Does Email Need Something 'New' In 2011?

As I kick off the 2010-2011 conference "tour," I've been preparing a lot of content and talking to a myriad of email marketers across a number of verticals -- all with varying levels of expertise and understanding about the space. One question keeps cropping up: "What's the next new thing for email next year?"   

You may or may not have a reaction to this, but I've actually started using it as an opener for conversations by turning the question back to those in the proverbial trenches of their programs. A variety of reactions and responses followed, which I have shared below (edited for vulgar language --trust me, you'll appreciate it!).  

My response is also included, but I would really love to know what you think. Do you align with any one of these opinions? Do you take another position completely? Post in the comments below, and we will take something of an informal poll. C'mon! It'll be fun! And if you'd like to hazard a guess at my response, by all means, let the guessing game begin! 



A.  Something new for email in 2011? We're still trying to figure out what's out there now, along with the ever-changing rules for deliverability. How about we don't focus so much on innovating the use of the channel next year and instead look at ways to perfect our use of it today. I would venture to guess there is only a small percent of email marketers out there that are doing it near-perfect, and I bet they even have a ways to go before they've realized the full power of this channel.

B.  The "new" thing really isn't something new at all. Rather, we need to get back to marketing basics. Who was the genius that decided email was so greatly different from other direct-marketing disciplines that it was banished to a silo all by itself? Sure there are a variety of go-to-market capabilities that vary from print and other direct-marketing channels, but it should still be considered a part of the overall marketing communication plan for the year. We need to insist that our email efforts are integrated into the overall marketing plan in 2011 for us to realize the success we expect organizationally. It cannot live in a silo any longer.

C.  Better leveraging social into our email effort...  Then there were crickets. I probed for the greater "why" and the "how are you measuring the success," as well as a few other key questions -- to no avail. That was the whole answer I got.

D. We plan on implementing segmentation and targeting for our email program next year. This response is quickly followed by: "We've predominantly sent email blasts and are seeing our complaint rates go up and our delivery success is way down. Do you think that will help?"

(Kara's side note/tangent: There's that dirty BLAST word again. Can we *please* vanquish this from our vocabulary? In every context, in every way. I may just solicit Webster to have it REMOVED from the dictionary.)

E.  We are going to make our email more relevant next year.

 (Kara's OTHER side note/tangent: OK, now I jump up on my soap box and flail my arms around madly. Did you really start last year thinking, "yeah, I'm going to send my email subscribers email and content they could care less about this year because it's just too time-consuming to send them stuff they want?" Look, we all realize that getting "relevant" isn't necessarily "easy," but you know enough tangible information about your audience to impact your relevance. And how are *you* defining relevant anyway? Those who have a plan for "relevance" as a focus tend to have completely different interpretations of what "being relevant" means to their audience (as well they should,) but 85% of those I talked to couldn't tactically define how they could actually get more relevant. Relevance has become the North American Sasquatch of email marketing. There are those who believe it exists and hunt it fervently, and others who have completely given up on the concept.)

So what do you think? What's your next "new" thing for 2011? Sasquatch hunting, anyone?

4 comments about "Does Email Need Something 'New' In 2011? ".
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  1. Mark Vogel from Vogel Marketing Solutions LLC, November 26, 2010 at 11:32 a.m.

    I continue to be shocked at the lack of best-practices being employed by marketers who should know better. I've participated in meetings with clients who challenge me on the need for relevant messaging. I'll spend 2011 by continuing to push for best-practice email marketing ... not a RETURN to best-practices, mind you. Just START!

  2. Pat Mcgraw from [mcgraw | marketing], November 28, 2010 at 9:34 a.m.

    Kara, great post. Too many companies seem to think that quantity is more important than quality so a frequent bombardment of wrong message, offer, timing is supposed to produce profitable sales and long-term relationships with customers. Personally, my Spam Filter has been extra busy and my Junk Email Folder is frequently jammed.

    Oh, and cramming video into an email that isn't relevant isn't going to motivate responses - well, it might motivate 'unsubscribe'.

    Here's to 2011 - a return to talking with our target audience in order to better understand their needs, expectations and perceptions so we can provide them with unique, valuable solutions. And that, btw, is channel agnostic so we can use channels other than email!!

  3. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., November 29, 2010 at 2:39 p.m.

    What's my next 'thing'? Rereading each planned send twice to see if it is something I would consider relevant if I personally received that email...if not, rewrite it and step back again to revisit it with fresh eyes...and less is more...fewer words, more attention to the purpose of the email connection.

  4. Carol Wolicki, December 6, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.

    Sasquatch is hairy. So is 'relevance' -- big, hairy, and -- to your point, by naming it as such, elusive to capture...especialy if 'relevance' means 'relevant to all people.' That is how some marketers think of it: another buzzword but the practice actually remains the same. To the person who asked if segmentation will help, my answer is; 'yes and no.' It all depends on who's doing the segmenting: you? Or will you allow your email recipients to select the kind of information they want from you. And, oh by the way, do you really have the systems in place to deliver? My vote goes for A: let's get the basics right.

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