'Tis the season for 2009 predictions. Given concerns about the market, nearly every list of predictions I have come across lately focuses on shifts in marketing spending. While these predictions are of interest, one theme emerged that will influence the way I think about marketing in the coming year.
The theme is simple: marketing is all about relationships! Hardly a new concept, but before you bail out, let me explain.
I am not talking about using clichés like "relationship marketing" that make me feel good about loyalty programs that continue treating consumers like a name on a list. Microsoft's depiction of this irony in "The Break Up" continues to win awards for capturing what we all know to be true if we are honest with ourselves: There really isn't a relationship -- at least not one that we should feel good about.
So, this year, my lone resolution is to invest in relationships with people that I believe will tell me the truth I need to know as an email marketer -- relationships that will provide the type of insights needed to help build brands that stand out among the competition. Here are three groups of people I will spend more time with in 2009:
1) Call Center / Customer Service
Representatives: In nearly every organization I have ever been associated with, these employees represent an untapped source of valuable information. They understand the customer, they know
the frustrations, and they know what gets customers excited. Yet too often, they are left unattended and unappreciated. Companies hoping to prosper this year need to understand their strengths and
weaknesses from the customers' point of view, in order to address concerns proactively and highlight the things that delight consumers.
2) Social Media Gurus: Email professionals and social media professionals together never made more sense. In 2008, social media folks were the cool kids, while email marketers spent the year crying for attention; but as Chris Brogan recently pointed out in "Social Media Predictions 2009," "Doors are going to close all over the social web. Why? Because the money didn't come the way people thought it would. Why? Because there really wasn't a business model beyond 'if we get enough people, we'll figure it out.'" Social media folks understand authentic interactions with customers, they get customer relationships, they just haven't figured out how to make money! Contrarily, email marketers know how to make money, but too many of us consider a deliverable email address a "relationship." Let's face it, we are socially retarded.
3) Unsubscribers: Customers who don't want our email anymore are a great source of information. They also represent lost revenue. I recently conducted an analysis of the prior year's revenue attributed to customers who had unsubscribed from a company's email program. When we realized that some of those unsubscribers were among the firm's most profitable customers in the prior year, the message hit home. Pay attention and follow up! At last year's MarketingProfs event, Gary Varnerchuk of the Wine Library TV site said that if someone unsubscribes from his company's email program, Gary or another staffer will personally call them to determine the reason and make sure that they are aware of their monthly and more segmented email subscription options.
As we enter the new year, competition for customers and competition in the inbox will increase significantly. I am equally confident that this year will be filled with innovative new techniques and insights on how to connect with customers. To innovate, we need to foster more and better relationships with those around us that will tell us the truth about our programs and help us see the future.
These three top my list. Who are you planning to spend more time with this year to get new perspectives?