E-mail: Still Learning

  |  October 18, 2007   |  Comments

Four challenges the nascent e-mail marketing industry must address before it can live up to its promise.

It's been over a year since I was fortunate enough to hold a senior leadership position within the e-mail communications marketplace. With news several weeks ago of my joining Zustek as CEO, I'm thrilled to be back in the game, heading up an exciting and fast-growing organization.

Twelve months away from something you love is quite challenging. For me, it marked a time of great learning and reflection, personally and professionally. I missed a lot of things over the last year, mostly the people and interaction with marketers. This included listening to their challenges and helping to leverage technology and services to achieve their goals.

As I reengage in the business, I’m as passionate as ever about e-mail communications. We're still in the nascent stages of learning how to fully leverage its formidable power.

E-mail is the interactive channel's universal language. What other medium allows marketers to speak with so many customers and prospects on such a personal, one-to-one basis? That's why it remains the dominant channel among interactive marketers today. While a marketing mainstay, e-mail remains one of a myriad of interactive channels that marketers -- and consumers -- use today.

Challenge of Integration

Marketers must integrate e-mail and other online initiatives across other digital channels to effectively communicate a brand, engage customers meaningfully, leverage customer data and knowledge to drive even more relevant exchanges, and, above all, drive sales, growth, and revenue.

Today's consumer moves in and out of the interactive medium without a second thought. As such, marketers must ensure communications are seamless and consistent at every touch point. Consumers have come to expect this. As they increasingly receive concurrent multiple marketing messages across multiple media, they demand relevancy and consistency across all channels. Period.

Bear in mind the quantity of data at our disposal, whether it's customer-driven or through analytical observation. There's no excuse for dialogue with customers to be disjointed and irrelevant, particularly if we aim to provide superior service.

As I begin my career's next chapter, my ultimate goal is to improve how e-mail and multiple channels are leveraged to engage consumers in more meaningful ways. We clearly still have much to learn in this area. Integration's potential is enormous and will only increase as we improve our efforts.

Other areas that we, as an industry, have much to learn include:

Reaching the Destination

In the hand off between e-mail messaging and interactive destinations, all too often there's a disconnect between an e-mail message's intent and the routing to a place when the need can be fulfilled. This shortcoming, I contend, most likely occurs when demand creation and Web development teams are separate and distinct from one another. Gotta tell you: If e-mail professionals don't meeting with Web developers to understand the relationship between e-mail routing and a Web site's navigation, that's a major blind spot that needs fixing.

Buying Transactions vs. Developing Lifetime Customers

Google continues to dominate the landscape with its ability to drive marketers' acquisition efforts. I'm amazed there seems to be no further recognition and/or progress in understanding the role e-mail plays in converting a search visitor into a buyer, then into a recurring customer. We seem to continue to spend millions of dollars at one end of the transactional channel without determining whether we're buying transactions or acquiring long-term customers. I contend we're acquiring transactions, but we create customers through continued e-mail dialogue. Again, there's much to learn here, and so much more value will be created when e-mail and search are leveraged. An unprecedented amount of data about the words that hook potential customers can build an effective ongoing communications strategies.

Getting Smart about ROI

Then there's the entire topic of return on investment (ROI). No column generated as much response as the one that contends the industry must spend much more time with ROI (define), the only truly metric. Marketers must continually ask themselves: is my strategy working? What's the ROI from this current e-mail effort/strategy? Are we moving the needle in a positive way? Are my competitors taking away incremental sales?

With the help of others in the industry who share my passion for the topic, we created ADROIT, a digital ROI team, to help marketers in this area. Thus far, we've sifted through the over 100 responses, virtually all of which vigorously support a more intense focus on ROI metrics that are achievable through properly executed e-mail efforts.

Happy to report, we've launched an effort to collect data from interested marketers and are in the process of aggregating this data in a format that encourages sharing case studies and insight. If you'd like to learn more about what we are doing with this effort, please don't hesitate to drop me a line and we will get you on our list.

Suffice to say, there's still much we have to learn. It's refreshing to have heard from so many of you over the past year. I'm more hopeful than ever about our collective commitment to learn more and perfect our use of e-mail and other interactive tools. I missed the connection and am very glad to be back.

Until next time...

Al D.

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Al DiGuido

Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.

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