How Big Is The Market?

Well I'm back from taking a vacation from the column for a few weeks, and I want to thank Loren McDonald for filling in for me while I took a much-needed break. I realized that I'd been writing this weekly column on email every week without a break for nearly four years. But lately, despite the miles of verbiage that I and all my fellow pundits churn out each week on email marketing, I wonder how much we really know about our industry.

This was brought home to me recently when I asked my Linked-In network and the Inbox Insiders list to define how big the market is for email marketing. The answers were enlightening. I'm prohibited from directly quoting any of the members of the Inbox Insiders, but it was interesting to see how divergent the answers were from the email marketing professionals themselves. Without revealing the actual number -- which I'll try and provide next week -- the difference between the highest and lowest estimate for the size of the market, both of which came from respectable trade organizations, was off by a difference of 340%.



Of course the first question to ask is: what makes up the market for email? To me there are six major buckets: list rental, CPA deals, newsletter sponsorships, physical deployment, analytical/strategic/deployment tools, and strategic services.

List rental services, done on a straight CPM basis, is as old as the email business and the one that is probably hardest hit in recent years.

CPA deals are the probably the hardest to quantify because they exist in the murky world of affiliate marketing where even the brands advertised may not realize they are being presented via email.

Newsletter sponsorships are a very effective and lucrative area of email marketing, especially in the tech sector, and for newsletter brands that have cachet, like The Daily Candy.

Under physical deployment we have companies such as Constant Contact that provide an inexpensive method of handling the nuts and bolts delivery of email marketing messages, making sure that each message has an opt-out link, is Can-Spam compliant, and provide basic reporting capabilities.

Under analytical/strategic/Deployment tools I would include everything from email append services to delivery assurance tools and services to email analytics tools. In the area of strategic services we have ESPs and agencies, as well as internal email marketing groups, that handle everything from putting together reports to developing and testing email creative and subject lines.

What have I missed? And what dollar figure would you put on all these groups?

Here is what my gut tells me: Whatever the highest number currently being touted as representing the email marketing industry is too low. The number is larger than what anyone imagines it to be. But if the EEC is listening, this would be a great project for them to pick up and run with.

We'll explore more of this issue next week.

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