We marketers are living in a revolutionary age, where technology, customer expectations and an explosion of new communication channels are transforming everything from the way we do our job to our roles in our company's success.
Despite this upheaval and flavor-of-the month pressures from the C-suite, email remains the workhorse, or linchpin (to piggyback onto Seth Godin) of our digital marketing strategy: delivering consumer value, brand engagement, cost savings and revenue.
While some like to lament email as boring and "so last century," in fact many of the trends that shape this new marketing paradigm are also helping to fuel email marketing's continued relevance and vitality. Here are just two examples:
1. Customers are Your Marketers
Trend: While marketing will continue to create and deliver push and pull marketing programs, one of its most critical roles will be identifying your company's fanatics and influencers and enabling and encouraging them to, in essence, do your marketing for you.
Impact on Email Marketing: Consumers appear to be using email less for personal communications, relying instead on texting, tweeting, posting on Facebook, etc.
But because email has a strong permission foundation and gives users control over the inbox, it has become the preferred channel for receiving communications from companies and brands.
At the same time, consumers are becoming more discriminating and have higher expectations of the channel. Those email marketers that step up to the challenge and increase relevance through segmentation, lifecycle and triggered email programs will reap the rewards. Competitors that continue to rely on a "batch and blast" mentality will find the channel declining in ROI.
Analyze your customer database to uncover which of your subscribers are not only most loyal, but most engaged with your brand via email, social networks and other channels. Once identified, these most active people can be targeted with special email programs designed to encourage sharing with social networks, writing reviews, contributing content, etc.
Additionally, add your customers' voices to your email messages by including customer ratings, comments and reviews in both broadcast and triggered emails.
2. 'Mobile Marketing' Becomes Simply 'Marketing'
Trend: 'Mobile' is less about being a channel and more about when, where and how people experience and communicate with your brand. Mobile marketing is evolving from a concept of SMS to just about everything: email, apps, Web, search, social media, location-based programs, etc.
The iPad and estimated 40 other tablet devices in development give companies tremendous opportunities to create amazing brand, content and functional experiences that can be richer, more engaging and more valuable to consumers than the same content on PC/laptops or smartphones. The mobility, screen size, touchscreen interface and unique apps of tablets enable a better consumer experience that the larger and smaller devices simply can't match.
Impact on Email Marketing: While apps and location-based services are sexy and getting a lot of buzz, email will continue to be a key means for companies to remind, nurture and promote these other services to customers and prospects.
RIM's BlackBerry smartphone has always been more about the ability to send and receive corporate email than anything else. But with the explosion in sales of Apple's iPhone/iTouch/iPad and devices based on Google's Android operating system, email as a killer mobile application has reached beyond business users to consumers from teens to grandmas.
The improved rendering on these mobile devices also provides a bit of a dichotomy for marketers. The opportunity to design richer, more image-heavy emails is potentially offset by the fact that people are on the move and scrolling quickly through their emails to find what is most immediately of interest.
Because of this, context and relevance will never be more important going forward. Emails based on consumer preferences, demographics and behavior will stand out in a mobile inbox full of Facebook friend requests and generic promotional emails.
Designing your email messages to take into account this mobile paradigm might include:
• Larger text links and more buttons that make it easy to click for users of touchscreen devices.
• More and easier-to-use navigation and one-click actions -- in essence, design that makes it easier for consumers to take the action they want.
• Scannable content, such as coupons that can be redeemed at stores.
Are you still emailing as if it were 2004? Am I way off-base on some items? What did I miss? I welcome your comments.
What would Stefan say?