Giving Thanks To The Channel

A few years ago I wrote an article on giving thanks to the channel, and I thought it appropriate, halfway through 2007, that I lay out some of the things that I'm most thankful for today. It's been an amazing ride over the last year. While we (in the email space) haven't done anything as cool as bending lasers, we have seen adoption and use of the channel go through the roof. Over 86% of people surveyed in the Jupiter Consumer Survey consider email to be the top-ranked Internet activity. Email isn't a question, and it isn't going away.

I believe as marketers that we have many things to be thankful for, so let me begin with:

I give thanks for:

  • Social networking, which puts a spotlight on the email channel. Fact is, viral would NOT exist without email, your joke pool would be a lot shallower without email, you'd still be printing and sending photos to your family each year, and your phone bill would be twice the rate it is today.

  • Spammers, which have put a spotlight on the legitimate marketers. Consumers are savvier today at spotting phishing emails, and seem to work harder to sift through to the meaningful communications. We have forced consumers to manage themselves better. Spammers have created a "forced" loyalty to legitimate brands that we could not have built without an evil to bring prominence to the legitimate.

  • CAN SPAM legislation. It's put some accountability into the channel and made the most senior people in an organization think twice about email. When CAN SPAM and spammer articles hit mainstream media like Fortune and The Wall Street Journal, this helps your cause internally.

  • Delivery reputations and certified programs: While I've always said I'd pay for priority delivery to the inbox, paying isn't enough these days -- though it can help in some cases. But I give thanks to the industry for forcing the email delivery companies to make themselves and their customers accountable for their sending patterns, habits and how they manage their files.

  • Digg, Podcasts, RSS and all Web 2.0 channels: Email is the conduit that makes many of these viable. Everything else requires syndication, and email has been a catalyst to the growth and prominence of the channel.

  • Spam, content and mailbox filters, which have forced marketers to really think about how they communicate, how they construct emails, and how to be smarter communicators. The days of throwing any video, java script or sound in HTML and sending from my house servers is gone. It is a craft today, and requires thought, technology and monitoring.

  • The thought leader communities. Three years ago we had only a handful of people speaking and writing about email marketing, and just a few conferences. Today, I can count up to 20-25 people and companies that publish best practices, and over 15 blogs that I read regularly. I speak at roughly seven conferences a year on email marketing, a number that could easily be doubled. While the channel has more voices, the ideas seem to be the same. But considering that the average experience of an email marketer is less than four years, it's OK to repurpose ideas as long as you add a little flair and creativity to the presentation.

  • Most of all, I give thanks to the budgets that still exist for email. While they are growing at a modest rate, they haven't been consumed by other channels or spent on non- measurable events -- and they have remained consistent over the years. This has allowed the industry to mature, develop a few sound technology leaders and begin the next stage of integrated point solutions.

    I wonder what I'll give thanks for in 2008?