Who Owns E-Mail?

Last year, I wrote a column about the power of e-mail. I discussed the fact that e-mail isn’t a marketing trick but a powerful dialogue tool. I then wrote about CMOs undervaluing e-mail and challenged them to look into their e-mail programs’ effects, from both a response and a branding standpoint. A third column talked about the fact that doing e-mail right is plain, old hard. An effective e-mail marketer must understand not only contact strategies but also good layout elements, technical functions, database transfers, deliverability factors, and more. And recently I wrote a report about image, link, and message rendering for the for the Email Experience Council (EEC) that talks about how to ensure your e-mail renders appropriately in Outlook 2007.

Presented independently, each of these columns appears informational, possibly even insightful. But presented collectively, they paint a very clear picture: no one owns the e-mail channel. Instead, a bunch of smart people run around creating standards and best practices to deal with decisions being made by people who significantly affect the way we use e-mail.

This is pretty scary. A product-development person at Microsoft will significantly change the way we create e-mail because that person felt HTML support was overrated. A politician significantly changed how e-mail sends were managed for Michigan recipients by mandating a suppression e-mail list be used before every send. A man who lives on a boat in Europe had a significant say in whether your e-mail would be delivered because he made a list.

All the while, we marketers have been left reacting to all these developments and spending our time changing the way we do business to accommodate these uninformed e-mail policymakers.

Wouldn’t it make more sense if some individual or group could turn the tables and own e-mail? E-mail is one of the most widely used communication channels in the world. Wouldn’t it be better if, as smart marketers, we spent our time proactively defining the future of e-mail rather than reacting to it?

The time has come for us to take a stand and define e-mail. We must begin to set standards and advocate positive changes. If you are an active e-mail marketer, send me your top three e-mail goals, and I’ll use them in a future column. Perhaps if we all talk about what would be good for the industry, we’ll have a chance at making it better.

And if this column has you fired up enough to want to make a proactive change, take this poll. It asks if rendering companies should add an enhancement that lets people test e-mail views on handheld devices. If the overwhelming answer is yes, we can take ownership and focus on making that change.

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

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