Leveraging an ongoing conversation with your audience (customers) is critical for a strong return on your marketing strategy. Email campaigns have been a long-standing advertising and promotional technique for many businesses. With the advent of the social web, many social network application developers have created email components for gathering potential prospects. Leads can be dubious and time consuming. Some business owners still use office application 1.0 techniques because they “feel” more at home with the task. I wanted to find a company who has all the components of a green startup company while successfully integrating social web marketing channels.
iContact is a classic start up story where two college students, Ryan Allis and Aaron Houghton, start a software company above a noodle shop on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Nine years and more than one million user accounts later, iContact continues on a high-growth trajectory. Targeting small and mid-size businesses, the company is at the forefront, integrating social media with e-mail marketing to spread reach and take full advantage of these growing channels.
I spoke with Jeff Revoy, Chief Product, Marketing and Strategy Officer a few days ago to share his knowledge and provide some unique tips on why e-mail this year is playing a central role in capturing customers’ attention – and keeping sales thriving.
Marianne Pfeifer: How much have email campaigns changed over the years? What is new?
Jeff Revoy: Email marketing continues to evolve rapidly to meet the needs of customers as well as trends in the marketplace. Precise targeting and analytics are of high importance to customers, and we’ve created products and updates to reflect this customer interest and demand. In April, we launched iContact Free Edition, a no-cost version of our flagship email marketing and social marketing tool, in the US and the UK, to empower businesses, individuals and communities to engage, educate and retain customers, targeted prospects and website visitors. Additionally, an upgraded version of iContact Social Tools was released in July to give small- and medium-sized businesses a powerful and effective means to reach existing and new customers through social media channels. Now, in addition to easily publishing your email marketing campaign to Facebook and Twitter, we provide Like and Tweet buttons customers can add to their emails to capture the viral nature of social media. In addition, we launched Social Tools tracking to let our customers know how they are doing and where to improve their social media efforts.
Marianne Pfeifer: Can you cite an example of a customer using iContact for a successful email marketing campaign?
Jeff Revoy: craftsUPrint, a fast-growing craft website offering craft projects, tutorials, forums and special offers, came to iContact with the goal of improving message deliverability rates (the percentage of email that reaches the inbox). iContact’s industry-leading message deliverability rates combined with the recommendations we provided to optimize email subject lines and modify emails to target varied groups of subscribers ultimately increased their message deliverability rates. The company experienced a significant increase in sales and traffic to their website. craftsUprint moved from 8,000 to more than 70,000 subscribers in just two years and has seen an upsurge of 120 percent in site traffic.
Marianne Pfeifer: Is your product offering limited to business applications?
Jeff Revoy: Not at all. Sales have shown an increase in email marketing for personal use. It is not uncommon for individuals to use iContact programs for school, sports teams or professional associations. In fact, iContact Free Edition is an excellent solution for individuals looking to use the power of email marketing and social media marketing for personal use. For individuals seeking greater support and features, price points for paid versions are affordable, and programs are easy-to-use and manage.
Marianne Pfeifer: The social network is a high touch application. Facebook is gaining ground with a myriad of developers who are supplying direct marketing applications. Facebook recently announced their implementation of new tools addressing privacy settings. How does iContact fit in the marketplace? What is your strategy?
Jeff Revoy: iContact is focused on providing small businesses with digital marketing solutions that can help them grow and succeed. Our award winning email marketing and social media marketing products balance ease of use with the right features small businesses need to deliver powerful and relevant marketing programs. iContact’s digital marketing platform combines the proven results of email marketing with the unmatched reach of social media.
Over the past year, we launched a series of innovative tools that allow iContact users to build stronger relationships with their customers by engaging in conversations through social media. We offer fully integrated email and social media marketing features that seamlessly extend the reach of email marketing by allowing email messages to be published to a company’s Facebook page and tweeted to their followers. By breaking the boundaries of conventional email and allowing direct communication with fans and followers including their extended social networks, iContact makes it easy for a company to extend its reach and introduce its messages to new audiences
While there is a lot of competition in the digital marketing space, we strongly believe that we have produced an elegant and robust marketing application built around the needs of small businesses.
Mr. Revoy offers this guidance on starting an email or social media marketing campaign: First and foremost, be creative! You must lay out a plan that is incremental and flexible. It is important to identify goals for your email or social marketing campaign, as well as a strategy that is appropriate for your business or personal pursuits. Research and test several campaigns, and make sure your messaging is targeted and directly appeals to your subscriber base or target audience before moving forward.
As iContact’s Chief Product, Marketing and Strategy Officer, Jeff is responsible for marketing, product management and corporate strategy. Revoy has more than 20 years of workplace experience in Internet, search and social media at both early-stage and Fortune 500 companies. Before joining the iContact team, he worked for Yahoo! both in the U.S. and Europe where he held Vice President and General Manager positions at Yahoo! Search and Yahoo! Answers. In addition, he has held leadership positions with Embarq, InterTrust, and GameHouse. Jeff earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and an MBA from the Darden Graduate School at the University of Virginia. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and NCTA (North Carolina Technology Association), and acts as an adviser to several early-stage technology companies.