My article last week on the lack of passion in the email industry itself provoked a lot of passion from the blogosphere. First up was Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path, in his blog OnlyOnce, where he took me to task for implying that CEOs of email companies are discredited from leading (in his words). The specific part of my article in question was when I said that we need more evangelists and that folks like Richard Gingras and Matt don't count because they have a vested interest in evangelizing the space.
Of course that is not what I had in mind at all. Both Richard and Matt are two of my favorite people to hang around with, and I would be the last to discredit what they've done for the industry. Both are passionate about their companies and the industry, and both are at the forefront of changing the industry for the better. My point was, of course, that you would expect leaders like Matt and Richard to lead. Because of their standing in the industry, we expect them to be the leading spokespeople for the industry. That is why they don't count: One expects the poet laureate to be passionate about poetry. In discussing the lack of passion for poetry in general, the poet laureate doesn't count.
The MediaPost blog was also filled with some interesting comments, some pro, some con. The most interesting I thought were the ones that countered that (and I'm paraphrasing) it is being passionate for marketing as a whole, and not some specific technology, that is the proper way to frame things. Don't be passionate about email, be passionate about putting the best plan together for the client -- that was the basic argument.
I have a tendency to disagree with this. It implies that being a generalist is better than being a specialist. I submit that the über marketer who is expert in all the various forms of interactive marketing is someone who just doesn't exist, or is very bad at a lot of things. An interactive jack of all trades, master of none, is not the person you want heading up your email marketing efforts. What you want is someone who is corralling those passionate about search, RSS, email, banners, rich media, mobile marketing, WOMM, social networks, viral into a room and figuring out an integrated strategy that makes sense.
But unless your email guy or gal is passionate and expert about his or her specific area of expertise, you are not going to be able to do the best thing for your clients, because they will get beaten out by those who are. Unless there is an internal champion for email, your clients will suffer. They will suffer because the current climate makes it easy to dismiss email unless there is a passionate advocate making the case. And dismissing email means that your clients will miss out on the most effective method of reaching their customers. They will miss out on the marketing channel with the highest ROI.
My favorite responses, of course, were from the ones who agreed with me. One quick search of blog search engine Technorati.com showed that a lot of people are indeed passionate about email and were not shy about sharing that news. We need a lot more like them.