There's been a lot of discussion about the email channel of late, sizing up the industry and wondering how to generate buzz -- or better yet, respect. Yeah, email is the Rodney Dangerfield of interactive marketing. Email is still the 74th slide in an interactive marketing pitch. Although eCRM is still deemed a baseline competency, I'm continually amazed at how little attention it gets in general, giving way to more sexy alternatives (media and search). Even though we've added to the complexity with deliverability and ISP issues today, few see email as integrated or strive to build programs that complement each.
I spent some time at the Search Engine Strategies conference in San José, Calif. a month ago, and didn't realize how small is the group of experts who really know what they are doing. This is much like email. There were thousands of people there who were new to search. The topics were so basic even non-search people got it. The experience reminded me of some of the email conferences where you see lots of practitioners, but few who really know how to optimize programs. It's the same at the Web analytics conferences. Everyone understands core Web analytics to some degree, but few are really able to optimize the use of tools, programs and iterating performance based on these results. Same excuses -- lack of resources and expertise.
If you think email, marketing segmentation and ROI modeling are remotely complex, try SEO and the intricacies of managing keyword buys in a complex world. Try optimizing your Web analytics platform to truly understand patterns of performance by page, path, segment and how marketing programs evolve.
What I like about the search space, and believe email marketers can learn from, is that search practitioners have been forced to move outside their channel -- and the dependencies they have on the Web experience, site side search, media and competitive monitoring. They have been forced to balance the need to do SEO on the site and a great user experience on the site with Web behavior and tracking.
Search is not an organizational movement that is interdependent the business. Email is not looked at this way. It is seen as a retention and cross-sell effort; few actually understand the impact on a consumer experience that started with email and ended on the Web, the impact of external media exposure on customer value. It's a shame, the channel is truly the only one that ties back to a deep profile of the customer. My challenge to our own space is to think like SEO people, react like a Web analytics professional, optimize like an information architect, be creative like an entrepreneur and build value in your programs through levels of attribution. You'll never have enough resources or funding, so if this is today's excuse, you'd better find a new one. As the proverb states, looking at email only in a business is like trying to eat with one chopstick: you'll never have enough to eat.