Sex with Data? An Email Marketer’s Tale

kissIf you came to this story for the headline you may be disappointed. Especially since it is about email marketer’s focus on emerging trends (or lack thereof). So this isn’t about email marketers gone wild you may ask? Nah, maybe next year.

I had the great privilege and honor to be one of the keynote speakers at the Blue Hornet Lifecycle Messaging Conference (check out the tweet highlights) here in sunny San Diego last week.

While I talked about the relatively boring trends and future of The New Inbox and how to deal with email’s massive changes thanks to mobile, Mitch Joel closed his talk with many areas to focus on in the future–including “sex with data.” Of course, he was encouraging marketers to use this data, big and small. Use it in a passionate and transforming way. Or something like that.

As I spoke with attendees, one thing was evident: email marketers prefer clarity on the little things. Now, they all love the possibilities of a well-integrated and executed campaign, but they sweat the details.

Some may dream about a well-crafted mobile email or escaping deliverability issues, but most email marketers want to talk about the following – now more than ever:

  • How do I measure my campaigns in the most effective way? Some even seem to be on board with me to only speak in business terms with the C-suite and leave the open and click talk in the break room. 
  • What do I do to adapt to the rising tide of mobile usage? The biggest game changer in digital history seems to have frozen many email marketers in fear (or is it confusion?). I talked to many email marketers who are standing pat, despite knowing their emails look bad on mobile. The atomic reminders from Blue Hornet and Forrester: 88 percent of consumers will delete or unsubscribe your email if a mobile email doesn’t look good and 75 percent will have a slight or strongly negative perception of your brand if the email looks bad. That’s a wake-up call if I have ever seen one.
  • The mechanics of every campaign are on the forefront of every thought. While big picture strategy is nice and appreciated, email practitioners would much rather gets tips on pre-headers and subject lines.
  • A new ISP subscriber feature like Gmail Tabs will always get the email marketers’ attention, far more than any bells and whistles an email service provider may offer. In fact, Gmail Tabs may be causing more heartburn than anything since RSS almost killed email (I am joking; however, this guy wasn’t).
  • Frequency is and always will be one of the top 5 email conversation starters.

Most email marketers seem to be seeking the magic bullet. They want to be told how often they should send to their subscriber base, rather than test optimal rates and experiment on both sides of the meter.

Now back to the sex with data part. See what email marketers really care about, above? You don’t see much about the cloud, big data (in either a sexual and non-sexual way), or really much of anything that doesn’t impact their day to day email marketing routine.

This isn’t to knock email marketers or make them seem short-sighted or narrow minded. I love email marketers more than anyone (if you don’t believe me, read In Appreciation of Email Rock Stars).

I just want to address the reality of the situation. As I said in my talk, email marketers that suck still make their company money. The good email marketers of the world want to do better and make their company a ton of money.

Let’s get back to addressing their real needs. Let’s avoid skipping over the harsh and consistently present challenges of the email industry in favor of sexy analogies, shall we?

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