It All Began With a Little Cheesecake

If an era can encompass just under two years, then an era is ending today. At least that’s what it feels like to me. That’s how long I’ve been writing this weekly Email Marketing column for ClickZ, believe it or not, although it feels like so much longer. And I mean that in a good way.

In the last few years, we’ve seen a ton of changes within this space. Remember that first promotional email you ever received? Granted, it was probably more than two years ago. More likely than not, it was served in plain-text with just one lonely link at the end. Not to mention that the link was probably a simple URL with nary a keycode, question mark, or any other type of tracking element.

No tracking of results? Boy, now that was a long time ago…

It was roughly three years ago that HTML-enhanced emails entered the scene. Companies such as Lands’ End paved the way for other catalogers and e-tailers to take advantage of and market through this hot new medium. Nowadays, of course, I can’t even open up my inbox without seeing dozens of full-color and graphics-rich e-messages from online and offline marketers all over the globe.

Not too terribly long after HTML became a must-have, a plethora of rich-media players emerged within the industry. For the right companies with the right target audience, a streaming video- and audio-enhanced email was all the rage. Not that it doesn’t have its time and place now, it’s just that size and cost restrictions have made rich media an enhancement that is decidedly not for everyone. That, no doubt, will change.

We’ve seen some of the major players — including some of the rich-media and deployment-technology companies — within the email industry struggle in the last few months. Some have been sold to other, much larger entities. Others seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth. (No need to mention any names here. You know of whom I speak.)

Despite all of the transformations, things today are still changing at a breakneck pace. The success of wireless messaging in Japan bodes well for the future of wireless email marketing in general. And companies such as Mobular Technologies are bringing new and wondrous riches to the email landscape. Mobular’s proprietary compression and decompression technologies allow it to push huge files — including full Web-site content, catalogs, PDF files, technical manuals, and so on — into fully searchable, grand-scale communications quickly and completely streamed in through email. Good stuff.

I started out this column, an eon ago, writing (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) about a hypothetical cheesecake company’s email marketing tactics. That early article evolved into others that pretty much encapsulated the strategies and creative tactics gleaned from lessons learned right here in the trenches. Other articles allowed me to vent my opinions — mainly on the whole opt-in/opt-out issue. (And for those of you who don’t know where I stand there, after all this time, shame on you. Or maybe shame on me for not being more forthright on this issue!)

At any rate, between the ups and downs in the industry, which often seem to mirror the same highs and lows we see within our own campaigns, it hasn’t always been an easy road. But since when is learning and growing and evolving — especially in a constantly changing environment — supposed to be easy? The path of least resistance often doesn’t get you anywhere.

By the way, if you liked all of that practical, real-world advice I’ve been doling out for the last couple of years, I will be continuing it, but only on a monthly basis, and only in print. I’ll be writing a monthly tactical column (still based on the same key learnings I’m immersed in daily) for print-trade iMarketing News. Check it out.

Fare thee well, loyal readers. Let’s keep this venue going strong until… well, at least until the 22nd century!

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