Connecting in an Expanded Messaging Marketplace

As this hits the press, ExactTarget’s wildly popular conference Connections will be on its second day. This event is billed as the largest digital marketing conference and expects over 4,000 attendees in Indianapolis, plus Michael J. Fox, David Blaine, and The Fray.

For me, it’s a great barometer of not just where email and digital messaging are in the industry but where they are going and want to be. I know I’m not alone as many brand-side marketers attend despite not having any relationship with the publicly traded email and messaging platform provider. It also doesn’t hurt that the reputation for this event is as strong as one can be for a digital marketing conference, especially when you notice the location isn’t sunny South Beach or Southern California but the Midwest in October.

This year I expect some big themes that reemphasize the continual need (for revenue, public relations, and strategic needs) for companies like ExactTarget to move beyond the inbox. So what’s in store at Connections? Here’s my take:

Bridging the cross-channel gap. I believe this to be a bigger issue and not just one CMOs say they want and need in forward-thinking meetings. Email programs need to be better connected to other channels and vice versa. Too often strategies are not in the same ballpark for complementary channels (think social and email), yet they work best when synchronized.

I’ll be speaking on cross-channel acquisition strategies and tactics with fellow ClickZ columnist David Daniels, and to me there has never been a better time for customer and subscriber growth opportunities – you just need to figure out what to leverage, how, and why.

Making sense of mobile. Yes, the past three to four years have seemingly been the “year of mobile,” but it’s time for digital marketers to actually figure out what mobile means for them. For some it’s apps and mobile ads, for others it’s SMS and emails on smartphones. Well, it’s all of the above in my book, but I know marketers at Connections will be seeking to find out how mobile fits into their digital messaging efforts.

For many, I hope this is the push they need to build and deliver emails ready for tablets and smartphones and offer consumers choices on how and what type of messages they receive. Regardless, mobile will be on everyone’s mind as consumers expect a superior mobilized experience and many marketers are stuck in 2005 in developing strategies, campaigns, and experiences for their customers and prospects.

The future of email is headed where? This orange-flavored event is often one of the most influential to a considerable percentage of attendees and many want to come away with a vision of where the industry is headed as well as their careers.

Well, ExactTarget does a good job of guiding many minds. In fact, it did so last week with the announcement of two acquisitions. Integrating two different types of businesses into an expanding suite of digital tools is what many vendors seem to think marketers want. ExactTarget splashed into this space years ago with the purchase of CoTweet, an important strategic move in telling the world (especially Wall Street), “We don’t just do email.” So getting ahead of the curve can be as important to being there when many potential trends become reality, and ExactTarget has made some big bets on this and likely will be aggressively touting this all week.

I will try to match up big takeaways with this piece in my next column. For now, I recommend following the tweets and paying attention to not just the content and speakers at this influential event but what seems to be making an impact to the attendees as they will likely be the ones moving the needle in years ahead.

Connections image on home page via Shutterstock.

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