The fruits of our e-mail marketing - and the team that manages the program - are great assets of a marketing department trying to move toward integrated marketing. Unfortunately, they are often underappreciated.
Think about it. The talents, experience, customer insights, and knowledge of the database structure - all required to do effective e-mail marketing - make the e-mail marketing director a hero in the marketing department. Revenue is high, costs are low, and decisions are data-driven. The e-mail program is also a great testing ground - we can quickly learn about the efficacy of offers and preferences and use that insight to improve other digital and offline campaigns.
Yet, the commoditization of e-mail makes it hard for the e-mail director (or their service provider) to play a key role in the marketing department. Every e-mail marketing director worth her salt is constantly running new kinds of trending reports and doing analysis in order to gain a seat at the table and add more value. Typically, everyone always agrees that doing more strategic and targeted e-mail and social marketing would be better for subscribers and improve results. But when the numbers are down or when the workload gets heavy (and frankly, when are we not under such pressures?), the requests fly in to "just send another e-mail broadcast message - today, please!"
E-mail vendors recognize this quandary as much as the e-mail marketing mavens inside marketing departments. They encourage the use of advanced technology and offer fancy new services around social marketing in attempts to gain a stronger footprint. Some help the beleaguered e-mail marketing director with data analysis and streamlined process support in order to improve efficiency and run more tests to prove the value of a more customized approach.
This is why you see many e-mail service providers talking about "marketing automation" and why all the marketing automation vendors provide e-mail marketing services. The marketplace need is moving toward integrated marketing in a big way.
I'm encouraged to see that most marketers do not resist the revolution, but in fact embrace it. They demand that vendors step up and provide tools and services that help manage and analyze data in meaningful ways. Gathering data, or running reports on data, is not the same as insight. So both vendors and marketers need to improve their skills at honing into the key business drivers that reside in digital marketing results data.
The e-mail marketing director is in a good place for seizing the opportunity. That is why e-mail is often used as a starting point for drawing (perhaps dragging?) a marketing organization into an eCRM approach. An eCRM approach means the organization systematically and repeatedly uses customer data to improve customer relationships, drive conversations, and guide customers through the life stages. Notice that I didn't say "drive" the customer through life stages. The era of marketing campaign driving behavior is over. Today, the customer is in control, and the data across channels is used to guide customers from one choice to another. Way back when, it was David Packard who said that marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department. Today, that same sentiment means that marketing organizations must partner with employees from every department - including the C-suite - as well as customers themselves, to create opportunities for engagement.
As your organization moves toward a CRM-driven approach, utilize the value of your e-mail marketing talent and data to get you started. E-mail is not just a high ROI channel, it's one of the strongest digital channels for collecting and utilizing customer data.
How are you and your team embracing the need for a data-driven marketing approach? Please tell us in the comments below.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.
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