AI. Machine learning. ABM. It’s easy to get caught up in these “shiny moments,” warns Ryan Phelan, an email and digital marketing executive. But there are hidden dangers.
“Do you know what to do with them?” Phelan asks. “Even the best AI and machine learning are programmed by individuals – they bring the context. It’s not like a grocery store, where you can just go in and pick up machine learning.”
Instead of swooning over new technologies, email marketers have to “think like a CEO and entrepreneur,” Phelan continues. “What’s your strategy, what do you believe your program can do? What’s your knowledge of the customer?”
That requires turning away from opens, click rates conversions—and taking the longer view.
The next question is, “How is this going to drive your strategy forward? Not your sales, but your strategy?”
To determine this, marketers need good data, whether first-party or third-party. “Good AI can choke on bad data,” Phelan warns.
Then there’s account based marketing (ABM). ABM is a “phenomenal technology. And putting a ton of leads into the funnel no longer makes sense," Phelan argues.
But marketers don’t know how to use it once they own it. “Gated content, ungated content, how far do you go when you call someone? They haven’t asked, ‘How is this going to solve my problem? And why should we do it?’”
A related problem is that “the email industry flips every three years,” Phelan continues. “We’ve lost the stickiness that used to be. And when someone leaves, that institutional knowledge is gone. The new person comes in and is starting from ground zero.”
The antidote is to write a business plan based on a “really well-thought-out strategy,” he continues. “The new person can say, ‘Here’s where I need to be,’ instead of starting over. It’s a warm hand-off instead of a cold mike.”
Is it hopeless?
“Not to be overly cynical, but it’s a byproduct of moving at a thousand miles an hour and the assumption that technology can solve all your problems.”
He adds, “I have a very optimistic view of the industry. There's a yearning to learn, and a lot of people are wanting to do email and all of these other things right. The key is focusing on the strategy.”