The Power of Now in E-Mail Marketing

With all the merger and acquisition activity in the email marketplace lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors. Many industry experts have asked me if we’re seeing the death of standalone email service providers (ESPs). Others question whether email has peaked. Have spam, fraud, and message bombardment permanently stunted this once-unstoppable medium’s growth?

The short answer is no. But one thing’s certain, at least for marketers: the rules have indeed changed.

Not since the invention of the printing press have we seen such a profound effect on communications. The adoption of email communications changed the marketing landscape forever. With email, marketers and customers can conduct meaningful dialogues concerning matters important to both.

For as long as I can remember, marketing and media success was based on educated guesses derived from third-party research and focus groups. The hope was data would provide insight into the appropriate messaging and timing to yield the best return on the customer connection.

If anything’s in trouble, it’s marketing’s all-too-common broadcasting philosophy. The “one size fits all” mentality has gone the way of the VCR. Today’s consumer has little or no time to deal with irrelevance of any kind, be it in TV, radio, print, or elsewhere.

Early-stage Internet marketers utilized email in a manner similar to other broadcast channels. Back then, email’s inexpensive nature, a limited number of offerings, performance, and early adopter enthusiasm fooled many into believing the Internet was like all other broadcast channels. Was this the ultimate media tool? A cheap alternative to TV and radio? Not exactly.

E-mail continues to rapidly evolve and grow, as does the way consumers interact with various media. Yet leading direct marketers overlook the true power of the Internet and relevant, permission-based email across acquisition and retention strategies. Consumers now understand their relationships with marketers can and should be more meaningful; they demand it, in fact. Few are patient enough to endure a lack of contextual relevance in spam. Once relegated to the bogus Viagra sellers and pornographers, spam now finds its home with marketers whose communications strategies pay homage to the past.

ESPs must also listen to their customers, who are marketers. They demand easy-to-use technologies to help them facilitate integrated, contextually relevant, seamless dialogues throughout the customer lifecycle.

There’s only now. What has or hasn’t worked in the past doesn’t matter; the future is yet to unfold and cannot be predicted. What can be done now to infuse your direct marketing strategy with a sense of enthusiasm and viability?

You’ve collected data on your customers and prospects for quite a while. Maybe all these data points reside in your central IT organization for safekeeping. Perhaps one day your IT department will make sense of those terabytes of data and produce some magic algorithm that will cure all your revenue challenges. Over the years, I’ve heard horror stories from marketing groups about long delays and frustration gaining access, much less analytical understanding, from these data warehouses. It’s time for a fundamental change in your organization.

Building a mutually beneficial email relationship with a customer or prospect is rooted in data, in the information you gather from customers through their transactions, preferences, and actions. Without this context, marketers would, and often do, treat all customers as if they were new customers, regardless of tenure.

Consider how you manage your data and the channels through which you deliver information. Is your marketing database (the warehouse that houses all these records) capable of providing the information you need to build meaningful dialogues? Have you integrated all in- and outbound customer channels to gain a deeper understanding of how they interact with your brand? If not, stop reading right now and make that change.

There’s no longer any excuse for marketers not to match customer data and understanding to corresponding, contextually relevant offers. Leading ESPs have the technology to provide this level of targeting in a cost-efficient, effective manner. But technology alone isn’t enough.

Marketers must also embrace the power and importance of services, including creative and campaign analysis in optimizing their customer relationships. The message is still the medium, but the segment determines the message. Though campaign analysis remains essential, customer analytics drives ongoing knowledge and results.

None of what’s said here is new or revolutionary. But living in the now and leveraging the power of what you know today can truly help you unlock the power of the email communications channel. There’s no time to waste.

Till next time,

Al D.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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