It's That Time Of Year Again

I recall not long ago when people in the email marketing business complained there were not enough focused events that highlighted email. I was at a conference just recently and there were a total of 12 people in the email marketing session track, but if you went to the room next door on Facebook it was standing room only. We just finished up our client summit, and we hosted a Performance Lab that highlighted all the great innovations in the space. My Email Solutions group was one of those highlighted groups. I felt like a vitamin salesman at a candy shop. It's really hard to extol the values of a channel that doesn't demo well in a three-minute conversation.

To be really honest, there really isn't anything cool or particularly innovative about email today. In the company of surface display technology, mobile marketing, and social media, email marketing or generally eCRM is pretty low on the "cool" meter.

With that said, we are at that time of the year when MediaPost hosts its Email Insider Summit, and a few hundred marketers, agencies and service/technology companies will come together on a resort island to talk about what's happening with email marketing. I like where the industry and activism is going these days. There are a lot more people talking, writing and speaking about email's place in the marketing mix, yet I'd like to see those discussions reach a little deeper.



Every time we program these insider events, it makes you reflect on what we do well, what we don't and what do we need to address as an industry. The email industry is somewhat like the search industry; it's pretty exclusive. Everyone can buy keywords, that's not that hard to understand, nor is understanding the basics of setting up your site for search optimization -- but the few and proud who consider themselves search professionals know there's a lot more to it than what meets the eye.

Advocacy/Thought Leadership: While there are more people talking about email, and certainly a lot more people who know email marketing and the technical sides of delivery, these are pretty isolated discussions on many levels. I'd like to see the conversations go broader. I belong to many email lists and some are good technically, some industry wise, but I have yet to find one that looks at email's place in an organization and tries to bridge those discussions to search, display advertising, offline marketing, site optimization. Who's open for a broader marketer's discussion of email's place in an organization? I fear it's too intimate a discussion for many to participate, but ut would certainly drive my interest.

Innovation: There just hasn't been a lot of cool innovation in email. If you want to fill up your room at the next conference, don't title your program "Best Practices in email marketing." You'd better get creative and find better containers for your story, with titles like "Email's influence on social media" or "Using Email to enable your social influencers."

I think all the perceived innovation will be in this area, and there are so few people in our space talking about it. Today it's about direct marketing, tomorrow it will be about enabling social influencers through email. It's the new viral that many of us for years tried to incorporate into all our email programs with little success.

I'm also beginning to change my view of mobile email; I just don't see where innovation will affect what we do today. While the mobile consumer is a hot subject for many businesses, I struggle to see the next generation of this and what impact email will really have on a three-inch viewing device. I don't think everyone will own an iPhone, so I believe mobile email is simply a tool of convenience, not persuasion and commerce. Your level of permission will have a new dimension that will change how to assess value and performance to your business.

Look forward to seeing you at the conference this week. If you don't attend, we'll certainly blog about it. Stay tuned!

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