Where Should You Make Your Email Marketing Investments in a Changing Industry?

In Part 1 I looked at the past and present state of email marketing budgets. In Part 2 of this series I will dive deeper into where email marketers are actually spending their budgets as a broad shift occurs in the email landscape.

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While the graphic above tells part of the story, let’s look at where that money is going and what has changed in the past five to 10 years in terms of email investment areas.

Strategy. Spray-and-pray and batch-and-blast were the de facto email marketing strategies as we headed into the millennium. Contact strategy, strategic blue prints, segmentation, privacy, and preference considerations as well as dozens of other optimization areas fill the current email road map with a plethora of new opportunities. My firm sees first-hand how some of these optimizations can lead to huge new revenue gains. For one e-commerce client, key changes we made led to over $1 million in additional revenue. You can’t find that kind of money if you’re not looking.

Creative. Creative often has the dominion of a general creative group or advertising agency. As a result it historically has been an afterthought, which is why five years ago email creative was a JPEG off of an offline marketing piece and then coded and dropped into an email delivery platform. The nuanced needs on the design, messaging, and coding have called for these practices to end, and largely they have. Not always to the level that it should, but I believe email creative has improved drastically in the past few years and it has also birthed a well-prized employee for any email-centric firm – the email designer.

Production/campaign management. Many self-service email delivery platforms continue to do bang-up business and many seem to be hanging on by a thread. Regardless, the business of managing email campaigns is a hot area. Part staff augmentation and part subject matter expert knowledge that can’t be found or done in-house is an in-demand area of the email industry. While many brand-side email marketers managing the treacherous and never-ending email campaign cycle have fled to the safer waters of social media, or have been promoted out of campaign management, many of these brands find themselves without the bodies or brains to get the revenue-producing emails out the door. Look for more brands to partner with specialized firms and let them handle this dirty work.

Analytics. The perennially underutilized area of data in digital marketing seems to be changing. While many still leave 90 percent of their email metrics unseen, big data and more demanding CMOs are changing this. Email analytics are increasingly more connected to other marketing silos and the general business ones are making email more accountable and also primed for major investment if brands can connect the dots on what is working and what isn’t.

Mobile and social. These two areas are obviously game-changers in the digital space but are attracting special attention and investment as they relate to email as well. Dozens of companies have surfaced that are tied to enhancing email’s impact as it correlates to mobile and social (think social data and tools, smartphone rendering, etc.).

Channel/technology integration. Whether via an API, point of sale, or other elements of technology integration, this will always fuel investment, but of course nowhere near a typical technology-integration level. Some companies consider integration tied to their email program to be a political issue and some invest heavily, ensuring their email program is tied to many arms of the business.

Acquisition and list management. This is an interesting one, and I can already envision the representatives of related companies commenting that the days of spending money to hit some list-growth numbers are largely gone. I like this space for largely what it isn’t. It isn’t 2002 or even 2009. This bucket now consists of actually compelling opportunities to grow your list in relevant, measureable, and targeted methods. Lots of new and interesting vendors are worth a test drive in this space too. Of course, keeping the list clean is essential and requires attention and often budget.

Email investment, like most budgeting items, is often highly subjective, but there is a sea change in terms of spending money on what makes your email program better, not just being sent. Where are you spending your money and what do you expect to change in the next five years?

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