13 Digital Marketing Myths, Debunked
MYTH #5: Unsubscribers Spell Trouble
Marketers have been trained to see some customer behaviors in black and white, but the most valuable insight is often in the gray area, Lattice Engines CMO Brian Kardon suggests. While a significant increase in the number of customers who unsubscribe from promotional emails could be cause for alarm, a healthy dose of unsubscribers is "a blessing in disguise," he says. "As uninterested customers are weeded out, marketers can get a more accurate understanding of their actual potential customer base. Just think of how much more realistic open rates would be if marketers knew that everyone that received something actually wanted to receive that material," Kardon adds. More realistic open rates could then, in turn, provide more valuable insight into which content works, and which doesn't.
MYTH #6: More Opens Means Better Prospects
It's tempting to think of more email opens as an indication of growing interest, but Kardon says it's not always the case. "If someone is truly interested, they're likely to engage before the seventh open. Once you get past that point, the odds of a sale are slim to none," he says, "and while four opens may be better than two, eight opens might actually be worse." Nevertheless, revisited marketing content is a good indication and presents an opportunity for improvement, Kardon maintains. "It means the content is attention-getting and relevant, but is missing that deal-closing quality, and that's something that needs to be added," he says.
MYTH #7: Short Subject Lines Convert Better
It's been proven—shorter email subject lines perform better than longer ones, right? "It depends," Jerry Jao, CEO of Retention Science, a retention and re-engagement solution provider, says. While in many cases the concept isn't a myth, crafting shorter subject lines can become a trap for content creators. "Short means catchy, clever, and punchy," Jao says, "and when that's your goal, it's very easy to alienate customers." Some brands that have worked with Retention Science have had great success using phrases from popular songs as subjects, but to rely on this tactic, companies have to know their customers well. "You would only use a line from a Madonna song if you know your fan base is likely to overlap with hers," he says. Otherwise, the cultural reference is lost, and that email will get ignored, Jao cautions.
To avoid running the risk of customer alienation, companies should aim to keep their subject lines short, but all-inclusive. Women's fashion retailer Kate Spade, for example, rarely has a subject line that exceeds four words, but consistently creates catchy content that's easily accessible. In January, the company sent out an email with the subject "New Year, new shoes." It was informative, catchy, and brand-relevant. "Short and sweet works," Jao says, "as long as it still conveys a message."
MYTH #8: Everyone Is My Target Audience
For brands behind products that can be universally appealing, narrowing in on a target audience can be a balancing act. Casting a wide net often signifies a lack of focus, which typically harms more than it helps, Lavi says. "Even with a potentially vast demographic of customers, you have to zero in on specific, niche characteristics," Lavi recommends. "Trying to please everyone is a noble goal, but this tactic is seldom successful. It's better to target five people that will truly love your brand, rather than fifty people that like it," he says.
MYTH #9: Big Data Is Good; Bigger Data Is Better
Big data has become increasingly instrumental in helping marketers develop a better, more well-rounded understanding of their customers, yet drawing from too many data points can actually dilute key insight, and distract from the information the marketer is trying to glean. Big, or unstructured, data, is often rich with intelligence that hasn't been accessible in the past. This, according to Jao, is what makes it so precious and exciting.
"Big data is a big deal," Jao says, "but businesses need to ask themselves, 'Are we collecting the data in a way that will help drive key decisions?' Otherwise, it's a waste of resources." Social data, for example, is difficult to tie directly to conversion—it's more useful for building brand awareness and recognition. So should social data play a role in the pipeline? "Definitely, as long as there are analytics tools in place that will digest the data to ensure that it's meeting the business' needs," Jao says. "You don't want to be collecting data just for the sake of it, because eventually, you end up with a needle in a haystack scenario. You need the right analytics tools."
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