A 12-year-old pianist sat down to play before a venerable musician and an audience of 50 or so observers. The older musician had played hundreds of gigs around the country and was often credited with inventing jazz. The young performer played classic after classic, from Mozart to Chopin, and he was note-perfect. One of the observers leaned over to the older musician and said, "Isn't this amazing?" The musician replied, "This kid is great at playing the piano. One of these days he'll learn to make music."
I think in the marketing world we get caught in the rat race of doing the mechanics, yet struggle with putting the picture -- or even part of the picture -- together. This story made me think about the context of successful email marketing and online marketing in general. I've seen, over the years, every excuse in the book keeping marketers in the world of "urgency." The problem with living in this world of "urgency" is that you get too mechanical and don't take calculated risks.
I answered an RFP this past week that posed the question: "What do you believe is the most critical aspect of email marketing?" There are obviously hundreds of ways to answer this -- tactically, or with a best-practice view, or restating what the analysts say. Yet it's so contextual to the client that I chose to end the response with: "Key to GREAT email marketing is efficiency without losing strategic direction and the value these efforts drive."
To make music with our channel, you need to consider a few things that will directly impact how you operate and thrive in the future.
1. Create operational relationships with the search team. Both support brand- and purchase-related intents. Both are driving growth in many businesses, and are key to retention and engagement. It will be the challenge of the businesses to understand the symbiotic relationship between the two and figure out points in time and channels that can be optimized in tandem.
2. Social retention marketing: while social marketing is so broadly defined these days, there are natural synergies between these experiences and how and why consumers engage with a brand. The challenge will be to hedge your bet on key social network behaviors and sites while the industry matures. You can't sit by and wait for Facebook to take over the world; you must find out which environments can help bring about a measured return on engagement. In order to do this, take a risk and do only things that you can measure or find some retention correlation to.
3. Email and the device. The penetration of smartphones is growing so rapidly, it will reach critical mass in the next few years. The email communities need to figure out how to isolate device-specific experiences, report against them, understand the timing, and "triage" the email experience of the transient consumer. This will evolve so rapidly that companies will need to get smarter about predictive response modeling and take on more intelligent analytics in order to adapt to this very dynamic usage pattern.
While these are just a few thoughts, I believe them to be critical to the evolution of eCRM. To make music, you have to commit to the "practice," take risks, engage with a lot of people, and yet understand the measures of your success will not always be noticed or appreciated by others. But when you do finally put it together, you'll see an amazing shift in how you approach your business and how you express this to your partners and internal teams.