative opportunities for your business to engage with your audience.

Heather Jackson has more than 20 years experience helping businesses with their online and offline marketing strategies. She loves speaking and presenting at seminars and conferences on the topics of digital, social and email marketing, as well as best practices to help businesses grow using available online tools.


Rich: Today we’ve got Heather Jackson back for her second appearance on the Agents Of Change Podcast, putting her into a very elite group. Whenever I have somebody back I don’t bother reading the standard bio anymore. Heather and I have actually known each other now for years, we put on presentations all the time, she’s been a regular presenter at Agents Of Change Conference talking about email marketing issues and how they’ve changed over time.

And then we also put on little regional events about every once a quarter up here in Portland, Maine,where she does some sort of presentation – usually around social or email – and then I do some other sort of presentation as well. In fact, we just had one yesterday. Heather was talking about the power of the inbox and I was talking about my BARE Essentials Through Digital Marketing, and we always get a great turnout and a lot of great questions.

She works for Constant Contact, she’s actually the Director of Regional Development in New England for Constant Contact, a company that we have used almost since day one, in terms of our email marketing, and had a great relationship with them from the beginning. So Heather, welcome back to the show.

Heather: Thanks, Rich, I feel privileged to be amongst the elite.

Rich: Absolutely, we’ll have to get you a little crown and sash. So, one of the things that we were going to talk about today is email in the age of mobile marketing. Obviously these days we’re carrying around our smartphones with us 24/7, we’ve often got our tablets when we’re sitting there watching TV. How has mobile changed the way that we should be thinking about using email to connect with our customers and our prospects?

Heather:So I think that one great thing about email is that it is more powerful than ever, in that if you look at deliverability – if you’re using a delivery service like Constant Contact or any of our competitors – probably 98 out of 100 people are going to receive your email, and at a minimum, see your name and subject line compared to an organic post on Facebook, where 2 out of 100 are going to see it. So I think it’s a powerful tool, it allows you to engage 1-1, but the challenge is that there’s more noise and more competition to get your reader’s attention, and the reader’s attention span – although not smaller than ever – but the amount of time people are going to spend on a mobile phone choosing whether to read on, take your call to action, or engage, is shorter.

So you have shorter time, but you’ve actually got a better chance of getting their attention, so you really need to look at design and content and timing and be sure you’re using every possible thing to your advantage. So I think those are some of the changes in terms of designs change, contents change, timing has changed, and all in powerful ways. I still think it’s an excellent tool to use.

Rich: Well it seems like back when I was first doing email marketing, I would often take a blog post and basically put it into an email and send that out – or an article, because I was doing monthly newsletters – and it would be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 words that would go out in an email newsletter. And that was pretty typical. These days, it’s almost that email was the destination, and I’d say I didn’t care if they didn’t actually go to my website as long as I’m able to communicate with them, that’s the most important thing.

But now, like you’re saying, it really seems that the email – that we call a newsletter or blast – it’s almost like a transition, like what we’re trying to do is stay in front of them, but we ultimately want to lead them to our website when we know their attention span is shorter and they’re on a mobile device and they don’t feel like reading 1,000 words at a time. And I thing that really makes a difference, too, that for a lot of the businesses out there they need to think about an email as a way of quickly engaging, and then delivering the audience member to where they want them to go.

Heather: Exactly. And I think that’s how I think about email for mobile. I’m even changing and trying to change the language around it in terms of, you think of a newsletter, it’s no longer a newsletter. You want that email to be a picture, 2-3 sentences, and that call to action. And that call to action should be driving them back to a specific page on your website or to an article, if that’s what you referenced. But you’re not putting the article in, you’re not putting the whole blog post in. You’ve got that picture – that visual which is so key – the teaser 2-3 intro lines, and then click here to read the full post/learn more/visit our website. So that’s really, I think, important.

I was with this woman the other day who’s a great marketer, and she said, “Listen, here’s how I describe email to my clients, it’s just a check in – whether it’s a weekly check in or a monthly check in – just think of it as checking in with a friend.” And that really struck home with me because let’s take out newsletter or outreach or blast terms – because “newsletter” to me sounds long – and think about it as I’m just checking in with a friend, and what I’m trying to do is stay top of mind, I’m also trying to make it easy for people to refer me. And how are they going to refer me? They’re going to refer me if they know me better, like me better, trust me more. So I have this one chance to check in with them, show them a little something, teach them a little something, inspire them, make them laugh. And I think you’re going to do that in short bursts and help them refer you by helping them get to know you.

Rich: Alright, so definitely a change in attitude in terms of how we should be thinking about our emails in the age of mobile. I always am focused on design, how has mobile changed email design best practices?

HeatherOk, so I’m going to preface this and say that I am not a graphic designer, I’m not a coder, so I am speaking in language and these tips are for people who are doing it themselves, because I’m assuming that most graphic designers and professional designers already know this stuff. But these things are more important than ever because the way your email looks on a small mobile phone is going to affect how people engage with it. And remember – so here’s a big change – on the desktop, people are going to look at your email and there’s about 15-30 seconds is the time that they’re going to give you to make an impression. On a mobile phone, it’s 5-10 seconds. So if it doesn’t look good to begin with, you’re deleted.

So in terms of things as simple as with a template, you’ve got to have a mobile responsive template. You want to have a single column template, so that means you don’t have a table of contents on the left or any of that, so you need a single column template. You want to have probably a maximum of three blocks – or three things you’re highlighting – if you can keep it to one, that’s even better. And then even things like fonts, there’s Sans Serif and Serif – and that means they have the little things on the bottom and the top – so you want to use the Sans Serif that’s much easier to read. An example of a Serif font would be Times New Roman, so those are just harder to read, generally. And then in terms of colors, I think it’s really critical to have light backgrounds, dark text that contrasts, make it simple to read. Remember that Gmail by default is going to turn every hyperlink and phone number to that blue, so know that that’s going to happen. And then I think you want to make sure more than ever that you’re consistent with your branding. Color increases brand recognition by 80%, so don’t be changing your colors just because you, personally, are bored with them or it’s seasonal or around a specific event. Make sure that you are always using your branding colors because they are recognizing you and your logo more quickly than ever.

Rich: Ok, cool. And I know we kind of touched on this before, but I guess as we’re thinking and working down our way through the mobile and the email, it’s like the next thing is content. What are some of the things out there that we need to consider as we’re creating content specifically? We talked a little bit how it needs to be shorter, are there other things that we should be concerned about?

HeatherSo you don’t want to have an email that goes out without a video or a photo. And a 20 or 30 second video is a great way to get people more engaged. So think about if you don’t want to write your email, say it to your camera or phone and then upload it. It is so easy now to do that. And when I think about content, not only is the content that you put into your newsletter changed and that it really needs to be engaging, you want to be authentic, you want to be in the moment, far more than ever. So this isn’t a recap of things that have happened, think about it again as that check in. Here’s what’s going on, here’s my tip, here’s my advice, here’s my offer.

But the content you can now create so easily on your mobile device. So people are looking at it on mobile, but you can also create it on mobile. And I strongly encourage people to think about how they can use their phone, and if they don’t want to be the ones on their phone, think about how can you get your staff to interact, so a great idea for content is to take a 20 second video of some of your staff and say “why do you like working for this company”, etc. Take pictures behind the scenes at work or at an event, show people how much work you put into something. I saw a great video the other day of volunteers stuffing envelopes, and it’s a reminder of people giving so much time and things don’t just happen without effort. And so I think that not being afraid to whip your camera out and take some video and know that people are looking at that video on your mobile phone, they want to see the authentic in the moment behind the scenes real you, is really important and gives you a lot of freedom for creating great content.

Rich: So let’s talk a little bit more about this video idea, because I’m intrigued. So I just create a video – whether on my desktop or camera – I have it there, so walk me through exactly how I put my video into my email, because I haven’t tried that yet.

Heather: So, at least with respect to Constant Contact, you could take a video – and I know on your last podcast you expert was actually talking about how you can actually save your Facetime Live video – so you could have a video in your camera app, you could be taking a video in YouTube, you could be taking a video in Facetime Live, however you choose to take your video, you could choose to take it in Snapchat and now save that to your memory. Any video that you have on your camera ultimately you would upload to YouTube or Vimeo or there’s a couple other platforms that are video specific – I usually just go to YouTube because that’s how I roll – so you take that video and then all you do is go to the share on YouTube, copy that URL. When you’re in the block inside Constant Contact, so when you’re in your newsletter/check in/outreach, you just say “insert video” and it pulls up a place for you to paste that URL, and then it automatically copies the thumbnail along with the triangle that indicates “play”, so it’s very clear it’s a video, and then you’re done. So when somebody clicks on that video it’s going to open to that video in a new tab. So it’s not technically “embedded”, per se, but you could – by the same token – if you had a video living on your website, you would just copy that URL, paste it into your email and boom. I’m a huge fan of taking a 20 second video on my camera app, I upload it directly to YouTube, and then I just take that URL and copy it right into my email.

Rich: That’s really interesting, I’m going to try that. We’ve got a series of videos and blog posts coming out soon for flyte all about how to setup Google Analytics the right way, and I’m going to try with all of these new emails to try creating short little videos. And if I understand you correctly, I’ll record them – I’ll probably use my desktop just because I have a nicer set up here, but I could do it on my phone – upload it to YouTube, and then take that sharelink and pop it right into Constant Contact. And then when people receive it, they’ll click on the link and they’ll be able to watch the video right on their phone or they’ll be taken to YouTube to where I’ve created that video.

Heather: Correct. And it’s going to take them right to your channel, too

Rich: Right, so I’ll take them to the channel, but then what I’m thinking I’ll do is that will be an unlisted video – because probably I don’t want 1,000 people to see that, or maybe I do, I’ll have to think that through – and there will be a link right there where you can go read the blog post or whatever that may be.

Heather:You got it.

Rich: Very interesting. That is what we’re going to try doing. I’m going to do that.

Heather:And I love your idea, Rich, you know how much people love DIY or “how to” videos, I just think you can’t go wrong again with showing people what you do and how things work at your business or nonprofit. And again, it doesn’t have to be you if you don’t like being in front of the camera, you can be behind the camera and let your staff/volunteers/customers come in.

Rich: Alright, cool. Well obviously mobile is affecting more than just email, it’s also affecting social, and so many social platforms seem to be mobile first. So how do you feel that mobile has affected the interplay between social and email and maybe your website as well.

Heather: So I believe that again, email for mobile is much less a formal newsletter, it is much more akin to the type of post you would put on social. Which has become even more in the moment and more authentic. So I think that you can truly repurpose a lot more of your content, whether you start with the content to put in your newsletter or you start with the content to put in social, and more than ever you want to make sure you have that call to action or that link.

So you’re putting less in your email – your email might be more like a post, or you take a post and maybe expand it a little but not a lot – but I would say that it is much more of a shorter “here’s our true authentic selves” or something you plan out around themes, but you can take that content and really repurpose it across your social and not have to be recreating and totally changing. And then ultimately you want to use your email as a driver to your website, just like you want to use social as a driver to your website.

All those airplanes flying up above are your social media and your email, if they don’t land and people don’t get on and off, then no one’s making money. So you’ve got to get them back to your website. And I think that email is just a far more powerful vehicle for doing that through having a strong call to action and simplifying your message.

Rich: Yesterday when we were doing the presentations, you shared a trick using SMS text messaging to get people to opt in to your email newsletters. And obviously when we’re walking around town or we stop into a little shop, we’re not bringing our laptop with us. Can you just share with us that tactic you used yesterday to build your email list?

Heather: Sure. So just like the way that mobile has changed not only how you view content but how you create it, tools on your mobile phone have also changed in a way that you can ask people to sign up to grow your list.

So there’s an awesome tool – and I know all email service providers offer this, not just Constant Contact – but it’s called “text to join” or “text to sign up”. Essentially you choose a keyword – and the program will tell you if that’s available – so you have your own keyword unique to your account and you can ask people to text that keyword via their messaging app to a specific Cloud number. So it’s a number that you don’t choose, it’s not marketing through mobile, it’s actually just getting people to sign up through your newsletter through mobile.

So somebody types your keyword. I was just at a restaurant the other day and the keyword was “I love sushi”, and that automatically signed me up to get their weekly specials and upcoming entertainment and basically gets me on their contact list. So the beauty of that and what I love about that and why I ask people to do that themselves is that you can customize the message that somebody gets via their phone. So they text “I love sushi”, a response comes back in my text messaging app that says “please give us your email address to get special offers”. I text my email back and then they say thanks, they could say “show this text for an extra 20% off”, so there’s different things you can do with it, but bottom line is they didn’t have to spend any time trying to read my terrible handwriting, there is no chance my email was going to be entered incorrectly, and you basically can take this and you could make it into a sign that you put anywhere that people are waiting to check out or come in to see you or at an event. So it could be instead of having that sign up sheet where everyone writes their email in handwriting that you can’t read, and then you have to take that and enter it in, it basically takes all that chance of error out and it also saves so much time.

So imagine having that little sign out on your table at an Expo or a Conference instead of the fishbowl. Imagine having that sign out taped to your front door when you’re walking out of business, or in a little frame at checkout. And you can obviously put that online anywhere, it doesn’t have to be in person. It’s just a great simple easy tool that allows you to let people join your list, and the other amazing thing is you could change the keyword for a specific event and then just build in an autoresponder, so that somebody signs up and they immediately get a follow up and thanks for attending the Agents Of Change Conference, loved to have you, here’s a special offer, here’s our next event.

So I just think it’s a super tool for saving time, and again, it sort of amplifies how mobile changes not just how you view and not just how you grow your list, but the tools that you can use.

Rich: Yeah, because I mean obviously we talked about how mobile has impacted email, how it’s impacted the web, how it’s impacted social, and now we’re talking about how it’s impacted real life. So obviously this is an important thing for all businesses to be paying attention to – and as we’ve talked about a million times on this show – that your email list could be your most important asset when it comes to marketing. Yes, it’s important to be ranking high at the search engine, and yes it’s great to be engaged with your audience in social media, but email is where you make the sale. Just because people are on a mobile device, that doesn’t really change things. Everything else seems to be changing, but the bottom line is, that piece stays the same.

Heather: And Rich, the other point that you mentioned yesterday is don’t forget that you own your email list. So whether you’re using a program like Constant Contact or not, you still own that list no matter what. You can take it with you, you can use it for a lot of other great tools, or you can overlay it on your ads on Facebook, etc. But you’re basically renting space on all the social media platforms and they can change how they operate and how they’re going to feature your posts and what they do, whereas your contact list you own and you’re always going to have that with you.

Rich: Absolutely. This has been great, I know we’ve got a lot more we could talk about when it comes to mobile and email, but if you want more you’re going to have to check out Heather at the Agents Of Change Conference coming Friday, September 23, 2016. Heather is going to be presenting on email and probably be talking quite a bit about mobile as well – as it fits into everything else – with a few questions we didn’t get to today, so be sure to check that out.

Heather, where can we find you online?

Heather: So you can find me online at @heatherkjackson is my Twitter handle, and then my business Facebook page is Constant Contact New England, and I’m hjackson@constantcontact.com, and obviously in LinkedIn I’m also Heather K. Jackson. So, I’d love to connect, and I will encourage all of you out there if you’re on the fence about going to Agents Of Change, it is an awesome conference. Both as a sponsor and as an attendee, it’s one of my favorite events of the year. I think you do a great job, Rich, and I look forward to being there.

Rich: Awesome, we’re going to be psyched to have you back. Heather, thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing all your knowledge.

Heather: Absolutely, Rich. Thank you for having me.

Follow Heather on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, and look her up on Facebook.

Online resources:

  • “Text to Join Tool” video tutorial
  • “How To Insert Video” video tutorial
  • General Email Marketing Help blogs
  • Seminars & Training events

Heather passed along a funny video to help remind us to “keep it authentic”, while having a good natured laugh at industry lingo. Enjoy!

If you want to hear more from both Heather and Rich – as well as 13 other thought leaders and experts on the topics of search, social and mobile marketing – then grab your tickets today for the upcoming Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference.