'Emailers, You Don't Know How Good You Are!'

Last month at the Email Evolution Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., Engauge Chairman Stan Rapp gave a keynote that got a lot of people in the crowd pumped up -- myself included. His punch line: "Email is the tightest link ever forged between buyer and seller. Email is the heartbeat of the Internet. Emailers, you don't know how good you are!"

I agree, but not only because of those awkward moments where we avoid a direct answer about our profession at social functions -- those times when saying "I am an email marketer" feels like we may as well tell people we sell used cars. The bigger problem is the voice, or lack thereof, that email marketers have within larger marketing organizations.

It's not only that we don't know how good we are, but also that our peers don't understand the value of what we do. Rapp drilled this point home when he compared the amount spent on TV ads during the Super Bowl to what is spent on email marketing in an entire year. It wasn't pretty. There is a huge disconnect when email marketing earns 1/185th of what traditional advertising does in a year, yet we have the highest average ROI in town. According to Rapp, "it's criminal!"



So, why don't we get it? Why don't we know how good we are? Why don't our peers have a better appreciation for what we do? Let me suggest the following reasons:

1)    Deliverability. Spam is the Achilles heel of the email channel. There is no hiding it. It is a big, highly visible issue. Yet, every time we bring up deliverability in conversations about email marketing, we highlight our weakness. A couple weeks ago I made a statement in an interview that we focus too much on deliverability. As you might imagine, it triggered quite a debate.   My point has nothing to do with the importance of deliverability. My point was about correcting the perception of email as a valuable marketing tool.

Deliverability discussions generally focus on one of two areas.: 1) things we can't do -- which diminishes the credibility of the channel; and 2) technical issues that have nothing to do with marketing. Discussions of technical wizardry and "close personal relationships with ISPs" leads people to mistakenly believe that technology or back-room deals will compensate for poor strategy. It won't.

Our peers and supervisors are marketers. With this audience we need to focus on one simple thing: good marketing = good deliverability. If you have messages your subscribers want to receive, then deliverability professionals can get the messages to the inbox. Email is the only marketing channel I am aware of that has a built-in "stupid marketing" filter. You can put tasteless ads on TV or radio. The USPS will deliver direct mail no matter how poorly executed or targeted. BUT, you can't deliver email that annoys your customers -- at least not for very long. So, let's talk about good marketing.

2)    Confusion about the core strength of email. There is a short-term mentality that surrounds email. When someone wants to squeeze a few extra bucks out of a marketing campaign, whom do they turn to? "Oh yeah, and then let's blast an email to our list!" Because it does not take long to design and send an email message, it often thought of as a quick hit.

Email lives at the center of a conflict between things that are urgent and things that are important. In a recent interview, I asked an email manager at a Fortune 500 retailer, "How often are you asked to execute something in email that you believe is detrimental to the long-term success of the program?" The answer: "Probably three or four times a week!" As ambassadors for the channel, we need to help our peers understand that email's strength lies in its ability to deliver highly targeted messages to subscribers and to increase lifetime value -- creating the link, creating trust, between buyer and seller. Though email can be delivered quickly and have an immediate impact, that does not mean speed of execution is email's core strength.

In fact, speed and urgency run counter to email's core strength. Building lifetime value takes time, planning, and thoughtful consideration. There is nothing urgent or last minute about it. "Lifetime" implies patience and meaningfulness. We need to constantly remind our peers that email only thrives when important messages are prioritized over urgent messages.


3)    We aren't the new toy. In the past month, half of all Email Insider articles have mentioned social media. True, we can learn from the rise of social media. True, the adoption of social media has been staggering. But email isn't going anywhere and it works. We know what the challenges are and we can address them. Social media still has a lot of growing pains to overcome. So, before we look too longingly at what might be in the future, look at the real success email is having today.

-          Email businesses are thriving despite the weak economy. (ReturnPath blog

-          Companies are investing more in email. (MarketingSherpa chart)

-          Permission email leaves a positive impression on most subscribers. (Epsilon chart)

-          Email use is widely adopted, and even among teens email use is on par social networks. (Pew Internet Chart

-          Email drives more Web site traffic than other marketing channels (ExactTarget blog )

When Rapp, the person who founded one of the world's most successful direct marketing agencies nearly 45 years ago, says, "Email is the tightest link ever forged between buyer and seller. Email is the heart beat of the Internet. Emailers, you don't know how good you are!" -- do we believe him? If the answer is yes, then how do we communicate it to those around us more effectively?

I've offered some of my thoughts, starting with the idea of emphasizing the strengths of the channel. Now it's your turn.

5 comments about "'Emailers, You Don't Know How Good You Are!'".
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  1. Frances Dugan from Permanent General Companies, Inc., March 4, 2009 at 11:53 a.m.

    Amen! Morgan, you have hit the nail on the head. It's time for email marketers to focus on and communicate the strengths of this media.

    However, I think it's *critical* that we continue the discussions about how we can keep making it better, by addressing existing and potential issues like deliverability.

    But you are right - there is a time and a place for these discussions (not in the marketing meeting). And, it shouldn't overshadow the fact that email is a valuable marketing tool.

  2. Deborah Geiger from Publicis Hawkeye, March 4, 2009 at 12:13 p.m.

    Morgan, I agree with most of what you wrote here. I am a marketer first and foremost with most of my career in promotion marketing and advertising on the agency side. For the last three+ years I've also been engaged with email marketing through my involvement with Vismail (video email) as the Master Distributor in the US. So I was new to the whole technology side of email marketing, but stymied by the lack of marketing saavy employed to actually produce email marketing. Why aren't the best creative minds and strategy folks working in this field? or at least tapped for their smarts and their creative product? I wonder if advertisers worried about the actual technology behind radio and television and were they limited by whether the viewer had the perfect reception or a snowy picture when they were creating their brilliant ads oh so many years ago. And I wonder why SPAM is the problem of all of us legitimate emarketers and not the problem of the ISP's. We should be putting the pressure on the ISP's to get rid of the SPAMMERs and not make us jump through hoops to get our mail to those who've actually asked to hear from us. If it weren't for us legit folks, the ISP's would be hurting for mail, just like the post office. Deliverability should be the ISP's problem, not ours. What's wrong with that picture? Okay, now I'm ranting. But back to the main does have the tightest link between buyer and seller. So as email marketers we should be holding that relationship sactrosanct and only sending messaging which strengthens that relationship in some way, shape or form. Sending our A game. So who do we use to create our A game? Deb Geiger - Wondergirls Marketing

  3. Morgan Stewart from Trendline Interactive, March 4, 2009 at 5:44 p.m.

    @James: Thanks! No idea how we stop the Sham Wow guy, but your comment made me think of one of my favorite marketing books called, "Your Marketing Sucks." by Mark Stevens. It's a couple years old, but big on marketing accountability. I have a feeling he might argue that the Sham Wow guy is doing good marketing, but that is another topic.

    @Deborah: I like the analogy of snowy TV pictures. The analogy I have been using is the circulation departments at magazines. Critical? Yes! Does it make a magazine good? No! Does a good magazine make the circulation department’s job easier? You bet.

    @Frances: Agree we need to keep focusing on the issues and deliverability is a biggie. But like you said, we just need to be aware of where we air our dirty laundry. It's like hanging out with someone who is overweight and only wants to talk about diets. After a while, it just feels awkward.

  4. Gabor Keller from Kaposlogisztika Ltd., March 5, 2009 at 3:29 a.m.

    'Emailers, You Know What about the role of marketing in 2015?'

    To many, the unexpected economic crisis has taught anything in the market, is that companies need to be better prepared for unforeseen economic developments. One possible method of mapping the future, and that the present processes, taking into account the uncertainties, we will try to outline how to develop the industry over the next few years.

    The American Marketing Association and the International Decision Strategies (Decision Strategies International - DSI) technology consulting company that outlined four possible scenarios for the future of marketing is expected.
    The corporate planning in the past, mainly in financial forecasts, which was based on the numbers. This method also worked well, as long as the environment and the future was to be calculated. More recently, the financial data included in the planning of the next competitors, consumer behavior and marketing channels of information as well.

    The changing market conditions, however, forcing companies to look beyond the quantitative variables, and business models involved in the total structure of tests. The scenario-based planning is to help companies that are less predictable, the market forecasts in addition to other possible alternatives are taken into account.

    The various scenarios, the development of more companies realize the potential of the first signs of change. The different scenarios to take account of the following may be particularly useful:
    - If the leadership abilities to anticipate or adapt to the market uncertainty is high.
    - If you value the company has been costly surprises in the past.
    - If the company does not create new opportunities.
    - If the strategic thinking and too bureaucratic routine.
    - If the industry has changed, or is expected to be about to change.
    - If the company wants a single language or framework, the diversity of the dispatch.
    - If there are strong differences of opinion within the company.

    The AMA, the future challenges can be applied, if the marketing will become more flexible, while the various options for the design is being prepared for. In this regard, the important role of marketing within the company:
    Initiative: the marketing, it must point to the need for scenario-based planning, especially if the company only focuses on short-term solutions and results
    Cooperation to ensure the board should develop a common vision of the expected environmental changes and their potential consequences of organizational

    Planning: Action Plan for the future according to different scenarios
    The forces affecting the identification of: it should be ensured that the company will focus on the strategic point of view, the most important factors are:
    Organizational structure
    Competitiveness and marketing resources
    Brand Strategy
    Profitable growth model
    And determining the forces that affect competition.

    You can agree with me? You think that, what do you think of this? To share with Me here?

  5. Tom O'leary from GroupMail, March 5, 2009 at 5:30 p.m.

    On a positive note, delivery rates continue to be above 93 percent, even with the ever-growing number of filters between senders and recipients.


    ROI for email marketing continues to out pace returns from other online channels.

    But enjoying good and consistent deliverability, open rates, click-throughs and conversions are, as Morgan so aptly put it, "...takes time, planning, and thoughtful consideration."

    Because email is a low cost and high result tool, many marketers don't invest the time and effort required to build a successful strategy. It's too easy in some regards.

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