The Decisions You Will Face In The Future

On one hand, I get excited about the inspired growth of e-mail marketing. It is top of mind, it is relevant and it is about as ubiquitous as televisions and mobile devices these days. On the other hand, I get concerned about the challenges marketers face in getting it done.

These include technology decisions, infrastructure issues, resource issues, partner issues and the overall liabilities that come with marketing automation. I see a lot of specific problem-solvers, but I don't see many that help organizations make strategic decisions about the future of their business. If Forrester's assertion that point solutions will pre-dominate the marketing automation space is correct, where does that leave the poor souls who are trying to keep their heads above water managing their e-mail channel Will they be subjected to the decisions of others around them or lead these initiatives?

Regardless of who you are--marketing executive, e-mail director, e-mail manager, programmer, strategist or entrepreneur--the way you make decisions today and the type of decisions you'll face are going to change.



Here are a few trends to set the context:

  • Measurement is an increasingly growing mission of the senior people across all media.

  • Marketing technologies are overlapping.

  • Traditional agencies are evolving digital arms and competing with interactive agencies, and so on.

  • Marketing service providers are more specialized.
  • Emerging media/technologies are creating scale issues in how you structure and manage programs.

  • ROI modeling is evolving past cause and effect conclusions--it is still now-day, yet it's evolving into new measurements and valuations and business intelligence driven modeling.

    Here are a few e-mail specific trends that will affect you going forward:

  • The consolidation of e-mail vendors and scale of their infrastructures will create new opportunities and greater degrees of risk for marketers and agencies.

  • Liability has increased and is now an enterprise issue.

  • Deliverability services have arrived and allow the marketer more confidence in enterprise-wide monitoring.

  • Businesses' sensitivity to the disruption of the e-mail channel and the customer experience has increased greatly.

    With these trends in mind, think through the following areas and the decisions that you, your clients and partners will make in the next few years.

    Technology Choices Previously, I wrote a piece on e-mail marketing in-source vs. outsource and some articles on how to choose the right vendor. The net is this: choosing the right technology and partner isn't something that should be taken lightly today. Companies are hard to distinguish, the pricing models are inconsistent, and the technologies' growing pains that weren't correctly architected for scale (as well as their delivery reputation) can send chills down your spine.

    Your decisions in the future about technology will take into account emerging channels and technologies; mobile, RSS, content management, interaction management and response management. The point solutions that aren't integrated will be short-lived. I believe the build, buy, or rent question we heard through the late 90's and early in 2000 will emerge again.

    Service Model Should you run the service internally, externally or jointly? Do you hire a staff and manage it yourself? Do you become a channel expert and try to foster that internally, or will that distract you from being strategic in business execution?

    Your decisions today are based on how to get the job done with existing staff, but tomorrow they will be about how to engage, insert and get the most out of partners to help you handle the overflow. You will need to determine which partners to use--agencies, e-mail specialists, etc.--as well as how to measure their value and apply a performance model.

    Budget/Investment I wrote a series of articles about "The Never-Ending ROI Story" in 2005. I asked: how are you justifying the value you and your program bring to the organization--outside of pure sales/savings and traditional ROI? Today your decisions are driven by the need to create positive perception of your program and/or drive sales or a monetary instrument, but it's generally cause and effect.

    Tomorrow your decisions will center on supporting conclusions related to the interrelationship of e-mail to your Web investments/channels and enterprise touchpoints. This will be a continuous process, not a quarterly review. Your investment decisions will have to outlive your CMO's tenure and be inclusive of enterprise needs. This means that marketing, technology, sales, Internet and call center functions will need to be aligned and have a common voice.

    While I believe all these cool new toys will make us better marketers, our future success lies not in our ability to optimize them, but our ability to make decisions across an organization that are aligned and drive to the same conclusions. As they say, you are either downsizing, rightsizing or capsizing. This will be the framework for emerging channels and justification going forward. Better get it right today!

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