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A lot of cool stuff is happening with email today.

As an email marketer doing your job day in and day out, you probably wonder, “When do I get to put all this bright and shiny stuff in my emails?”

I get your frustration. Until just a few years ago, people saw email as flat and boring. No wonder it got pushed aside for shinier toys like social media and SMS.

Today you can credit companies like PowerInbox, Movable Ink and Liveclicker’s RealTime Email for developing tools that make email sexy again.

Real-time tools like countdown timers, geo-location and self-updating content make email messages as in-the-moment and as 1:1 as you can get. That’s more than seriously cool. These and other developments help make email richer – and thus more interesting, meaningful, useful and valuable to customers – than ever before.

Animation is better today thanks to changes to cascading style sheets – CSS in designer-speak. On another front, email optimization agency Litmus partnered recently with Microsoft, which could change how B2B businesses work with email.

The ‘occasional use’ strategy. Choose and use wisely

This richness has given marketers some pretty cool tools to jazz up their emails, give them depth and greater functionality and help them stand out from the competition.

But these new functionalities also come with a warning label – “for occasional use only.”

All of these take time to create, test, launch, evaluate, and that can get expensive. Overusing them reduces the “wow” factor, leading customers to expect it all the time.

Four bright and shiny ‘occasional use’ strategies

You also need strategies that guide their use, laying out when and where to use them and with which audience. Hence the name: “occasional use” strategies.

Here are four new and cool things to think about for your email program, along with some advice on how to use them successfully:

1. Video

I’ve been a big proponent of video in email, going back to my days with a major national retailer. It can add new depth and is incredibly powerful when used appropriately.

Overuse kills the punch, though. Image-only emails look boring by comparison. Video can be expensive to create. Testing and deployment can rack up extra production time. Plus, some ISPs restrict video use in email, and not all email environments render it the way you want.

Your video strategy should detail the occasions where potentially higher revenue will outweigh the costs.


2. Real-time content

Cost dictates the times when you can use this tool. You also have to consider which domains render real-time content well and which will show only static content.

As with video, overuse kills the punch. You don’t need a countdown timer in every email. Use a control group to figure out whether it pays its way with a decent ROI or higher engagement.

3. Resend strategy

This is a great Black Friday strategy. Suppress subscribers who didn’t open and click on a specific message and send it again six, 12 or 24 hours later.

Why? Because people are distracted during the holidays. They were hunting down bargains when you sent your email at 3 a.m., and now the message is buried with hundreds of other Black Friday messages. Or they deleted it by mistake while they were standing in line at the checkout. Things happen.

Resending can give customers a second chance to engage. It’s for occasional use only though because overuse makes it annoying. Save it for your best customers or your best promotions.

4. Animation

So fun! So cool! So easy to overdo!

Like video, animation in email grabs attention. But it gets old fast and has a high tackiness potential. Some animations take me back to the early days of AOL and web 1.0 pages loaded with flashing Christmas lights and cursor trailers. “My eyes, my eyes!!”

Caveat: Keep your eye on the bottom line

With the holidays coming up, the bar gets raised pretty high on email ingenuity and innovation. It’s going to be a contest to see who can be the flashiest in email. Beyond the holidays, you all need to think of other times when you would use these strategies to their best advantages.

Remember that drawing attention doesn’t increase revenue. A cool tool won’t save a sinking program. You have to track results closely to make sure you’re not just covering your added costs but also making enough revenue to justify the extra time.

Used within a coherent strategy, occasional use of these powerful cool tools could be the kickers that get your emails extra attention and action.

This article was originally published on ClickZ.