I was inspired by David Baker's article last week about his recent "Seat at the Table" meeting in San Francisco. Specifically, this line caught my attention: "thinking outside your channel and into the minds of your customers."
After reading the article, I realized I had the perfect segue. Email marketing, as we probably all agree, is not the be-all and end-all. As David said, it's simply one piece of the puzzle: a piece integrated with many other pieces, working together, to build a consumer experience with a brand (online or off). It's a tactical representation of a communication that we, the marketer, want to have with our consumer. It's not the only communication that our organization has with a consumer, and that fact requires us to adjust our thinking. In the end, it's not about email; it's about the customer experience and how email plays into and supports that.
So what does that mean to you and me, who are responsible for the email channel? It means that it's time for us to step up. To challenge our organizations to think of email not as a separate silo, but as an active part of the consumer experience. We need to work with our colleagues in media and social marketing; with our Web development teams and our offline direct marketers, and say, "Let's build a comprehensive communication strategy. Let's build a true eCRM program that integrates all of the channels at our disposal to maximize customer experiences and value to our organizations."
Communication planning should be a customer-centric exercise, not a channel-focused endeavor. A thank-you message might come in the form of an email, but wouldn't it be a great experience if the next time that consumer visited your site she also saw a customized message targeted just to her? Such as, "We hope you're liking that bag; maybe you'll like these shoes, too." And wouldn't it be great if that was supported by an email message letting the customer know when those great matching shoes are on sale? The consumer experience should always be at the center of our strategies regardless of which channel we use. And the good news is that we, the email marketing team, can be the ones to drive it. We're already doing it, aren't we? For what are the keys to email marketing?
Segmentation -- Whom do we want to talk to?
Messaging -- What do we want to say?
Frequency -- How often do we want to touch our customers?
Creative -- In what wrapper?
Being the experts in building customer communication plans in the
email space perfectly aligns us to lead the communication planning across channels.
Now, don't get me wrong, there are channel specifics that need to be addressed. It's not simply determining the communication plan and executing. There are technical issues that need to be addressed, such as, "How do we integrate data and push it out appropriately in order to use it for communication purposes? How, creatively, do we develop a message in display advertising and/or how do we target a message on the site that is different from email?"
These are challenges that need to be overcome, but we can overcome them. Even taking baby steps can make a big impact on the consumer experience. We know that stacking channels -- email + DM, search + display, email + search + display -- can bring response lift, so why don't we do it more? We don't, because we focus too much on our individual channel, our comfortable little box in our safe and snug world of email.
So as David said last week, let's challenge ourselves to a new way of thinking. It's not about email, it's about customer experiences. Email is simply our tool for improving those. A very important tool -- but not the only one in the tool box. Let's adjust our thinking and focus first on the customer and then on the channel. I think if we do we all have a bright future ahead.
Here's to some
great customer experiences, and in turn, a prosperous 2009.