Marriott’s winning strategy to avoid the promotions/junk folder

By Michael Foster

When Gmail decided to create a new promotions folder and make it a default for all Gmail users, email marketers breathed a gasp of shock around the world. The greatest challenge in email marketing just got much harder: How do you get in front of your customers and ensure that they see your message so that they can act on it if they’re interested?

In the past, marketers have had best practices and careful rules that they’ve followed to ensure messages reach the right people in the right way. As both email and marketing technologies evolve, so too must the strategies marketers use.

Additionally, marketers need to be aware of the fact that marketing over email is very different from marketing on social, display, television or any other medium.     

This is the case for many different reasons. For one, email marketing is an opt-in channel. This means you are addressing people who have shown some interest at some point in your company’s product or service. This is a good thing – it helps the marketer, of course, because they know that there is already some interest, and they aren’t just “cold-calling" someone who may have no idea what the company’s product even is about.  

On the other hand, email marketing has been associated with spam in the popular consciousness for over 20 years. There are concerns about fraud, misleading offers, and that dreaded spam/promotions folder that need to guide the marketer’s strategy in crafting and disseminating emails. You can’t send emails too often but you also can’t send them so rarely that you lose touch with your customer base. Finding the balance between these two extremes is difficult.    

There is one other big issue about email: changes. We don’t usually think of email as changing at all because the technology is basically the same. But the way people use email and the way that emails are presented to them change all the time. Gmail’s emergent “promotions" folder is just one example. As the culture’s use of email and the technological presentation of email change, the email marketer must adapt. What are the effective methods of email marketing in 2016, and how will they change in 2017 and beyond? 

If anyone has a good answer to that, it’s the Marriott hotel brand. Through its Marriott Rewards program, the hotel has been successfully marketing through email to interested, engaged, loyal customers in a way that boosts sales without hitting that disastrous promotions folder.

The key to Marriott’s success has been to add value to customers’ lives. The company knows that “value-added content” is not just a buzzword but needs to be in the DNA of the marketers’ workflows and creative strategies.

One of the ways Marriott Rewards did this was through a multi-touch email campaign culminating in a personalized video directed at loyal customers. In December 2014, Marriott Rewards was able to generate 86.1 percent more revenue than it had in December 2013 and 2012. Additional impressive stats: Customers clicked emails to open them at a 20 percent higher rate and conversions increased 9.7 percent on a year-over-year basis.

How did they do this? Join Member Marketing Senior Manager Clark Cummings at this year’s Email Evolution conference, in which he will discuss in detail the "Year in Review” campaign and various other strategies that Marriott Rewards used to both reward its customers and raise its own top line.  

This article is brought to you by the DMA. 
Click here to register for Email Evolution Conference, March 30 – Apr. 1, 2016, in New Orleans.