Big-Time Predictions From E-mail Marketing Heavyweights

Sick of hearing e-mail is dead? Misguided musings on how social will make e-mail irrelevant? Me too.

I asked some of the leading e-mail and digital minds to chime in and tell me where e-mail marketing is headed and what marketers should be paying extra attention to in 2010.

This group of seven is comprised of some serious thinkers, prognosticators, and proven digital leaders from the agency, e-mail service provider, and deliverability side. Heed their advice within multiple facets of e-mail marketing and try to test a few things out in Q1.

Evolution of Best Practices

  • Michael Kogon, CEO, Definition 6

    “More sophisticated use of analytics will help marketers better target email marketing — and develop more unique dynamic messaging that drives deeper engagement. Marketers will get better at the ‘test, retest and refine’ steps in the interactive marketing process, continually looking for new ways to improve performance.”

  • Jeff Hilimire, chief digital officer, Engauge

    “It’s my opinion that email marketing is both the most effective form of marketing and at the same time the least maximized. Because email is inherently effective, marketers get away with poor processes and little innovation and still are able to produce better ROI than their other marketing efforts.”

  • Jeff Rohrs, VP, marketing, ExactTarget

    “Don’t get caught in a rut and hit send while yawning. That is the most dangerous thing for any email marketing program. 2010 is a year to build business cases, take calculated risks and build a targeted messaging program for the next decade.”

Get Social

  • Jordan Cohen, senior director, marketing and public relations, Pivotal Veracity

    “Forums like Facebook and Twitter present a ripe opportunity to capture new email addresses at a pace and magnitude that was impossible before these sites existed. Much is discussed about how email can be used to provoke conversations about your brand in these channels, but not as much energy has been focused on leveraging these sites to build your database. That’s a mistake that will be rectified in 2010.”

  • DJ Waldow, director of community, Blue Sky Factory

    “2009 saw marketers begin to dabble in the ‘new’ world of social media. Facebook pages were set up, Twitter accounts were launched, and even a few brave companies began to not only feature their social presence in emails, some even went as far as to include SWYN (Share With Your Network) features. In 2010, marketers will get more strategic about SWYN — offering incentives to share (contests, exclusive offers, etc).”

  • Jeff Hilimire

    “In 2010, you’ll start seeing marketers pushed to evolve their email practices by consumers growing use of social networks in lieu of email. I see social being a big threat to email but at the same time being the impetus that marketers needed to stop taking email for granted.”

Impact of Mobile’s Growth

  • Mark Brownlow, publisher, Email Marketing Reports

    “Another big challenge of course is the growth of mobile email as smartphone penetration grows. Most people see this as a problem of design: how do you get your email and landing pages to look good on a little screen with idiosyncratic HTML display capabilities?”

  • Jordan Cohen

    “I know we’ve all heard that ‘this is the year of mobile marketing’ for the last 5 years, but I promise — this year really will be the year of mobile marketing, with email playing a central role in the mix. We are starting to see big brands lead the way in developing and implementing new mobile strategies, and in 2010, I anticipate that much of the industry’s attention will be focused on building out mobile email marketing optimization technologies and best practices.”

  • DJ Waldow

    “As smart phones become ubiquitous, marketers will be forced to start thinking of ways to design emails for smaller screens. Additional opportunities will continue to arise with SMS options as well. I see more and more email sign ups happening directly from your mobile device.”

Tone Up

  • Jeff Rohrs

    “Thanks to social media, consumers are increasingly used to a more informal tone from companies — one that makes their interactions feel more human and less DBL (Dictated By Lawyers). So, as email and social continue to cross-pollinate, I expect more companies to inject real personality — if not real people — into their email communications. I’m not one to quote Barbra Streisand often, but all of us are, after all, ‘people who need people.’ 2010 feels like the right time that we, as email marketers, will finally ditch the robot voices in favor of our real ones. As far as I’m concerned, it can’t happen soon enough!”

Relevance Trumps All

  • Jay Baer, founder, Convince & Convert

    “Relevance is now required, not optional. Individualized, behavior-triggered delivery necessitates a huge emphasis on testing & optimization.”

  • Mark Brownlow

    “The challenge is to find where email works best in the mix and to refocus on what you communicate rather than how you send it. Picking the right channels is important, but not as important as making your communication valuable and meaningful to the recipient: the biggest email addict won’t read your emails unless they deserve the attention.

    Email will still be a primary channel for most people, but there will be even more pressure to stand out in the inbox as attention fragments between different channels and media. Again, this means upping the quality of your content or offer.”

Take a deep breath now. What do you think is big that’s not included? Please add your comments and, more importantly, dive right in and make 2010 the best year yet for your e-mail marketing program.

Here is the full transcript of Simms’ interviews with seven e-mail marketing experts.

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