Using Video and Email: An Interview with Justine Jordan

March 22, 2018

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Jenny Coppola


You send emails, right? Cool, us too. As a marketer, you probably understand how powerful an effective email marketing strategy can be for your business. After all, email provides you with a direct line of communication to your customers and prospects, so doing it the “right” way is key. And when it comes to using video and email together? Well, sometimes that can feel a little daunting.

That’s why we decided to chat with Justine Jordan, the VP of Marketing at Litmus, an email creative platform, to learn all about how her team is using video and email effectively. A little background on Justine — in 2015, she was named “Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year,” and continues to push the envelope (email joke) by helping marketers create, test, and send better email.

Keep reading to learn more about how Justine and the folks at Litmus go about incorporating video into their email campaigns and overall marketing strategy!

WISTIA: How are you using video at Litmus? Do you have any recent initiatives that you’re particularly excited about?

JUSTINE JORDAN: Here at Litmus we use video quite a bit — and in different ways. One of the most recent examples that comes to mind was a video we made for our Email Client Market Share report. For this report, we analyzed 15 billion email opens to see where subscribers read emails, and then we put together an infographic that summarized the findings. We sent an email promoting the infographic, and included a static screenshot of the video in the email. When readers click through, they can watch the video and view the infographic on our blog:

The video gives the viewer a brief overview of what they can expect to learn from the infographic, and then dives into a demo of how to use Litmus products to create your own “email client market share.” While this tactic (linking a static screenshot to a video on another page) is hardly new, we were nervous about how it would go since we typically don’t use video to demo products in our content marketing this way. Well, someone clicked through from that thumbnail, watched the embedded video, and tweeted some of the product messaging from the video!

The video was viewed around 570 times, and viewers watched 64% of the clip on average. That adds up to a total of more than 18 hours of great content along with product promotion. Paired with the tweet above, we were pretty thrilled with those results.

WISTIA: Here at Wistia, we’re obviously big fans of video and email. Do you have any advice for marketers about how they can use video and email together strategically?

JUSTINE JORDAN: I think there is an important distinction between using video with email, and using video in email. One question marketers don’t ask themselves enough is, “Is it appropriate to embed a video your email?” Or in other words, will it actually help you achieve your goal? If all the stars align — you have the right audience, their email client supports video, etc. — and you decide you are going to embed your video in the email itself, the strategic question is, is that going to help you reach your goal?

For example, if your goal is to get people to watch the video, then embedding it an email might make sense, but for us here at Litmus, the video itself is part of a broader campaign. The campaign’s primary goal is usually to drive traffic or get new leads. If that’s the case, I really want people to click through from the email to the landing page and watch the video there (where they can also convert), rather than watching in the email.

WISTIA: For those who haven’t experimented much with video and email, what’s the best way to get started?

JUSTINE JORDAN: Wistia has so much great content about video production that we used here at Litmus in our early days! Start small and don’t be afraid to fail. Making videos can be intimidating — you might think you need to have expensive equipment or super high production value — but perfect is the enemy of good. Marketers tend to get hung up on production value and miss how important the strategy component is. Set a goal, write a good script with a solid message, keep it to less than a minute, and do a table read.

“Marketers tend to get hung up on production value and miss how important the strategy component is.”

Here at Litmus, we try not to look at email campaigns as entities by themselves, which I think is really important for those getting started with video. We like to look at how email and video fit into the broader scope of a campaign.

For example, the go-to-market strategy for a recent product launch included a unique landing page, a video, an email, etc. We looked at the opportunities and goals for each deliverable and how they could support one another. With any of our product launches, we almost always have a video that shows off the product, and the thumbnail from that video is usually featured in one or more emails. When we’re talking about a new product, people tend to want to see how that product actually works!

WISTIA: Whether you’re sending an email or making a video, marketers are all about testing their content. What are some things you’ve A/B tested recently?

JUSTINE JORDAN: We did A/B testing for the video thumbnail image for a product launch. We tested a still shot of the product, versus a still shot of a person in the video talking about the product, and the person performed better! It sounds pretty basic, but it’s such a simple component to test.

You should always be testing something, even if it’s the same thing over and over again just to make sure it’s still working. Right now, we’re doing a subject line test with our latest report. In the past, we’d often be super direct with our language, referencing the name of the report in the subject line. But this time, we’re testing the direct approach against a value-driven subject line ("The 2018 State of Email [free download])" and a thought provoking question ("What do industry changes mean for your email program?").

The key thing with this type of A/B test, is that we aren’t judging the success or failure of the test by open rate alone. The goal of the email isn’t just to get it opened, right? It’s to get someone to actually click through. In this case, we want people to click on the CTA to download the report, so we’ll be measuring subject line success on a down-funnel metric — downloads — rather than on opens.

WISTIA: Do you have any video experiments that you plan on doing this year? In general, is Litmus investing more in video in 2018?

JUSTINE JORDAN: We’re excited to try some new things with video! The Email Client Market Share report that I mentioned earlier is a great example of something we’re trying this year. In the past (we’ve issued a number of these reports) the videos that accompanied them were strictly educational. This time around, we decided to pivot a bit and say, “Here are the industry stats, but be aware that your numbers are probably going to look at little different than these benchmarks, and that’s OK. What really matters is what your stats are saying, and here is a demo of how you use Litmus products to find your own stats.”

So the pivot went from a straight top-of-funnel awareness goal to a middle-to-bottom of the funnel approach with this video, which felt really risky to us. Switching up those objectives always feels scary, but this video was a big win for us.

As far as investing in video goes, we’re continuing to invest in a few different ways. As part of our product, we have integrations with 6 different email service providers. Right now we have one video that talks about our ESP integrations in general, but later this year we’re going to make individual videos about each integration. We’ll pair each video with its own landing page, and those landing pages will tie into our SEO/SEM strategy so people will be able to find those resources when they search for solutions that work well with their tools. We’ll probably start with one or two of these and see how they perform, and then we’ll invest in more from there.

Here’s the video Justine plans on making into seven other ESP-specific videos.

WISTIA: Are there any brands or businesses doing a stellar job with video and email?

JUSTINE JORDAN: Here are a few email campaigns that recently stood out in my inbox:

Timbuk2: I love the way the video thumbnail blends seamlessly into the background of the email creative and becomes part of the story. It’s clearly the focus of the email, but not in an obtrusive way. Unfortunately, the execution falls apart on the landing page, though. After clicking through, you need to scroll a looooong way down the page to find the YouTube embed. Kind of a buzzkill after such a great email. I suspect this might be a disconnect between the campaign vision in the email and web team. It’s a great illustration of how executing a seamless, on-brand campaign is difficult — but critical.

Birchbox: Video is a great way to emotionally connect with your audience, and email is a personal medium in which to deliver that connection. Birchbox does a great job with both here, encouraging email readers to click-through to a landing page where they can watch a video, read a meaningful letter from their CEO, and immerse themselves in the message of the campaign.

Container Store: This is a great example of a simple and effective execution. How-to and explainer videos add value to your customer relationships, build trust, and increase loyalty. This email pairs a video with an infographic-like instructional layout to add value and subtly promote product. It’s one of those campaigns that delivers value to both the reader and the marketer.

Smashing Magazine: I love their subtle use of icons/emoji in the email copy to draw attention to their videos and webinars. Just be aware that emoji render differently in different environments.

WISTIA: Last but not least, do you have any predictions for the future of video and email marketing that you want to share?

JUSTINE JORDAN: I actually have an anti-prediction: everyone always wants to know when we think video will have full support in email, and I think that’s the wrong focus. We need to stop worrying about the support of video inside email — I want video to support email and vice versa, of course — but I think this really ties back into our earlier conversation about strategy.

My prediction is that marketers will finally focus more on strategy, and think about how video can be used within their strategy. If you put a video on your website and no one’s watching it, send an email about it and I can guarantee you’ll get some eyeballs on it. Find another creative way. Remember that the job of email is to drive people back to your site.

What are your thoughts on using video and email together? Have you had any particularly delightful experiences with these two mediums? Share with us in the comments!

March 22, 2018

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Jenny Coppola


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