I don't know about the rest of you, but I have been enjoying the discussion about email and its future ignited by recent debates among some of the titans in our industry. But now it's time to ask what more we can do to spread the word to people who are still using email marketing like it's 1999.
That's essentially the question posed by Mark Brownlow, always the voice of reason with his Email Marketing Reports blog and newsletter, in his reply to my column about who is hurting email marketing's reputation and brand.
"I wonder if we're not all preaching to the converted, and the people who need to get the message aren't even seeing it," he asked. Read his full comment here.
That's the crux: How do we get the word out to those who don't follow industry thinking, or to an even tougher bunch: the resolutely unconverted --those who know the right thing to do but can't or won't change their business methods?
I came up with four strategies that could help us move the discussion out of our closed industry insider world and out to the people who need to hear and act on it in order to keep email in the forefront of marketing media.
Get your own house in order. This is key. We can't talk to anyone about upgrading their email marketing practices if we aren't implementing even the most basic ones like permission, authentication, relevance and respect for the subscriber. Raise your own standards, and perhaps others will begin to notice and listen a bit more intently.
Reach out to others. What are we doing to get our message out to the people who use email marketing but don't necessarily read industry newsletters, blogs or discussion groups? Hard to imagine there are those who don't wait every week for their Email Insider enewsletters, but we need to go beyond those folks to take the discussion to people in their home turf.
Are we searching out the leading industry publications in non-email markets and offering to provide thoughtful action-oriented content to get them thinking?
We also need to consider where today's email marketers are getting their training and lobby post-secondary business schools to include the subject, along with best practices, in their marketing class curricula. Also, those who come into the business from another marketing venue or even from outside might have little or no email experience, so we need to go where they are to preach the word.
Finally, we need to remember that marketers don't operate in a vacuum. We need their affiliated staff, especially IT departments and their superiors to understand how email is different, how it delivers the greatest ROI, and to support it.
Fire the recalcitrant client. This might be the toughest one of all because nobody likes to turn away a paying customer. But those of us in the email management field have all seen our share of clients who balk at playing the game by our best-practice rules. At some point however, the bad clients will end up damaging your own business.
Keep the door open. Hard as it is for me to accept, I know there will be some who think they will never have to buy into the best-practice model, whether it's because they are permanently out of the loop or because they are seeing decent ROI now. I'm not calling for a public flogging of these people, nor would I make them wear a bright red S for "spammer."
However, the industry is maturing, and the bar is rising higher and higher thanks to technical issues like the need for authentication and maintaining a solid sender reputation. Those who don't keep up with the changes will find themselves on the wrong side of the door eventually.
We need to be ready to help them out when they do finally come for advice. That's why we should not abandon the discussion over basic best practices just yet.
Ideas, anyone? How should we best reach out to those who know better but don't act -- and to those who just aren't listening? Would love to hear your thoughts.