I recently spoke at ExactTarget's Connections conference in Indianapolis and it was quite the event. Over 3,000 digital marketing professionals painted the town (orange), networked, strategized, and talked shop. By talked shop, I mean ate, drank, and saw Katy Perry.
Conferences like this are a great gauge for what real email marketing practitioners are concerned about and focused on. My takeaways from conferences like this often provide me what I interpret to be as the pulse of email marketing. Without further ado, my six reflections from a busy few days in Indianapolis:
The marketers running the day-to-day email programs have a very different view than their bosses. Their bosses (and, of course, this goes well beyond email marketing) are focused on the future of the channel, integration, and the broader view of how email fits in the marketing landscape and their own company/career.
The email marketing managers have a hard time seeing (or being exposed to) anything outside of the campaign juggernaut that takes up all of their time. They are generally frustrated and more than anything need further support, whether it is in resources, partners, or budget. They also know they likely won't get it. This is why I truly believe most email marketing managers live on a digital marketing island. For more of their plight, read my previous column.
Email, as a channel, is evolving from a static push to a more dynamic messaging platform. Of course, it has taken over a decade but over the years I have noticed email pros staying away from more hard-hitting and advanced email topics like segmentation and deliverability. At Connections, the content was diverse and deep but attendees didn't just hit the front-end beginner sessions. Through my conservations with dozens of folks there, many marketers yearn for more. More innovation, more organizational support, more strategic focus, yet…
Email, for many companies, is still a blocking and tackling marketing medium. While new bells and whistles have arrived on the email scene, email is carried on the shoulders of Sisyphus with its never-ending need (and success) of the next campaign. This, along with the relative ease of generating ROI from even a marginal program, ultimately prevents the majority of email programs from taking the leap and becoming an overachieving marketing channel rather than its current state of underachieving. Humbly, email gets the message to the people and often not a whole lot more.
Mobile was treated as more than a topic to "keep an eye on." You could tell email marketers needed help in determining what and how exactly they needed to adapt for mobile. As consumers become more tied to their smartphones and smartphones become even more sophisticated, paying attention to mobile trends, challenges, and innovations becomes increasingly important as does ensuring your emails render appropriately on your subscribers' mobile devices. Most companies are still flat-footed in terms of mobile acquisition and creative as they relate to their email program. A major opportunity for all.
Social media in general seems to be the hot topic at several events these days, but many of you may be surprised at how front and center it was at an "email conference." First, it should be noted that ExactTarget certainly is becoming more of a holistic digital messaging platform provider, and secondly, that most attendees consider themselves digital marketers in general and not necessarily tied to one channel. Much talk at the conference from presenters and attendees alike confirmed the "give" aspect of the email-social relationship that we see time and time again, but the idea that social can also give to email was brought to greater light.
Digital marketers that are on the cutting edge of digital messaging are realizing more and more that leveraging bonds they form with their fans and followers on social channels can be turned into a deeper relationship by prompting them to subscribe to the brand's email channel, something discussed in detail at Connections and covered in my company's new white paper, "Email Acquisition 2.0."
Twitter is awesome for absentee conference learnings but doesn't replace the in-person experience and what some consider networking, other consider meeting new friends. At Connections, email marketers let their guards down and had fun while ensuring they came away with meaty learnings to report back home. It doesn't hurt that the people in the email marketing industry are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Do yourself a favor and seek your industry peers out when you can. There is a lot more behind the Twitter handle almost without exception. If you are interested, check out the hashtag #ET11 for tweets and insight from the conference as broadcasted on Twitter.
Did you attend? What was your takeaway? Missed it but think you know the pulse of email marketing? Please chime in.
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Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.
Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.
Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.
He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.
Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of EmailStatCenter.com and SocialStatCenter.com, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.
Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.