Jeff Rohrs, Exact Target on Social + Email
Susan Bratton

Episode 201 - Jeff Rohrs, Exact Target on Social + Email

Jeff Rohrs is an expert in the integration of social and email marketing and he selflessly shares excerpts from his excellent research projects.

Exact Target is an email marketing platform and they've acquired Co-Tweet, so Jeff spends a chunk of his time looking for the sweet spots for marketers at the crossroads of email and social marketing.

Learn about how to market to three unique constituents:

Subscribers - send them episodic, actionable content.
Fans - send them "emotional" content because they have a passion for your brand.
Followers - send them social objects they can play with, mash up and radiate.



Susan Bratton: Welcome to DishyMix. I’m your host, Susan Bratton. And I’m here today at AdTech San Francisco live with Jeff Rohrs. Jeff is the VP of Marketing for Research and Education at Exact Target.

Exact Target is primarily an email marketing company, but they’re so much more than that. A very, very interesting organization that’s not only doing great research on how consumers are consuming digital content, which Jeff heads up, but also just in their acquisition recently of Co-Tweet and the way that they’re thinking about integrating social and email marketing inbound lead generation, etcetera. So welcome Jeff.

Jeff Rohrs: Thank you very much.

Susan Bratton: It’s nice to meet you.

Jeff Rohrs: Likewise.

Susan Bratton: Thank you. It’s really my pleasure. I’ve always been a really big fan of Exact Target. I’ve never been a customer for various reasons and not anything to do with how great your platform is, just you know, different decisions or whatever.

Jeff Rohrs: Sure.

Susan Bratton: But I’ve watched your company and I’ve interacted with other brands who use your platform in really interesting and unique ways. So I think as a level set, not as a sales pitch but as a level set, just let everyone know kind of how you position Exact Target in the marketplace, how you define the company so we’ve got that to start.

Jeff Rohrs: Sure. So we are a web-based software platform, software as a service, servicing email, mobile, social and sites. So if you think about all of the ways in which you communicate directly with consumers where they’re, as you mentioned our acquisition of Co-Tweet expanded us over into the social area. Prior to that we had moved into mobile with SMS capabilities, and really our heritage is around permission based email.

Susan Bratton: And for the SMS capabilities, can you tell me a little bit more about that and how it’s integrated into the customer experience?

Jeff Rohrs: Sure.

Susan Bratton: ‘Cause I think that’s what you’re doing now is you’re integrating these things into the customer experience. So give me an example of maybe how one of your customers uses all three of those channels together in an integrated way.

Jeff Rohrs: Sure. So if you think about, it’s an odd one but one we site often, Scott’s Miracle Grow. It’s not a brand you would think about normally with interactive marketing because it’s grass seed, it’s fertilizer, it’s things for your lawn, but they are a very innovative marketer when it comes to that email, mobile and social. And I’ll give you an example that I think we can all relate to. Think about going to a Major League baseball game. Scott’s realized that you’ve got folks in a high wait state, right. When you’re watching a baseball game what is really showcased in front of you but a great lawn. And a couple of years ago they decided they wanted to test some things beyond just the traditional email list building and driving folks to understand more about products and services that would help their lawn, and they wanted to get them more engaged at that point of seeing really one of the best lawns they’ll ever see, a professional ballpark. So at fields like Fenway Park in Boston, they had advertising around during 7th inning stretch, other places in the ballpark where you could essentially text in to receive a groundskeeper’s guide. And if you think about the environment of a ballpark, you’re talking about a lot of people, you know, tens of thousands of people, putting a lot of demands on cell towers, and so often a Smart Phone or a surfing environment isn’t always going to be the best.

You want that first point of interactivity to be very thin and data oriented, so text messaging is great because you know that the majority of people who have a cell phone have text capabilities. Where Smart Phone penetration two years ago was sub 10%, now it’s over 30%. But that ability to text in with a code and your email address gave them the ability then to make sure that you were going to be emailed the PDF of that guide, and the response to that was so positive that it led to Lowes approaching them and doing some branded and some co-branded material with Major League Baseball so that they had Fenway mix seed or fertilizer and the sale on those was astronomically higher than their traditional seed blends within those fan communities. And at the heart of that was a combination of mobile and email, and now they’re expanding out into social as well. And I like that example because we don’t usually think, again, of, you know, a grass seed company or a fertilizer company using mobile and social and email in that way, but for them its been a great source of revenue and a great source of building a bigger fan base.

Susan Bratton: I’m a big fan of Scott’s. I’ve interviewed Jan Valentic. Is she still there do you know?

Jeff Rohrs: I’m not sure.

Susan Bratton: Yeah. And I love their bird food. I have birdfeeders out of my office window that I fill up every single week with their high premium grade birdfeed and it’s excellent.

Jeff Rohrs: And that’s a perfect example of segmentation, right, because if you’re a bird food consumer…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Jeff Rohrs: you might not want the grass, the…

Susan Bratton: Seed information.

Jeff Rohrs: the fertilizer, etcetera, so they segment and make sure that they understand about those consumers and what they’re going to send them. So they’re not doing a batch and blast; they’re making sure they understand your needs and getting the right products in front of you.

Susan Bratton: Now last year when I spoke at AdTech I spoke from the stage and I wanted to collect leads from the people who were in the room of their names. And so what I did was I said, “Here’s my presentation,” but what I did, I put it up at If you go there you not only get my PowerPoint, which you can steal and stick your logo on…

Jeff Rohrs: Right.

Susan Bratton: and look like a superstar, but I recorded a video of me explaining how to create your own social media strategy.

Jeff Rohrs: Excellent.

Susan Bratton: So then I collected leads and I used that all year long and I got thousands of people who – and I’ve tweeted it out…

Jeff Rohrs: Sure. Sure.

Susan Bratton: and it’s on my Facebook pages and all those things, and that’s been really great. But I actually recently went to this underground conference that I was telling you about, and one of the guys that spoke said, “If you want this white paper just SMS your email address to this five digit short code and you’ll have it in your inbox in about ten minutes.” And I thought, “Ooh, that’s even better. Now I want to do that.” I really like the idea of, you know, using SMS for email collection, and then you can SMS them back…

Jeff Rohrs: Right.

Susan Bratton: and you can send them emails…

Jeff Rohrs: Right.

Susan Bratton: right, so you get a dual channel return path…

Jeff Rohrs: Exactly.

Susan Bratton: so you’re not driving them crazy and you’re finding things that work well in text and well in email, and I want you to tell me what that is.

Jeff Rohrs: So you’re raising some great points. We do these exact same things…

Susan Bratton: I love talking about these things.

Jeff Rohrs: So, and I know we’re going to talk about this further, but one of the research pieces that I’ve been coauthoring and spearheading is our subscribers, fans and followers research. And it’s this ongoing research series. We just released the eighth report in February called The Social Breakup. It’s all focused on consumers and how are they using the channels of email, Facebook and Twitter, and how do they want brands to interact with them. What we discovered is we went out on the road was that text to email capability was a great way to punctuate, actually kick off and punctuate our presentations. Because at the front end you now have a lot of people tweeting and wanting to be very interactive participants in a presentation.

So we would tell them just that, you know, “Here’s the number that you want to send this code to and put your email address, and we will send you back the reports that we’re going to be talking about.” That got folks engaged and amplified right at the beginning of the presentation. At the tail end of the presentation, then those folks who got energized or came late could also catch up with that. So the thing to keep in mind though with SMS versus email is you’re dealing with two different, they are both subscribers in a way, but they are two different types of subscriber mentalities. You will probably find fewer people want to receive ongoing communications through text messaging because of the cost associated, because a lot of people are still paying on a per text message basis. In fact it’s flabbergasting sometimes to see when my wife goes over on our text messaging, on the per message cost on a text message. Whereas email when you’re on a Wi-Fi or you’re on an all you can eat platter on your cell phone has no cost.

The other thing is the carrier situation is vastly different, right. In a cell environment, a cell phone environment – AT&T, Verizon – these folks have very, very stringent guidelines on permission and what you can send and can’t send. And so if you violate one of their policies, that can get you banned from sending anything. It’s like, you know, the ultimate in penalties and deliverability. With email, some of those things can be more readily rectified. So SMS is great as call and response in the moment. I’ve seen some good campaigns where people do use it as an ongoing form of communication, but there is usually higher cost per message than you would get in email. So you have to pick your moments with text messaging wisely because you want to monetize that. You want to make sure that I am getting additional information, and as your example indicates the email is that great piece of information, of value the consumer will give you, and now you can go to a channel where it’s much more cost effective to communicate on an ongoing basis.

Susan Bratton: I love it. All right, so what was the first question that I wanted to talk to you about?

Jeff Rohrs: We were going to talk a little bit about, you know, consumers today and how are they thinking and using email, Facebook, Twitter, you know…

Susan Bratton: That’s it.

Jeff Rohrs: these kind of one to one channels.

Susan Bratton: Thank you. You know, I had too many cocktails last night. So, you know, it wasn’t like I ever got drunk, but we partied for hours.

Jeff Rohrs: That’s one of the dangers of AdTech, right?

Susan Bratton: It was super fun. Did you go to the Chairman’s Reception last night?

Jeff Rohrs: I did not. We actually had our owe event at Top of the Mark and…

Susan Bratton: Oh yeah, that’s nice.

Jeff Rohrs: the weather here has been beautiful…

Susan Bratton: It’s pretty amazing up there.

Jeff Rohrs: so you have an amazing 360 degree view…

Susan Bratton: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Jeff Rohrs: Recommend it for anybody visiting San Francisco.

Susan Bratton: That’s it. Perfect. So right, you’re doing SMS, you’re doing market research on the social channels, you run an email marketing company. Where are the three places that we’re leaving money on the table right now in our businesses that we could connect the dots between social, mobile and email in some simple intelligent ways to generate more revenue for our businesses?

Jeff Rohrs: So the first thing is to recognize that you need to think about this almost in a channel or brand agnostic fashion. So that’s one of the reasons why we entitled our research series Subscribers, Fans and Followers, and not Email, Facebook and Twitter. The thing that’s happened in the last ten years is fragmentation of the one to one channels. So email ten years ago was what we would be talking about in a singular fashion in terms of motivating in an individual and a personalized way to take action, right. And what has happened in the last seven years is you had Facebook come on the scene and allow for brands to have some direct communication with consumers and also have fans express themselves as fans, acknowledge it in a public fashion on Facebook, which then can create amplification opportunities.

Twitter then comes along and it not only has that amplification if you have built a follower base, as you well know, right? One tweet can generate revenue, it can generate excitement, but it also has created an environment in which there is much more of a two-way flow between the brand and the consumer than there was even in email. So we focused on Subscribers, Fans and Followers because it’s the relationships, not the technologies necessarily, that are important. So lets think about subscriber, fan, follower and their definitions prior to the web, right. So if I think about a subscriber prior to the web’s existence, I ask audiences all the time, the first answers they give me, newspapers, right, magazines, cable.

Susan Bratton: Episodic content.

Jeff Rohrs: Episodic and exclusive and regular, because what am I doing in a subscriber relationship? I am providing you something of economic value in order to receive regular content that is exclusive in some way to me. Now it might not be exclusive in a permanent sense; it may only be that it’s exclusive for a short period of time. But I am stepping up and saying, “I want to enter into some sort of transaction with you, so I’m going to get this content.” That perfectly sums up email. There are expectations created with email.

And so to go back to your question, one of those three things for people to really understand is when that person gives you the email address you’ve set some sort of expectation and you had better meet it. And if you’re not setting clear expectations that’s what can set you up for failure, for confusion, for lack of conversion, all of those things. So we see a lot of people really fail on the welcome opportunity. Lets go back to our example, in a speaking environment if somebody texts something in that can all be automated, so they should be getting that email instantaneously within moments, if not minutes after they take action. That meets then the expectation of the subscriber. A subscriber exists in email, it exists in text messaging, right, because again, if I’m going to actually text in and give you kind of my cell phone number, I’m giving you something of value, I want something in value returned.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, it’s a value exchange, yeah.

Jeff Rohrs: Right. So that’s your subscribers. So now lets look at fan. Fan prior to the Internet, what do you think about? You think about sports teams. You think about music. Those are the two things I hear frequently. Fan is short for fanatic. Fan is in a specific and emotional relationship, right. I am, I’m from Cleveland where I have suffered through an entire lifetime without any professional sports championships, and I can tell you having watched Lebron James leave the Cavaliers last year, it is an emotional relationship. I went from being his fan to overnight being an enemy, right. And that’s the notion of the fan relationship is that, yeah, we’re going to root for you but we’re going to be the first to boo as well if you overstep some sort of invisible line.

Now you move that forward into the Facebook relationship. Some interesting parallels come out of that, right. Because I think there’s a chicken and egg with Facebook that we often don’t acknowledge, and that is, you know, which came first, the fan or the Facebook fan. And in my read of it and in talking with consumers in our focus groups and our surveys, the fan relationship comes first; they then express it on Facebook. It’s a small percentage of people who actually become fans because of a Facebook interaction. It’s rather things that are happening in their physical lives that they’re then expressing online, they’re socially badging themselves.

So now I’ve, like Nascar, right. I’ve put your brand on my Facebook page. I’ve put it on my wall or my news feed. Now you have sort of a social contract with me to not do anything that embarrasses me or annoys me. And the fan, again, emotional relationship. So if you overstep bounds they’re not going to be shy at all about telling you it.

And the other thing that’s interesting about Facebook – and this goes to maybe the second point to answer your question about what, you know, should marketers know – Facebook is wet cement. It is changing. It is not a set environment, both because of how they change things consistently on their users, but because users aren’t totally sure what the environment is yet. And we have one stat from our Subscribers, Fans and Followers research that really sums this up. We asked folks, “When you like a brand on Facebook does that give them the right to then communicate and market to you through Facebook?” 51% of people said yes. Okay, if I like you, your brand, on Facebook, yeah, you can market. You can post things to my wall, etcetera. 40% said absolutely not. I mean it was such a dividing line. So you’ve almost got half the audience torn on whether Facebook is a marketing environment in terms of the news feed, the wall. That suggests to me that we’ve got a young medium; one where the rules are yet to be holy written, and therefore when you’re leveraging Facebook you need to make sure it is more about those fans because they are on Facebook not to interact with marketers but to interact with their friends and family. You exist to entertain them in that environment, and entertainment can be as superfluous as Oreo saying, “If you were an Oreo what would you say to the glass of milk?”

Or, you know, other things that, you know, Coke on their fan page, one of their most commented upon posts was about wishing the bubbles that were born today when somebody opened a Coke a happy birthday, right. I mean just weird superfluous things because people want that distraction and it does not seem to them overbearing or overreaching. What it does is it builds brand awareness, equity, and then the people who want to take some sort of transactional action, they will find that information through your fan page. So that’s the Facebook piece of it. Now lets focus on the last one, right, follower. You ask an audience, follower, what does that mean prior to the Internet? And you get the funniest responses, right. The one that people shout out loudest is cult, right, and that always makes me laugh.

Susan Bratton: I was thinking…

Jeff Rohrs: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: religion, yeah.

Jeff Rohrs: And then religion and politicians. And followers has this notion a little bit of influence, a little bit of wanting to have kind of a world view filtered through an individual or an organization. But what we discovered in our research was that follower is a little bit more complex in the Twitter world, and that is to say that we asked folks what’s the right number of followers. So if you’re going to get on Twitter and you’re going to have followers, what’s the right number? We did not do this multiple choice and yet the answer is skewed into really two categories. One group answered it’s about 25 because that group was focused on how many people can I legitimately pay attention to?

Susan Bratton: Yeah, the close personal circle.

Jeff Rohrs: Exactly. The other group said as many as I can possibly get.

Susan Bratton: Yeah. Yeah, give me a million. Mm hmm.

Jeff Rohrs: And that’s the influencer.

Susan Bratton: I’m not surprised.

Jeff Rohrs: So you’ve got the Twitter audience, a big portion of it are the people who are following the influential in order to become an influential. So it’s leaders leading the leaders in a lot of ways, and our research bore out that that audience is extremely influential even if they don’t have high follower counts, because the people who are tweeting on a daily basis are creating content on the web about two to six times as much as anybody else. So if you, to translate that into terms that folks can understand, if you’ve got a Twitter audience and those are daily tweeters, right, they’re using it on a daily basis, they are blogging at about six times the rate of other folks on the web. They are posting comments. They are rating things. They are creators on the web.

So the Twitter audience, despite its smaller size relative to Facebook and certainly relative to email, has an influence graph and ripples on the pod that are much bigger, they help you in search marketing, they help you in other ways. So there’s my third point. When you think about followers don’t just think in terms of follower count, think in terms of impact across the web. So yes, it’s great to get re-tweeted, but those folks go out and they create reviews and they post photos and they comment and they blog. They are social creators online. How can you potentially activate them in that way to benefit your brand or your product to get the word out? It’s not just limited to Twitter. It spreads itself out on the web, whereas Facebook is more of a walled garden.

Susan Bratton: So you’re giving your followers social objects that they can propagate. You’re giving your fans delightful entertaining experiences.

Jeff Rohrs: Yes.

Susan Bratton: And you’re giving your email customers the content they want from you.

Jeff Rohrs: The content they want from you and things that they can take action with immediately. And therein you have the three audiences. So you could be talking about one person, but if that one person’s connecting with you in those different ways they are doing so to be entertained in the case of Facebook, to be first informed with the case of Twitter and ultimately to get the first actionable information or the exclusive information from you through email. The way I sum it up for folks, and you probably can validate this for me, when you’ve been in the marketing world long enough you see headlines and I think, I call it kind of the Google Effect, where everybody’s kind of looking for the next Google, and so they always want to cast in in terms of this is going to kill this and this is going to kill this. And you always see, “Oh Facebook’s going to kill email,” “Facebook’s going to kill SMS,” “Twitter’s going to kill this.” It is not some sort of digital game of Rock, Paper and Scissors. It is not one is going to trump the other. Consumers told this very clearly in the Subscribers, Fans and Followers research, “You know what, we get it. We use these channels for different purposes. And we don’t think that one’s going to beat the other,” right.

They don’t want email in Facebook. They don’t want that kind of relationship because Facebook’s that personal relationship. Email however, they’re conditioned to read everything in there because if you let something go that could’ve been the important bill or that could’ve been the important note from a boss or something else. Who, you know, certainly at the mike right now, but at the audience, who can go to bed with that little stupid red dot on their iPhone that tells you’ve got unread email messages. You know, that inbox has been elevated to almost a condition Pavlovian kind of response where we have to take action, and that’s why economically that’s a great place for marketers to be, again, with permission because if you alienate them, you know, that’s going to create problems not with you just in that channel, but you know, you can use at Facebook, etcetera. When you overstep the bounds it doesn’t matter the channel. The consumer’s are going to express their displeasure.

Susan Bratton: I really appreciated that. You’re a very thoughtful and intelligent man. I’m so glad that I for some reason wanted to get to know you.

Jeff Rohrs: Excellent. I’m going to put that on my answering machine.

Susan Bratton: Oh please do. I’ll record one for you before you go today.

Jeff Rohrs: Excellent. Sounds good.

Susan Bratton: So if we think about it in terms of an editorial calendar…

Jeff Rohrs: Mm hmm.

Susan Bratton: when we’re thinking about our communication strategy, our multi channel communication strategy, and we’re thinking about actionable content via email, we’re thinking about entertaining and delighting them on Facebook, we’re thinking about social objects they can re-tweet and play with on Twitter, my original question was how do I immediately make more money with my email and social strategy? What am I doing wrong that I could do right in light of this information?

Jeff Rohrs: Sure. So the first thing is, you know, as we discussed earlier, make sure as soon as you get them in your permission loop on the email that you’re giving them some sort of action to take or acknowledgment and thanks. And then make sure that the expectations you set are being met. I see a lot of folks underplay email. You’re audience I suspect is savvy to know they shouldn’t, but a lot of big brands still think of email as kind of this afterthought. It’s the last item on a line and a budge on a big campaign. And the problem is email isn’t campaign oriented; it’s programmatic.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, it’s evergreen.

Jeff Rohrs: It’s evergreen, exactly. I use that phrase all the time.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, once they opt in they’re yours for life until you screw it up.

Jeff Rohrs: Or their life changes, right.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, right, right.

Jeff Rohrs: We have to, I mean, you know…

Susan Bratton: They go in and out of buying cycles and [inaudible].

Jeff Rohrs: Yeah, my famous example is, you know, I mean good golly, you know, four years after my last child was born I’m still getting free cans of Enfamil, you know. At some point Enfamil needs to, you know, get the hint that I think I’m done having kids. You do have to take, you know, kind of Sting’s advice, you know; if you love your subscribers let them go, right. There are going to be some folks who are going to opt out. But so that piece of email is important on the front end. Once you get into the heart of it however, you know, I think where people could be leaving money on the table is around how is their audience actually interacting with their email. And test different types of level of complexity or simplicity. So one of the things we were talking about prior to jumping on the podcast here was really what’s the Smart Phones impact…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Jeff Rohrs: on email, right?

Susan Bratton: Right. If so may of our customers are now reading their email on Smart Phones, how do we need to change our subject lines and content experience, especially if we’re trying to train them to take action on the emails that we send them?

Jeff Rohrs: So that then comes down to testing because nobody’s audience is the same, right.

Susan Bratton: Exactly.

Jeff Rohrs: Your list is different than somebody else’s list is different than somebody else’s. So, you know, through your ESP, your email service provider, you should be able to understand okay, what are the primary web mail clients and other types of clients, how much of my list is on a mobile phone and reading a mobile device, and you can render email differently depending on those different, sniff out those different devices to a degree. However, one of the interesting stats I just read from a report from Edison Research and Arbitron – it’s an annual report they come out with…

Susan Bratton: Oh wait, is that Tom Webster.

Jeff Rohrs: I think so.

Susan Bratton: Oh yeah, I love Tom Webster.

Jeff Rohrs: Yeah. They’ve got – and I’m trying…

Susan Bratton: He does some great research. I’m going to get that, what it, do you remember what it was?

Jeff Rohrs: Yeah, I’m trying to remember it. Yeah I’m…

Susan Bratton: You know what, just send me the link and when I post this…

Jeff Rohrs: Absolutely.

Susan Bratton: episode I’ll make sure that that’s part of the links that we’re…

Jeff Rohrs: Absolutely.

Susan Bratton: giving to people, when they’re coming to listen to the show they know they can come to the site and they can see all your links.

Jeff Rohrs: Great, great. I just wrote an article on which I referenced it, but they, one of the things, this has been a piece of research they’ve been doing every year for 19 years, so it’s a nice rolling piece of longitudinal research. But the thing that jumped out at me was the spike we just saw in the Smart Phone…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Jeff Rohrs: adoption.

Susan Bratton: 30% you said now.

Jeff Rohrs: Yeah. 30% not just in, you know, it’s over 30% overall, but what blew me away, teens. Teens are over 30%. So you’ve got, you’ve gone from literally last year it was 10%, now it’s 30%. And we knew this was going to happen, but to see it in black and white is pretty daunting. So to get back to your question, you’ve got this audience that’s reading on a smaller device in our research, and folks can grab the research at

Susan Bratton: That’s Sam Frank Frank?

Jeff Rohrs: Sam Frank Frank.

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Jeff Rohrs: Yup. So, and the reason I mention that now is because we also released a few infographics that weren’t tied to any of the eight reports, and one of them took a look at how does consumption of email, Facebook and Twitter differ between Smart Phone audience and non Smart Phone? So, you know, basically are you reading it on a Smart Phone, getting it on a Smart Phone, versus web mail or etcetera, desktop usage. In every single instance, particularly pronounced in the email, the consumption of the channels, usage of the channels went up.

So the Smart Phone doesn’t kill email, it boosts email. The Smart Phone doesn’t hurt Facebook, it helps Facebook. The Smart Phone doesn’t hurt Twitter, it helps Twitter. People are now connected all the time, so they’re using it more. However, the double edge sword portion of that means that they are splitting their time across each of those channels, and they are having to browse in an environment where it is much more controlled and much more limited in the amount of information they’re all seeing. So if you think about email, that means you’d better be optimizing subject lines extremely, that you need to be optimizing that teaser text they might see on an iPhone or whatever Smart Phone device.

Susan Bratton: what do you mean by teaser text? Just the very first few…

Jeff Rohrs: The very few…

Susan Bratton: the little thing when you see it in your inbox?

Jeff Rohrs: Mm hmm.

Susan Bratton: You call that teaser text.

Jeff Rohrs: I call it…

Susan Bratton: I like it.

Jeff Rohrs: teaser text. You know, the preview pane is what folks used to call it or still call it in kind of a web mail environment.

Susan Bratton: Uh huh.

Jeff Rohrs: The bottom line is that you need to optimize for smaller, a smaller screen for that audience, and I wouldn’t make assumptions, I would test, because I’ve seen weird tests before. And I’ll give you a good example. We had, we have a client, the Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine, and they used to send out – this was a few years ago. I had them on the stage, and they talked about how they had all sorts of political issues. And so they ended up having an email literally that if you printed it out it was like 13 pages long. It was taller than I am. So, you know, their email person was just going nuts and she said, “You know what, we need to test this.” And so everybody assumed that the test would reveal that a single page email performed better. Well they discovered actually it was the page that if you printed it out it was three feet long actually performed better, the email.

So don’t just assume that because of a Smart Phone device that small is necessarily absolutely better. It may be that you want to certainly optimize that first frame they’re going to see, put your action elements there. But folks do read on the Smart Phone device, and remember with tablets becoming increasingly popular, the experience of email on a tablet is extremely rich and tactile, and folks are actually browsing them even more in a tablet environment. So the short answer is there are no answers right now. You’ve got to test for your audience. But you can’t underestimate the importance of subject line, you can’t underestimate the importance of your brand as the sender.

I still see  brands who have weird names as the sender instead of establishing brand equity so that every time I get something from you I think, “You know what, every time she sends me something it is valuable, right, so I’m going to open it. I’m interested in this.” A lot of brands will frankly, you know, kind of lose that brand equity over time because they try and do too much in their email and they kind of split the baby because they want to serve the selling part of their mentality, they want to serve the educational and they want to serve this, that and the other thing, and that, in that situation the consumer doesn’t know what they’re getting when they open. So in an environment, a mobile environment where just one swipe of the thumb can lead to the delete, you know, you lose that.

And I’ll tell you what, I have that, I’ve just thought of a perfect example, I have that with a publisher who I’ve been on their list for years and frankly I should unsubscribe because I never read their newsletter. Their publisher actually emailed me about speaking at a conference, but because I’m so used to just doing the deletes I must have deleted that email, and it so happened that he followed up and said, “Oh I don’t know if you saw my email,” and I totally didn’t see his email, I had deleted it. And it was because I just wasn’t conditioned to get value from their communications and his subject lines and his From lines are the same because it comes from him as a publisher instead of coming from the publication itself. So those little nuances, get right with God on those right now, because the mobile, the iPad, those devices are only going to become more prevalent.

Susan Bratton: All right, last question for now, ‘cause I know you have to go speak. I want to review that if you want to get Jeff’s amazing research you go to, that’s like San Francisco Frank.

Jeff Rohrs: Yes.

Susan Bratton: San…

Jeff Rohrs: Short for subscriber, fan, follower.

Susan Bratton: Oh, well there you go…

Jeff Rohrs: There you go.

Susan Bratton: Duh, subscriber, fan, follower, that made sense.

Jeff Rohrs: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: Wonder where you came up with that Jeff. So last question.

Jeff Rohrs: Sure.

Susan Bratton: Specifically if you’re an email marketer and you’re trying to get people to get an email and click within that email to go to a blog post or to a landing page or whatever it might be, what are two or three things you can tell me create that behavior? How does the design or the writing or the way that you do the email create the most potential for the click through to a web page, both Smart Phone and, you know, inbox…

Jeff Rohrs: Sure.

Susan Bratton: if you will based? Did I say that right? Like computer versus phone based?

Jeff Rohrs: Yup, web mail versus…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Jeff Rohrs: mobile. So first thing is again, I’m kind of beating a drum here, but expectation, right. Does the expectation in your subject line match the expectation then in that first section of the email, be it the preview pane or the first area they can see on a mobile device? And I see a lot of people botch this. They bury the lead. So they have a great subject line, and you want to take action on that, but you have to read down, you know, a page or more and more to find the action you can take. If you’re serious about getting them to take that action then that should be prioritized at the top. Second, don’t forget the use of color and dimension to give a sense of priority to whatever it is that you want them to click or take action upon. That’s particularly important I think in retail environments and conditioning folks, if you’ve conditioned them on your website with a certain type of visual, that that’s how you buy, then that visual should be carried through to the email itself. But there’s a caveat here.

A lot of web mail systems, like Gmail, Hot Mail and I’m in the beta right now of Facebook Messages, which actually has an address you can get, they all default to text. So you have to make sure that the text that shows up in the default is actionable text in telling people what’s happening in that email so that they’re going to activate your graphics. Because if you don’t, if you leave it to just, you know, administerial kind of things, like your address or whatever else in the text at the top of the email, you’re missing out on the opportunity to tell them what’s important so that they’re going to turn on the graphics. I’m a big fan of consistency, so personally I’d like to see consistency across the email, the website, etcetera, but I’m also a fan of campaigns, so I have a kind of interesting duality and there are some campaigns I’ve seen that looking nothing, nothing at all like, you know, the website itself that perform magically, right. They perform great. And again, the key comes back down to testing, that you’ve got to test that out.

We tested, we had a couple years ago on stage at our Connection Users conference, we did the first ever extreme email makeover where we actually had three, two agencies and our own inhouse services design team redesign three different client emails and before the conference they actually sent them out in the wild. We sent them to the real lists and we, you know, just tested it with three different lists, and one of the tests was for Triple AAA, great client of ours. The one that won was a sideways scrolling email. So in other words, when you opened the email in a web mail client, you scrolled sideways. And it blew everybody away. And I’ve actually seen a few more people test that out. It doesn’t work when you do it every single time, but if you’re creative lends itself to a sideways scroll it can sometimes be a way to kind of break through the white noise if you will in the email channel.

So kind of in summary, it’s really make sure you’re meeting the expectations. Make sure you’re using visuals, colors in a way that draw attention and that you’re prioritizing the action you folks want to take. And thirdly, test because the assumptions that we make as marketers are often dead wrong in terms of what the consumer will actually do. So sure, test your assumption, but do something off the path. It’s so easy with an email program to just, you know, split the list or split it three ways and see how different things perform. And then once you learn from that you can apply it to you whole list.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, the only assumption that you can make confidently is that whatever you assume is probably not what your customers want. Like that’s the only one, right.

Jeff Rohrs: Yeah, yeah. You, that’s often the case. You know, it’s surprising. As long as I’ve been around there’s some things that certainly I didn’t think folks would click on. They click on…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Jeff Rohrs: You know, long forms are a perfect example, right.

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Jeff Rohrs: They perform great in certain industries. In others they won’t. So it’s another thing is marketers move, you know, from company to company or they change businesses. Even in verticals it’s different. So, you know, test, test, test.

Susan Bratton: Well I really appreciate you coming on the show. You know, I just have a hunch about people, and you just turned out to be so awesome Jeff. Thank you.

Jeff Rohrs: Well thank you very much. I’ve really enjoyed this.

Susan Bratton: Yeah. And the reports that you create, they’re not only fascinating but they’re beautifully designed.

Jeff Rohrs: Oh well thank you.

Susan Bratton: I appreciate the high quality of design that you put into your work.

Jeff Rohrs: Well we have a great internal team…

Susan Bratton: You really do.

Jeff Rohrs: that we kind of formed a little swat team around this project, and we have somebody who’s designing the covers, somebody who designs the infographics…

Susan Bratton: Yeah, they’re nice.

Jeff Rohrs: a team who helps work on the content and it’s been a wonderful project for all of us because what we find is the data will resonate more when presented in a way that really kind of tickles the eye, so…

Susan Bratton: Absolutely. Well here’s to eye tickling…

Jeff Rohrs: Excellent.

Susan Bratton: San Francisco and your success.

Jeff Rohrs: Wonderful. Thank you very much.

Susan Bratton: I’m your host, Susan Bratton. You’ve gotten to know Jeff Rohrs. He’s the VP of Marketing for the Research and Education, part of Exact Target. If you want to get all these beautiful pieces of data they are yours at, which stands for subscribers, fans and followers. I hope you have a great day, and I’ll be back to you next week with another episode from AdTech. Thanks. Bye-bye.