E-mail: Let's Not Take It 'Personal'

The discussions I have these days are rarely about whether e-mail is a viable channel for the business; rather they're about how to get the most out of it and how to set up an organization to manage it well. After all, there has been so much published about e-mail as a critical part of the multichannel experience, and so many analyst reports that speak to the upward trend in organizational spending on this channel. Inevitably, however, you'll run across a few who doubt e-mail's validity and think the future won't include it. Some believe it will be replaced by text messaging, RSS, mobile marketing, BLOGS, PLOGS, instant messaging and every other form of emerging media.

Recently, in a meeting, a CEO said to me, "I believe we could stop doing e-mail completely and I wouldn't see an impact on our business. Every time we send an e-mail we lose customers."

How do you combat such a dire view of a channel you've spent so much time learning to manage? In my opinion, it starts with the basis of the argument. Is the channel really contributing to your business's key performance indicators, or is it a burden to your brand? If your program is not aligned with KPIs, personal opinions and intuition take over. One of the cardinal rules of this business is that you cannot project your personal consumption or personal behavioral traits onto the traits of your customer--but in the absence of business reasons, you fall back on what you feel and experience. Translation: just because you don't like e-mail and can't manage it well, that does not mean it is useless or intrusive to your customers.



Even though that CEO's company's opt-out rate is a very low .001 percent, these customers are worth thousands to the business. Not having established viable KPIs, the company sees every opt-out as a business loss, and its CEO views the e-mail inbox as though it were littered with worthless messages.

In this same meeting, I heard the vice president of IT state, "I hate e-mail and don't use it." (Tough setting, right?) The meeting did take a turn for the better once we agreed to disagree. E-mail as a marketing channel should be looked at differently than our view of it as a personal communication or 1:1 medium. The rules are different, the protocols are different and our views change as we switch roles.

The moral of the story is, with viable KPIs in place, personal biases would not have even entered the discussion. If you live in a city where there is no need to drive a car and your disdain for driving is biased by the level of traffic and/or chaos, that does not mean driving in general isn't enjoyed by your customers who have their own opinions of the experience. So, let's not take e-mail "personal"-- steer towards your KPIs, and the discussion will be bear more fruit.

**Don't forget about OMMA New York this week. Advertising Week in New York creates a lot of excitement and energy for the interactive space.**

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