Getting The Most Out Of Our Professional Groups

Last week, a couple of my colleagues had a disagreement about the value of industry organizations. One believes that these groups haven't done much over the years, offer little value to professional marketers, and are all about the money. The other believes that without providing a conduit for discussing the issues that face the channel in general and bringing professionals together to help draw attention to concerns and issues, the industry has no voice. Again, one feels we should focus the organizations on the ROI issue and understand how to drive business through the channel by deconstructing programs in a collaborative forum. The other feels there should be structure to some of the mainstream issues (such as deliverability, measurement, email creative experience and building elements) to help us have executive discussions around these topics.

They both have a point. I've been involved in many of these organizations, participate in discussion groups dedicated to email, and have written over 70,000 words on this channel alone. While I tend to get bored talking about technical issues like authentication, deliverability, spam, and whether a single opt-in is better than a double opt-in, these are real issues that the average marketer needs answers to. (If you doubt this is difficult, try getting hold of the AOL Postmaster and getting him to respond to you, or understanding how to get your mail through BellSouth.)



Boring or not, we should not ignore the big issues or fail to develop some consensus on how to solve them. If we leave it to vendors to deal with these issues, all of our operating costs would skyrocket. If only marketers were to deal with these issues, we'd never have standards that could be negotiated with the ISPs, or any consensus on the issues. If we allowed agencies to answer these questions, we'd get charged twice as much and still not have an answer (with the exception of a few agencies I know).

I've spoken on ROI, Web analytics and some pretty sophisticated topics like "stacking effects" and proxies for valuations around email addresses, yet the topics that get the most buzz and syndication around the email world are the same old "Top Ten Tips" and relatively recycled articles that aren't unique or thought-provoking. Excuse me while I rant, but our industry needs to gain a more focused view of how email fits into integrated marketing and how to monetarily address this relationship.

Our industry also needs to think outside of email only. I am programming the OMMA East email track this year -- and you better believe it will include topics that will draw the media planner, the non-email marketing manager, and the SEO professional. Why? Email will not stand alone, monetarily or strategically. So all the organizations in the world will not raise the level of awareness we need to move the needle, if we don't raise our own game.

I believe in professional organizations, I believe in participating and contributing, I believe in finding points of "intermediation" where we can integrate the discussion from email to the customer experience -- not a linear conversation. I applaud the EEC, DMA, ESPC, ISIPP, MAAWG, AMA, DMA, BMA, FEDMA and all the discussion lists that have formed around email marketing.

Rather than dismiss the value of professional organizations, we should strive to add value to them. People who discredit them might take their own inventory to see how much value they have added to the industry themselves. The end results are positive outcomes that help us create this movement and integration.

Join today, commit to participating, and push to get more than you are getting today. The level of activism today far surpasses that of the early 2000s, the number of companies recognizing the channel as a viable business channel is large, and the conversations need to grow.

As Henry Ford said, "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal." What are your goals today -- and are they broad enough to help the industry as a whole?

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