Predictions Redux

ExactTarget (an excellent e-mail software PROVIDER, BY THE WAY) recently released their predictions for the e-mail space in 2005.

There is a funny thing about company predictions. Usually they are put together by PR firms with the intent that if you believe the predictions are going to come true, you usually need that company's solution in order to be prepared for the outcome of the prediction. You want to sell mouthwash, you invent halitosis.

On the other hand, the company wouldn't be in business unless they truly thought that their solution would solve a vast problem. Hence, every year there is a looming problem that their product will solve, and a prediction that this is the year that the rest of the world will wake up to that fact. It is hard to believe now but for about 10 years, every year was the year of the CD-Rom.

According to MediaPost's research brief, here are some of ExactTarget's predictions:

"One central view of the customer to cut down on the number of e-mails sent to customers from various departments throughout the organization through batching."



I put this prediction in the "somewhere over the rainbow" category. Wouldn't that be great! But the reality is that there are two types of companies: The first type is small and can barely get it together enough to send out a single e-mail campaign. The second type is the larger company, which has different divisions all with their own marketing budgets, who are in essence in competition with each other. They are in competition with each other for budget, recognition, career advancement, etc. The chances of these groups agreeing on a central e-mail campaign, subject line, content, design, media plan, yadda, yadda, yadda, is remote at best, and would certainly grind productivity to a halt.

"The 'From' Address will become the most important factor in determining the initial success of an e-mail program in 2005. In terms of relevancy and growing relationships, the 'From' Address should reflect a person, not an institution."

This is an interesting one. I took a look at Email Analyst, the tool we created to monitor e-mail, and I found almost no instances of marketing focused e-mails that had an individual in the "from" address. Even ExactTarget e-mails:

"Worry Free Vacations (sent by ExactTarget) has Worry Free Vacations in the 'From' address. Career Builder, sent by ExactTarget, has Career Builder in the 'From' address."

The fact is that I trust e-mails that come from an organization much more than from an individual. My relationship is with the organization, not an individual within the organization. And as an owner of a business myself, I want my customers to identify with my company, rather than an individual at my company, always. What if the individual leaves? What if they take the customers I spent money attracting with them when they leave?

On the other hand, I do like the fact that ExactTarget practices what they preach with their own internal e-mails. For instance, I receive my regular e-mail from ExactTarget's Skip O'Neill every month. I know intuitively that it is a boiler plate e-mail that everyone at ExactTarget sends out, but it has Skip's picture in it, is personalized as coming from Skip, and Skip was my first contact into ExactTarget. I guess to a certain degree, it prevents me from deleting the e-mail on impact.

But what if Skip leaves? What if Buster begins sending me these e-mails? What happens to my feeling about ExactTarget? I personally feel it is better to begin the association of a product with a brand, not an individual at that brand. If done right, the brand should transform itself into an individual for me: the brands I love the most already speak to me as individual people, not as companies.

And it is the brands that forget this truth that disappoint me the most. The brands that address me as a company rather than an individual have already lost my business. It is the reason I bought a Saturn car, but never bought another one. They started as an individual, and they ended as a company. As a result, they lost my business and I never bought another Saturn again.

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