Bye-Bye E-Mail?

For years, skeptics have proclaimed that e-mail is dying or dead. And for years, ROI (define) has proven otherwise.

But today, e-mail may be entering an era where it faces its greatest challenges. Will this be the end for e-mail?

Two factors are dramatically changing the e-mail landscape: the recession and social media. Independently, these elements of change wouldn’t cause a shake up to the e-mail industry. Together, however, they can have quite an impact.

The Recession

Many e-mail evangelists are worried about the recession’s impact on e-mail, because e-mail use will increase significantly, perhaps even be overused. What many people don’t realize, though, is the recession creates a totally different type of e-mail problem: list attrition.

People who are suddenly let go from their jobs, as hundreds of thousands of people have been, typically don’t have access to change the e-mail address on your opt-in messages. During the dot-com bust, many B2B (define) businesses felt this impact firsthand, as response rates plunged simply because of the attrition and movement in the workforce. Sure, many may have personally signed up for LinkedIn, Plaxo, or the like to keep in touch with friends, but it won’t keep them in touch with your marketing messages.

Smart marketers are aware of this and will seriously invest in strategies to identify new e-mail addresses and remain flexible with the market. Could this be the time to introduce a secondary e-mail address request line on your opt-in form?

Social Media

Just because lots of people tweet, update statuses, and write on walls, doesn’t mean they won’t use e-mail anymore. When Post-it notes came out, people didn’t stop writing letters.

However, the entire way we use e-mail is at risk. We risk e-mail taking a back seat to other forms of communication for conversation and relationship building. E-mail may potentially become what many Generation Yers have called it all along: the formal mode of communication.

The days of standalone e-mails, with no integration or support for other channels, are over. Mobile e-mail, social e-mail, and integrated e-mail rule.

Whenever I speak, I always tell the e-mail teams to become fast friends with the media buyers and planners. After you finish reading this column, you should walk over to their desks with doughnuts or cookies.

If you’re an e-mail fan, an expert in e-mail, or simply a supporter, this column should energize you. You can’t do anything in media these days without providing an e-mail opt-in.

E-mail is the backbone. Firmly planted and will never die. We have the opportunity to manage these challenges in a way that will maximize our outreach and force us to innovate.

That said, it’s also a time of great change. You need to be more aware than ever of the negative impacts our societal efforts could have on response rates. Be ready to counteract those.

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