Ten years on, and most e-mail marketing programs still suck. Here’s why.
You’ve been reading about it for at least 10 years. It goes by many names: customer marketing, relationship marketing, one-to-one marketing. Place the customer in the center, and focus your marketing programs on delivering what the customer wants, when the customer wants it. It all makes sense. It’s how most of us like to be treated when we give a company our business. And when done right, it can affect loyalty and increase share of wallet.
In August, the American Marketing Association (AMA) announced that it, too, recognizes the importance of customer marketing. It updated its definition of marketing with a new emphasis on managing customer relationships. The Peppers & Rogers one-to-one email newsletter didn’t miss the opportunity to congratulate AMA on joining the 21st century (my words) with the first change to its definition of marketing "in almost 20 years."
I suspect marketing won’t change one bit as a result of AMA updating its definition. Customer marketing not gaining wide adoption is an issue of organizational structure, strategic commitment, and incentives, not a lack of definitions, awareness, or case studies demonstrating why it makes financial sense.
Four years ago, I wrote a book called "The Engaged Customer: The New Rules of Internet Direct Marketing." It’s about how to build lasting customer relationships using personal, targeted, relevant email driven by customer wants and needs. The book did well. Readers seemed to like it, yet most email marketing programs still leave a lot to be desired.
How can that be? It seems so obvious and easy to do it right with email compared to the "old" offline media. It’s much easier to personalize and deliver timely email messages than traditional print communications. The cost of communicating offline usually dwarfs online equivalents. Yet most email marketing programs still suck.
Having had a chance to work with companies large and small to develop customer-focused email communications and marketing programs, I’ve developed some theories why:
Building lasting customer relationships reaps enormous economic benefits. And it’s not easy. Doing it well and reaping those benefits requires a long-term strategic commitment. If you rely on young, smart, ambitious leaders in your organization to light and carry the customer marketing torch, your program will be a blip, then probably fail. Only with strong and lasting commitment from the top and a corporate-wide culture that puts the customer in the center can the customer marketing vision begin to approach reality.
Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.
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Hans Peter BrØndmo has spent his career at the intersection of technological innovation and consumer empowerment. He is a successful serial entrepreneur and a recognized thought leader. His latest company, Plum, is a consumer service with big plans to make the Web easier to use. In 1996, he founded pioneering e-mail marketing company Post Communications. His recent book, "The Engaged Customer," is a national bestseller and widely recognized as the bible of e-mail relationship marketing. As a sought-after keynote speaker, he has addressed more than 50 conferences in the past three years, is often featured in national media, and has been invited to testify at two U.S. Senate hearings and an FCC hearing on Internet privacy and spam. Hans Peter is on the board of the online privacy certification and seal program of TRUSTe and several companies. He performed his undergraduate and graduate studies at MIT.
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