There are three types of companies out there from an investment standpoint: the lottery companies, the Vegas companies, and the treasury bond companies. The lottery companies are those firms where there is only one winner. An example would be Jason Calacanis' sale of his Weblogs company to AOL. There are only one of those deals out there, but that won't stop thousands of entrepreneurs from including this as their exit strategy in next year's business plans.
Vegas companies are where there are a number of winners--but your chances of being one of those companies is the same as those that win while in Vegas. I put the search engine companies in this category. There will be many winners, but far fewer than included in the current playing field.
Then there are the treasury bond companies. I put e-mail companies in this group--those in a mature but undervalued market space, and a sector that has already gone through its honeymoon and major shake-out periods. That is why a lot of smart money is investing in this area now, I think.
At Ad:Tech you are starting to see a lot more presence from e-mail companies, including Datran Media, Silver Carrot and Skylist.
I sat in on Stefan Tournquist's (of Marketing Sherpa) session on e-mail statistics. Here are some hightlights:
5 percent of the population reads their e-mail from a cellular device--and this trend is predicted to grow over the next few years.
49 percent of people think that hitting the "spam button" in their e-mail browser is the same as unsubscribing from the list.
12 percent of the population is using RSS feedsbut only 7 percent are actually aware that they are doing this.
78 percent of the e-mail population subscribes to at least one e-mail newsletter.
The average e-mail list grows by 5.2 percent a month and shrinks by 2 percent, leaving a net gain of 3.2 percent.
There is a drop in response rates, but conversion from e-mail remains consistent.
Click to purchase is up 28 percent. Orders per e-mail delivered are up 18 percent.
Last year 62 percent of the population said they were less trusting of e-mail because of spam. Only 53 percent feel that way now.
52 percent check their spam filter to see if it has caught any legitimate e-mail. But only 4 percent see this as a major problem.
78 percent of e-mail marketers don't think to suggest whitelisting to their audience.
One of the big takeaways was the wasted opportunity with welcome messages, which have a 2x open rate and yet are rarely used to further the relationship. Stefan suggested that one use of the welcome message is to provide a sample of what future mailings might look like, perhaps embedding the most recent e-mail drop in the welcome message.
The other takeaway was how important relevant graphics are in getting people to actually read a full message with more concentration. Using eyetracking technology, Stefan was able to show that, without a graphic, people rarely read the message below the fold. With an appropriate, relevant graphic, people followed the message through to the call to action.
The other news from Ad:Tech was that I was tagged to participate in a CBC documentary about spam. But don't hold your breath. It won't be released until the fall of 2006. By that time I expect a far different Ad:Tech than the one they filmed me fighting my way through.