I was speaking at the Marketing Profs Mixer last week. While I sipped my fresh-squeezed orange juice in the lovely setting sun of Scottsdale, I started to ponder the things that make me scratch my head. What does an impending recessionary market, with many marketers scrambling for cover, bring for the bottom-feeding email marketers, with our 3% of the marketing budget?
In one session, the lead statement from one of the panelists was, "email is dead... as you know it today." I've heard this statement used before to get people's attention, but I couldn't help but look around the room of 100+ people and think, "You guys are experiencing the same problems you have had for the last 5-10 years, so what's new about today?"
Here's a list of random thoughts that I often ponder.
Why is everyone talking about relevance as the golden egg, when there is no possible way to cater to every circumstance, every customer segment, and be contextually relevant to every one of your customers? Isn't it an 80/20 rule? You worry about 80% of your customers, but can truly cater only to 20% in a truly relevant fashion, if that. Hopefully that is your highest value customers you spend your energy for.
Why is everyone still talking about how much email you should send? This is a broadcaster's view of the world. It isn't about how much email you send to your customers, it's about being smart about how you use email. It should support some need -- basic marketing at its best.
Why is everyone leading every email discussion with how bad SPAM is? Don't let this statement confuse my priorities. Spam complaint ratios are important to watch, monitor and be sensitive to, but so few marketers have valid feedback loops or focus groups to assess their customer's view of SPAM and how it reflects on their program. Without this, you are simply worrying about trend reports that may/may not be relevant to your business and customer's opinions. Do the issues of the 2,000 interviewed in the last analyst report really represent your customer base, and the type of value you drive via email?
Open Rates trending drive me crazy. Everyone seems to put a different value on this information -- and very few people set up business rules to do anything with it. It's a valid metric, but what does it really mean to the health of your email program? What if your open rates are trending downward, but your total clicks are trending upward? Viewership, which is what the proverbial open rate helps you understand, is about reach. It should be trended over time, and is less important campaign-over-campaign.
Why aren't more people talking about cross-channel attribution? I've seen some great stories over the last few months about monitoring LTV and how this impacts. But remember, LTV is not about revenue -- it's about a forward-looking view of profitability of customer segments. We must understand the value of email outside of a click, open and driving a sale. We've diversified email throughout the business to support many things, and you must find a way to show the value of each communication. Does email add value or not? If you can't show the incremental value of email, you will never win the budget battle.
Why do so many people reflect their own personal use of email and experiences on their decisions? The last thing I want to hear from a VP of marketing is, "I get too much email." This is such an irrelevant discussion. We should remember, unless you match the customer profile you are not a good reference to make assumptions about the experience or perception of your customers. You have to develop some feedback loop to validate your ideas. You'll find your meetings and discussions so much more worthy if they doesn't start with a biased opinion based on your personal email usage traits.
Will the economy really impact what we do over the next year or so? I may be an optimist, but I really don't see email marketing being greatly affected. We have relatively fixed budgets, some of it is sunk costs (you are obligated by your contract with your ESP to send a certain number of emails per month). Budgets that are fluid, like online advertising and search, may see more cutbacks for things that have "sunk" budgets that are allocated out in 2010. With that said, I think our channel will survive this time.