Commit to E-Mail This Year

If we are able to commit to anything within the marketing world these days, it must be the mandate to migrate our marketing and communications programs into the interactive arena. If there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that e-mail messaging will be the primary channel of 2009, methinks you must have the worst of all holiday hangovers. Broad-based media channels — television, radio, direct mail and magazines — are in sharp decline. Each month, I read report after report of record drops in circulation, ad page declines, and the eventual collapse of business models with their commensurate layoffs. So many in our industry have been living in the fog of denial for so long. So many mistakes. So many opportunities missed. So many folks out of jobs.

Being committed to changing your strategy isn’t something to take lightly. It takes a lot of hard work. Is there anyone left in the Western world willing to do the work involved? We’re a couch-potato culture, and Google is our nirvana. We’re a lazy culture, and getting lazier all the time. Want validation of this? Read “Outliers,” the new Malcolm Gladwell book.

If you’re a little more than ticked off at the above, I’m grateful. Hopefully, something has stimulated you to do what you know you must do to transform your business and survive in the new world.

Starting today, look at every aspect of your business and the way you communicate with your customers, and pretend there’s no print, no television, no magazines. Plan for the day when all communications between you and your customers happens via e-mail and the Internet. We must use the e-mail channel as the pivot point for all communications in 2009, or we’ll be stuck in the Analog Stone Age.

December gave us an incredible amount and variety of e-mail delivered by brands. Never before have I seen less innovative direct mail and more aggressive e-mail. Marketers who know the power of e-mail were flexing their muscles. I have no doubt that when the coins get counted for the holiday season, those who leveraged e-mail and the Internet the best will be the winners.

If you don’t have the right people conducting your communications audit, fire them. Lots of folks on the street right now are knowledgeable, fearless, and hungry to demonstrate that they can help your business make this transition. Hire hungry, passionate folks who know how to leverage the power of e-mail.

Stop complaining about the costs of using a third-party e-mail provider. All those finance folks who have been beating you up, negotiating bargain rates for such essential services, need to find other work. E-mail is an incredibly powerful tool. Knowledgeable, experienced folks cost money. And it’s money well spent. Would you really go to the cheapest doctor to take care of your health? Find companies who understand e-mail as part of an integrated communications strategy. To be successful today, e-mail must work in concert with the entire interactive strategy.

Start leveraging all those great data you’ve been storing in those multiterabyte profile databases to build more relevant communications with customers. Today’s consumer is over the one-size-fits-all e-mail message. You have the information, you have their e-mail addresses, you have the ability to build dynamic messaging. Now you just have to do the work.

Finally, if you work with a media company or advertising agency that doesn’t provide you performance metrics for all your media spending from an ROI (define) standpoint, leave them. In our world, there’s no wiggle room for big financial mistakes. You must be committed to measuring every aspect of your marketing communications strategy. There’s no time to waste on sending vanilla e-mail messages. While the vulgar definition of spam has thankfully been dealt with in large part, what remains is the spam of irrelevance. Make sure you watch those open and click rates; they are your leading indicators of whether what you’re doing actually works. If it doesn’t, change it — quickly.

This year promises to be one of the most economically challenging of the last decade. No doubt, we’ll see a record number of layoffs and company closures. Many of our friends, family members, and colleagues will be out of work. As Scrooge so eloquently pleaded with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, “Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!” For those of you who are still in denial, there’s still time to change your future. Just not a lot of it.

Al D.

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