Things To Talk About In The Email Marketing Space

Your daily schedule probably rarely allows you to read more than a headline or two. If you are some of the lucky email marketers, you may have time to read a few newsletters, industry briefs and possibly belong to a few lists that talk about email marketing a lot and maybe attend a webinar. So, this column will focus on what everyone's talking about -- not solutions, but issues that are buzzing in the email space. Let's start with a recount of some of the "Classic Mistakes of 2005."

After speaking at nine events this year, writing over 3,500 words for publication in 2007, another 1,000 on my blog, here are the top three topics that come to mind when I think of 2007:

Value of an email address. My team wrote about this in several columns in 2005 and 2006, giving some examples, formulas and ideas. I spoke about it at last year's Email Insider Summit in Park City, Utah, and when I introduced it as a part of LTV, it was a tough subject for the audience to grasp. The Email Experience Council has managed a List Growth group that is focusing on this topic and developing some generic tools that will help email marketers better understand how to assess the monetary value of an email subscriber.

There was also a recent post on an insider list about this very subject that prompted this list. It's a hot subject that is very customized to each business, but the methodology and rationale for going through this is valid and critical as we build out this industry and strive to sweeten the budgets for email.

So the big topic is: "What is the value of an email address for a consumer?" Is it a function of the cost to acquire them, a function of lifetime value, a channel variable that can be overlaid to an existing LTV equation? Is it a cost savings due to the low cost of the channel? The answer is YES to all, but the secret sauce is applying it to your business one customer segment at a time. If you strive to solve this issue for your entire database and every customer segment, you'll find yourself tangled up in an endless world of variables that everyone will argue with and not understand. Instead, try one customer segment and work through your top five and you're on your way. (Article: "Calculate The Value of an Email Address." )

Choosing an ESP. There have been more requests for insight and perspectives about email service providers in the last year than any year I've seen in the past. Why? I believe it's because there is more networking going on in the space. Marketers are talking freely about their experiences, their likes and the technology partners out there available to service your business. The RFP process is still sadly the same clunky deal that most still go through feeling that they will learn through seeing 10 vendors present their software and talk about how they've generated success in hundreds of clients. I find the selection process such a time drainer for most businesses, and the risks to switching are higher than they were in the past. With that in mind, there are still so many businesses that are misaligned with their partners and electing to move on, and so many small business groups doing their own thing outside of the traditional email marketing group. I see this as a continuing trend in 2008, while the barrier to do this as a business is still perceived as low.

Tactics, tactics, tactics. I'm still amazed at the attention very basic information receives in this space. Write a column on Top 10 tips to anything and it will get far more pick-up than advanced subjects like integrating analytics or acquisition. The number one post on my blog last year was about simple "Testing" and ideas around that. What's cool to see evolve are the technical discussions and deliverability tactics that are being shared. How to code for Gmail, Outlook 2007, filtering and bounce issues with Yahoo. These were typically issues that were isolated to businesses and rarely shared en masse, though now there are sites and groups bringing these issues out in tactical discussions. This is so valuable for all involved as we strive to mainstream email marketing, while the technical issues of keeping up with the space continue to change so dramatically. Interactive marketers don't realize the complexities of email and the changing dynamics of managing IP addresses across an organization, managing changing delivery standards by 30+ ISPs and all the data issues. You don't appreciate it till you have to live it.

Viewing my crystal ball, I see much of the same for 2008. While we all want to be visionary, the fact is so many are doing email poorly and are still strapped with few resources, so subjects like integrated marketing, mobile marketing, Web analytics/measurement, attribution modeling and behavioral targeting will take a backseat in 2008.

Keep the issues coming, keep the thoughts flowing and get involved, it's the only way we'll move the needle.



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