Solving Problems: It's A Beautiful Thing

Like many people, I was surprised when Cisco announced the discontinuation of its popular Flip camera. The tiny size and ease of use made this digital video camera a favorite gift for holidays and graduations last year.

The reason for shuttering the business unit came down to the camera losing its uniqueness. Cell phones now have the ability to take video, so who needs to carry two devices?

This turn of events made me wonder if email service providers (ESPs) have fallen into the same rut of being hard to distinguish among their competition in the marketing universe. In other words, are we losing our uniqueness?

To some degree I think the answer is "yes." As email marketing becomes commoditized, ESPs somehow have fallen into the rut of being order-takers and not problem-solvers. Yet when ESPs get involved with customers to solve their challenges, it can be a beautiful thing.

For example, we recently had a customer mention that in their regulated industry they were required to keep a copy of every email sent to a customer. While the customer felt this was an added burden to their already busy job, an easy solution was apparent to us: create a way for customers to copy themselves on every email sent. A new feature -- the BCC -- was born.

We rely on trained professionals to provide advice nearly every day, whether a doctor, hair stylist or mixed martial arts instructor. The same should be true when it comes to your email marketing program. Marketers who are accustomed to telling their ESP what they need, and ESPs that function only as order takers, would benefit from taking the following approach:

1. Discuss your marketing strategy and challenge your ESP to help you reach your marketing goals through an email marketing program that's custom-designed for your unique business. For example, marketers may think they need to grow their email list, when targeting and reducing the list may actually drive more conversions.

2. Bring new challenges to the ESP and ask for creative solutions. Often, the easiest and least costly solution is not the most obvious. We often have customers come to us asking how they can integrate their email program with a CRM system, when an API will do the trick.

3. Look for an ESP that fits how you want to work. Will you have a dedicated account manager who knows your company? Does your account manager touch base frequently to listen to your new goals and challenges? Regular interactions ensure that your email marketing strategy evolves over time. For example, taking your program to the next level may mean segmenting your list and communicating with customers differently based on their level of engagement.

Taking the "problem-solver" approach will help ensure that email remains one of the most effective and cost-efficient methods of marketing.

Tags: email
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