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Ascend2-Most-Effective-Challenging-Email-Marketing-Tactics-Feb2014A spate of recent research has highlighted the importance of relevance in marketing messaging, and a benchmarking report [download page] from Ascend2 concerning email marketing comes to a similar conclusion. Respondents to the survey indicate that the creation of relevant and compelling content is by far the single most effective email tactic for achieving important objectives. Oh, and it also happens to be the most challenging to execute.

First off, a look at the objectives that email marketers are looking to achieve in the coming year. Closely grouped at the top are 3 main goals: improving lead nurturing (52%); improving click-through rates (50%); and increasing website traffic (49%). Much as other related surveys (such as this one) have found, subscriber growth is a little lower on the agenda. (See here for a list of email marketers’ most popular ”“ and effective ”“ list growth tactics.)

Having established the top goals, the study looks at the types of email tactics used for marketing purposes, finding that the top 3 signal a “shift toward one-to-one marketing” – creating relevant and compelling content (80%), personalizing email messaging (72%), and segmenting email marketing lists (61%).

When asked to choose the single most effective tactic of those used, relevant and compelling content was easily the top response, cited by 51% of respondents, ahead of personalization (15%) and segmentation (15%). (Given these study results, marketers may want to give personalization a closer look, too.)

Of course, it wouldn’t be possible to have the most effective tactic be a simple one. And apparently it’s not: some 40% singled out the creation of compelling and relevant content as the single most difficult tactic to execute. Interestingly, the second-most difficult (though trailing by a significant margin) is the integration of email with other tactics (13%), considered the most difficult by slightly more respondents than for segmentation (11%) and personalization (10%).

In a separate question regarding the most challenging obstacles to achieving important email marketing objectives, content relevance was the also the top choice, cited by 43% of respondents. Behind that was email list growth (37%), an interesting result given that almost all the respondents said their email list has either grown (68%) or remained stable (25%) during the past year.

In other results, about 9 in 10 respondents rated their current email marketing program as successful in achieving important objectives, though fewer than 1 in 5 rated it “very” successful. Marketers were a bit less enthusiastic about the change in effectiveness of their programs, with 46% saying it has stayed the same and 46% saying it has increased over the past year. In terms of the email marketing software improvements that marketers would most like to see added to their current platform, the largest proportion pointed to improved analytics/data visualization (41%), with improved mobile capabilities (36%) following.

About the Data: The Email Marketing Benchmarking Survey was fielded by Ascent2 and Research Partners and completed interviews with 518 marketing and sales decision-makers and practitioners from around the world. Two-thirds of respondents are in the US, and more were exclusively B2B-focused (43%) than B2C-focused (13%).

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