I kicked off this five-part series with a brief overview of current martech trends and how they do, or don’t fit into the email marketing landscape. I riffed on the AI topic and touched upon how this old (yet always new) trend is playing a major role in addressing many of the challenges facing email marketers today. I ended the first post with the trend of “Story”, which provided a nice segue into the second step of building a future-proof email marketing roadmap.

Step 2: Make a distinction between triggered journeys and newsletters 

When Salesforce Marketing Cloud launched “Journey Builder” in 2014, the “customer journey” was deemed to be the future of marketing. Its promise was to empower marketers to understand and optimize every customer interaction along their journey with a brand. At the heart of Journey Builder were triggers for every touchpoint from ads to emails to abandoned carts. 

Ever since, triggered journeys have been the focus of email marketing because they enable real-time moments. Every customer action or event can be attached to a trigger that determines when and how an email is sent along the journey. It’s someone’s birthday? Send them an email for a 10% discount. A shopper bounces before checking out? Send them a “You forgot something in your cart” email (potentially with a discount to entice them back). 

There is no doubt that triggered journeys are an important part of any email marketing program. In aggregate, triggered emails are highly effective at what they are designed to do: sell and convert based on the when and how. The thing they often fall short on is the what. Within the larger objectives to “personalize” and prompt an action in real time, relevance can unfortunately be missed. Focusing on customer experience is where email newsletters come into the picture and is an even more powerful driver of incremental lifetime value.

We’ve established the purpose of triggered journeys: selling and conversions. Newsletters are different and it’s a mistake to lump email newsletters into the same bucket. Yes, newsletters have earned a bad reputation and can definitely fall short in their own right when they lack individualized content. However, when done right, the purpose of a modern newsletter is customer experience, relationship building, and cultivating/increasing measurable lifetime value (LTV). 

This is where the martech trend of “story” comes into play. More and more marketing technology is focused on what William Terdoslavich called “Data storytelling” in his MarTech article. The three-act play example in the post is a perfect illustration of what a modern newsletter should do. Sure, it’s not just story for its own sake — sales and long term loyalty are every brand’s end game. However, newsletters, unlike triggers, are about the long game and providing people with tangible value past the immediate sale/offer.

Because consumers have come to expect and value complete experiences and not just transactional messages, making a distinction between triggered journeys and newsletters are key to future-proofing an email marketing roadmap. 

While everyone has triggers in their toolbox, most are overlooking the critical importance and impact of a modern newsletter. In fact, email marketers can create a virtuous cycle between triggered journeys and newsletters. Email newsletters can provide sources of interest, which reinforce triggers and make them smarter, which can then be used as data signals to enrich the story presented in a newsletter to every individual. In order for newsletters to remain relevant week over week or month over month, the story needs to constantly evolve. Imagine reading your favorite magazine and every page of every issue learns and predicts your needs and interests.

So how and where do data and narrative come together in email marketing? This is the fun stuff — turning data into content. The next step in the roadmap will focus on what I believe to be an important email marketing trend for 2022 and beyond: developing your content with a modular design system. Sounds boring but it isn’t. In the next post, I’ll dive into the topic of dynamic content (something that works for both triggered journeys and newsletters) and explore how to bring all of this to life.

Stay tuned and I’d love to hear your thoughts!