Email's Essential Role in Successful Marketing

By ANA InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Email's Essential Role in Successful Marketing

Trovon C. Williams (pictured at top), Senior Vice President Marketing & Communications for the NAACP, is giving a keynote address entitled "Delivering Results Through Diversity" at the 2022 ANA Email Evolution Conference May 16–18, in Scottsdale, AZ. ANA's Director of Communications John Wolfe recently interviewed him for a pre-conference discussion.

Wolfe: What will you be speaking about at the ANA Email Evolution Conference?

Williams: If the last few years in this pandemic reality have taught us anything, it is that as content creators, we must be willing to go above traditional conventions in order to maintain and grow a captive audience in a digitally enhanced environment. My goal is to challenge my fellow creators to use analytical and behavioral data to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. I've discovered that the capacity to go farther has not only revealed additional information about my team and their abilities as content creators, but it has also revealed a new and more engaged and progressive email audience. So, during this session, we'll go over that just a little bit deeper.

Wolfe: How important is email in the NAACP's marketing strategy?

Williams: Fundamentally, it is the foundation of our communication strategy. While other modes of communication have made great progress in raising awareness and engagement, email is what keeps our organization grounded in its mission and identity. It has been and will continue to be a place where we can remind our audience of who we are and what we do. Everything else in the communication space is complimentary for us and is only fully enhanced when our email communication and cadence is top-notch.

Wolfe: How important should email be in every organization's marketing mix?

Williams: I don't think you can continue marketing success in the nonprofit sector without email having a significant role. Our capacity to provide relevant email content underpins all of our fundraising activities, advocacy efforts and even brand awareness and campaign initiatives. Substantive content does not have to be comprehensive or lengthy, but it must be meaningful to the audience. Email is the only mechanism that can consistently reinforce a message with the weight required. Social media may be relevant, as digital advertising can be, but email is the only mechanism that can consistently reinforce a message with the weight required.

Wolfe: What has been your most difficult challenge in building an effective email marketing program?

Williams: Don't overwhelm your audience with too many emails or too much content all at once. Most email marketers tend to end with the email being sent, how many people received it, and how many opened it. In most circumstances, I'm just as concerned about the unsubscribe rate as I am about the open rate, because it might signal if we've exhausted our audience or if the message touched a nerve, resulting in an individual no longer wanting anything to do with the organization. Consider how many emails you receive each day but do not open. Consider what prompted you to open an email and determine that today is the day we unsubscribe and remove ourselves from this communication relationship. Knowing how to strike a balance between consistent content and too much content is something I believe all creators will have to grapple with in the future.

Wolfe: What is the most essential lesson you've learned from utilizing email as a marketing tool?

Williams: Fail fast. To provide the best experience for our audience, we must attempt new experiences. The difference today is that we can quickly modify to support what is or is not working because we have access to so much data. But, given the quantity of data available today, there is no excuse not to do something. And if it fails, you have the ability to immediately shift course. But we must push ourselves to do it better, wider and differently.

Wolfe: Many consumers complain that they are inundated with email and that they often disregard much of it. What impact should this approach have on marketers' usage of email?

Williams: It should be one of their top priorities for email marketing at all times. How customers interact with your email content vs. another reveals a lot about whether or not you are genuinely successful. So, challenging oneself to ask why I should open this email vs. another email necessitates creators looking in the mirror and asking difficult questions. Is this a checkbox? Is it only a matter of meeting a quota? Is my consumer being challenged to do anything significant with the content in order to gauge success? What ultimately makes what I'm sending them more significant than the previous one? What makes my email look more like a life preserver to my consumer than just another wave crashing down on them if they are inundated with emails?

Wolfe: How will email change as a marketing tool over the next few months and years?

Williams: That is entirely up to the creators and storytellers. But I believe in their ability to make this tool as powerful and impactful as it has always been, because our environment and audience have indicated that is what is required.

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