2005 was a stellar year for email marketing. As the year progressed, it became clear that organizations were leveraging this channel to deliver relevant, timely messages that provided measurable value to their customers and measurable ROI (define) to themselves. Batch-and-blast is a thing of the past -- and that's where it belongs. 2005 proved to be the year email marketing became further established as a truly viable channel that must be integrated into the overall marketing mix. 2006 is poised to further this execution and raise the bar even higher.
My top 10 predictions for '06:
E-mail acquisition efforts will expand. Permission-based email collection and list growth will continue to become more important and a key strategic imperative as leading brands embed email into the marketing mix due to its efficiency and effectiveness. Key customer touch points, such as individual salespeople, will be trained to include email collection as part of their sales and communication process.
Focus on the customer will increase.
Relevancy rules. Relevancy will become a top priority as marketers increasingly leverage data and customer knowledge to build ongoing profitable relationships with their customers.
Messaging optimization takes center stage. As spam continues to diminish, marketers will increasingly focus on creating and optimizing their messaging to key customers and prospects by developing more targeted, contextually relevant messaging.
COM replaces CRM. The road to CRM (define) requires ongoing customer optimization management (COM). Marketers will leverage campaign-by-campaign teachings to optimize their customer relationships with every message over time.
It's all about data, analytics, and integration.
The analytics avalanche. More marketers will turn to more advanced, multichannel analytics and tracking techniques to further leverage customer knowledge to better segment, predict, and measure email and integrated marketing programs.
The data debacle. Organizations will continue to make strides in creating data marts that provide marketers a 360-degree view of the customer and their relationship.
Integration insanity. Organizations will review how they go to market and communicate with customers across multiple channels. Marketing departments will continue to be realigned to better support the new marketing integration initiative to foster better cooperation and coordination.
Inbound will become the new outbound. Marketers will look to refine, address, and deliver more relevant content based on inbound customer inquires and business rules to further improve the customer relationship and messaging consistency across channels.
Loyalty will emerge as a key interactive initiative. The ease of one-click comparison shopping and growing e-commerce opportunity will have leading e-commerce brands thinking more about how they can create additional value and loyalty to protect their key online customer segments.
Enterprise deliverability will be the new challenge. The rise of reputation-based anti-spam appliances such as CipherTrust, Symantec, and Postini and their growing market penetration will require business-to-business (B2B) marketers to get smarter about deliverability into the enterprise. Rather than subjecting all email to the same level of content filtering regardless of source, these solutions will look at an IP address's past sending behavior to determine how much filtering, if any, email emanating from it should be subjected to before entering a corporation's network
Marketers who've implemented the necessary best practices and technological changes will be considered "verified legitimate senders" by these solutions, thereby reducing the amount of filtering their email is subjected to and improving their B2B inbox delivery rates. In a highly competitive and fragmented marketplace, it wouldn't be surprising if these providers rush to make further enhancements to improve and distinguish their offerings in 2006, including incorporating authentication solutions, reputation-scoring at the domain level, and including browser-based "Report Spam" buttons.
Communication between marketers and ISPs will continue to improve. Especially promising are efforts through organizations such as Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) to develop and promote a new standard for feedback loops, called the Abuse Reporting Format (ARF). Existing feedback loops established by early adopters such as AOL and Juno/NetZero have been positive for marketers, consumers, and ISPs alike. Having a single standard for reporting feedback could open the door to more ISPs adopting these solutions and, therefore, enhanced communication and processing of unwanted email with marketers.
E-mail initiatives will go local and global. Local email marketing initiatives will expand under the careful eye of corporate marketing departments. Local sales reps, divisions, and branches will be empowered to customize and leverage corporate marketing efforts, while compliance and approval functionality remains at headquarters to assure continued CAN-SPAM compliance and messaging consistency. E-mail marketing will also expand internationally, with the U.K. and Germany leading the way. Forrester predicts Europe's email services market will more than double in the next five years.
A multichannel world needs a multichannel sales force. Organizations will need to overhaul their sales organizations and conduct massive retraining and recruiting efforts to create teams that can sell to the new multichannel email audience base. Selling the Internet, email newsletters, sponsorships -- like print ad selling in the publishing industry -- will go the way of the dinosaur. In the new world, there must be a relationship between dollars spent and trackable ROI. Sales teams must educate their customers on this new, powerful connection between content and audience irrespective of the channel selected.
Slow adopters better hurry up. Amazingly, there are still some nonbelievers out there, such as the publishing industry. Unless publishers adopt the Internet as the new publishing paradigm and understand the power of building readership and circulation across the off- and online media platforms, they will continue to have lagging sales, revenues, and profits and more layoffs. Publishers will realize that continuing to pump up sagging print circulation figures through all kinds of measures in light of the audience shift to the Internet is a fool's errand. The nonbelievers must start to believe.
Will all of my predictions come true? Doubtful. If I had that talent, I would have already picked the winning numbers in a mega lottery. I am sure, however, this will be an exciting year in our industry. Let's meet up in January 2007 and tally my score.
Happy New Year.
Until next time,
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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.