E-mail : Adding Video: Trouble or Nirvana?
Think before adding video to e-mail, then make it count
By Simms Jenkins
E-mail marketing, at its essence, is a targeted missile strike. A quick and precise action with measurable results, right? Adding more payload to the e-mail can increase your chance for success or steer you toward self-destruction. Adding video to your e-mail campaigns can sometimes feel this way, too.
While video in e-mail continues to be a Holy Grail of sorts for many in the direct marketing industry, the quest for achieving e-mail and video integration nirvana can be an elusive one. While the desire is well-founded—given e-mail's opt-in nature, the potential for huge ROI, and the channel's cost-efficient way of communicating to some of your best customers and prospects—adding video into that immediate equation can be challenging and often backfire.
In a nutshell, e-mail ain't the Web. Its limitations can be significant. And even the most proven methods of simulating video in e-mail (like video gifs and animated gifs) are not bulletproof and sometimes prove to be a bad experience for a segment of your audience.
On the other hand, you could see a pop in your response rates or other key performance indicators. Michael Harvey , BrightWave Marketing's director of creative services, says: "Simulating video playback with streaming animated gif technology provides a more dynamic experience for your e-mail audience. For the average user, the novelty of seeing an unexpected animation or video in their inbox leads to a higher level of engagement and a more memorable interaction with the marketing message. It's a great tool for cutting through visual clutter and directing attention to the main call to action."
Balance Appeal With Effectiveness
So what if you have some compelling video assets to leverage, but you don't want to run the risk of alienating your audience or are unsure of delivering a message that may not work for your entire subscriber list?
I recommend you do what e-mail does best: Drive traffic to the customer touchpoint that gives you the best chance to convert or engage your audience. As video continues to be a bigger draw on the Web and an important monetization vehicle, I believe e-mail will be the engine that drives that; much like social media's the fuel. However, the safest and sometimes best way to exploit online video's strength is not to try to include it in your actual e-mail campaigns. Using e-mail to grab your subscriber's attention and click to view the engaging video in a safe Web environment mitigates risks, while also accomplishing revenue and business goals.
And by segmenting your audience based on various factors (responsiveness or other behavioral activity, which I also find more relevant than profile attributes), you can target the e-mail and customize the tease that will deliver this traffic.
3 Tips for E-mail Success
So maybe after all there is a meaningful way to combine e-mail and video?
Let's look at some tactics that can help you accomplish your segmentation and traffic-driving goals:
• Test before deploying video to your main subscriber database. This can help determine the interest and impact of such a tactic. We have seen marketers reap more than 100 percent increases in response rates by testing who is more responsive to video before launching it to a more widespread audience.
• Add social sharing capabilities to extend the life and audience of your message. This is especially applicable to video, as social networks are ripe for video consumption and incremental viewing.
• Tailor video and content pages for search and be sure to capture e-mail addresses for these potential customers. Otherwise, you may be letting sales and leads slip away. yy
Simms Jenkins is CEO of Atlanta's BrightWave Marketing and EmailStat
Center.com and author of "The Truth About E-mail Marketing." Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Types of Video Content Marketers Can Use in E-mails
Nearly 178 million U.S. Internet users watched 30.3 billion online videos during April 2010, according to comScore. Marketers want to know what they can do to have their embedded videos represent a larger percentage of that viewership. Here are some ideas, broken down by consumer and business audience.
For B-to-C companies:
• Instructional videos can show how to build something, how to cook a dish or how to layer an outfit, says Kristin Hersant, director of corporate marketing for Redwood City, Calif.-based StrongMail Systems, a provider of online marketing solutions for e-mail and social media.
• Humorous videos can go viral, she adds.
• User-generated videos can also be great additions to e-mail messages, Hersant says.
For B-to-B companies:
• Product tutorials work for this area, Hersant says. Michael Hotz, senior strategy consultant for San Bruno, Calif.-based Responsys, adds advice for both B-to-B and B-to-C marketers: “A video can be very effective in bringing life to a product that is dependent upon the experience or if the process for completing a task (e.g., paying a bill with online banking, etc.) is somewhat complicated.”
• Customer testimonials complement B-to-B communications, Hersant says.
• Interviews with executives or other thought leaders can be useful, Hersant says. Complementing Hotz’s view that the content needs to “be interesting and offer value to the recipient and give them a reason to share the e-mail with their network,” Jiyan Wei, PRWeb’s director of product management, gives marketers a cautionary note about using C-suite interviews. Citing research that Ferndale, Wash.-based PRWeb, the news distribution service of Vocus, released in April about the use of video in online press releases, Wei says: “Most people don’t want to watch an eight-minute-long video of an executive talking.” —Heather Fletcher