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Validity on Valentine’s Day marketing with Cliff McGowen from Nationwide Insurance

The weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day are a busy time for email marketers. The industry has undergone huge changes in recent years, due to the development of technologies such as sophisticated CRM platforms along with an increased focus on the customer journey which has impacted the way marketers plan outreach around holidays. One holiday that has proven it can go the distance, continuing to attract a lot of engagement globally, is Valentine’s Day.

Validity, the leading provider of data quality and email marketing success solutions, sat down with Cliff McGowen, director of marketing operations at Nationwide Insurance, to find out best practices for marketers ahead of the day.

Validity: “When you go on a first date you want to look and behave your very best. In a way, it’s a lot like that when signing up with a new email programme – if you don’t arrive on time, don’t do a good job setting expectations, and if you don’t say thank you, the relationship probably won’t go very far. What key considerations can you share for marketers wanting to make a good impression with potential customers?”

Cliff: “Ultimately, it really comes down to how prepared marketers are. To know their audience, it is essential to understand how diverse they are, and that they will not necessarily feel, act, and have the same capabilities that you do. Being upfront by asking what customers’ preferences are, can help marketers tailor the product and thought leadership content they produce. Preference pages are great for this, they explicitly ask the customers what they want to know from the brand.

“An important aspect which can be overlooked is whether brands are meeting Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (ADA standards). We tend to create a lot of new email templates and onboard new team members, which can result in rushing. It’s worth having an ADA expert on the team or partnering with creative developers, to ensure every template passes requirements.

“Another area to focus on is the consistency of the brand. Marketers could make sure all marketing materials align with what the creative team produces. A common look or approach is key for brand recognition and loyalty – similar to making sure you meet expectations on a first date.

“Monitoring IP health is really important, as this is the proper set up and construct to getting inbox placement. It’s as simple as turning up to the right restaurant, at the right time, with the right person. Again, it is often overlooked, so marketers need to have proper certification and reporting processes in place.”

Validity: “For those that are new to the idea of setting up an email preference centre and have started thinking about it due to the focus around zero party data and Apple’s MPP, do you have any recommendations around getting started?”

Cliff: “There are two key options. Firstly, there is a main preference centre, which is designed for consumers to opt-in and out. This is where brands can record whether a customer does or doesn’t want to be communicated by email.

“If customers choose to opt-in, the second level is another preference centre on a webpage or landing page. Companies can list out campaigns and topics here and ask customers to actively select which topics are of interest. All of this must be captured and recorded in the appropriate place. The main thing to remember, is not to overcomplicate it. Asking for preferences is one thing but asking for customers interests is another because that is what is going to inform communications and your marketing practices.”

Validity: “Speaking of personalisation, where do you come down on using someone’s first name in the subject line – is it a good idea, or possibly a bit intrusive?”

Cliff: “We talk about what level of personalisation is necessary a lot. The most important thing for brands is to think about what message they are looking to personalise and why. Marketers should try to put themselves in the shoes of who they are contacting, and check whether what they are doing will make a difference.

“They should also assess the risks. For example, if they get an individual’s name wrong, what would that cause? So, if they do decide to go ahead, they should work with their CRM, sales team, and database to make sure all data is accurate. Personalisation doesn’t have to include a name; it could just start with the right copy and content. Ultimately, they should always keep their message in mind.”