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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Complete Version of "Big-Time Predictions From Email Marketing Heavyweights" - my recent article from ClickZ

I have the honor of now writing the Email Marketing Best Practices column for ClickZ. I had a well received article titled "Big-Time Predictions From E-mail Marketing Heavyweights"that was chock-full of good insights and advice from 7 experts that I know well.

I have included all of their predictions and advice below as the article did not have room for everything. Enjoy and thanks to the experts for their time and advice. The unedited version is below.


Sick of hearing e-mail is dead? Misguided musings on how social will make e-mail irrelevant? Me too.

I asked some of the leading e-mail and digital minds to chime in and tell me where e-mail marketing is headed and what marketers should be paying extra attention to in 2010.

This group of seven is comprised of some serious thinkers, prognosticators, and proven digital leaders from the agency, e-mail service provider, and deliverability side. Heed their advice within multiple facets of e-mail marketing and try to test a few things out in Q1.

• Jay Baer, Founder - Convince & Convert
Relevance is now required, not optional. Individualized, behavior-triggered delivery necessitates a huge emphasis on testing & optimization.

• Jeff Hilimire, Chief Digital Officer - engauge
It's my opinion that email marketing is both the most effective form of marketing and at the same time the least maximized. Because email is inherently effective, marketers get away with poor processes and little innovation and still are able to produce better ROI than their other marketing efforts. In 2010, you'll start seeing marketers pushed to evolve their email practices by consumers growing use of social networks in lieu of email. I see social being a big threat to email but at the same time being the impetus that marketers needed to stop taking email for granted.

• Jeff Rohrs, VP, Marketing - ExactTarget
Thanks to social media, consumers are increasingly used to a more informal tone from companies—one that makes their interactions feel more human and less DBL (Dictated By Lawyers). So, as email and social continue to cross-pollinate, I expect more companies to inject real personality—if not real people—into their email communications. I’m not one to quote Barbara Streisand often, but all of us are, after all, “people who need people.” 2010 feels like the right time that we, as email marketers, will finally ditch the robot voices in favor of our real ones. As far as I’m concerned, it can’t happen soon enough!

Most of us, have seen email’s stature rise the past 18 months and we can go back to being seen as a cheap, efficient and relatively simple channel or we can take the bull by the horns and position email as the central hub to all digital communications, and a sophisticated and versatile one at that.

Don’t get caught in a rut and hit send while yawning. That is the most dangerous thing for any email marketing program. 2010 is a year to build business cases, take calculated risks and build a targeted messaging program for the next decade.

• Mark Brownlow, Publisher - Email Marketing Reports
A lot of energy was wasted in 2009 arguing about which channel was best. 2010 should see us take more holistic approaches to online marketing, accepting that email is one of a range of valid channels that customers might use to connect with us or receive information.

The challenge is to find where email works best in the mix and to refocus on what you communicate rather than how you send it. Picking the right channels is important, but not as important as making your communication valuable and meaningful to the recipient: the biggest email addict won't read your emails unless they deserve the attention.

Email will still be a primary channel for most people, but there will be even more pressure to stand out in the inbox as attention fragments between different channels and media. Again, this means upping the quality of your content or offer.

Vested interests in other channels and technologies will continue to snipe at email, so marketers need to remain objective and rely on facts rather than vendor PR. A challenge will be to improve the measurement of email's indirect impacts on branding, offline purchases etc. so budget allocation can be more rational.

Another big one of course is the growth of mobile email as smartphone penetration grows. Most people see this as a problem of design: how do you get your email and landing pages to look good on a little screen with idiosyncratic HTML display capabilities?

• Jordan Cohen, Sr. Director, Marketing and Public Relations - Pivotal Veracity
Mobile email marketing will be the top focus. I know we’ve all heard that “this is the year of mobile marketing” for the last 5 years, but I promise—this year really will be the year of mobile marketing, with email playing an central role in the mix.We are starting to see big brands lead the way in developing and implementing new mobile strategies, and in 2010, I anticipate that much of the industry’s attention will be focused on building out mobile email marketing optimization technologies and best practices.

Deliverability Darwinism. The top ISPs have run out of patience with sloppy mailers, and have become especially intolerant of those who attempt to deliver messages to “disengaged” recipients (those who chronically ignore or delete messages from a sender). Marketers will increasingly feel the pressure to root out inactive segments of their lists, and will also work harder send targeted, relevant email at a more reasonable frequency in order to ensure that people don’t become disengaged in the first place.

Social opportunity. Forums like Facebook and Twitter present a ripe opportunity to capture new email addresses at a pace and magnitude that was impossible before these sites existed. Much is discussed about how email can be used to provoke conversations about your brand in these channels, but not as much energy has been focused on leveraging these sites to build your database. That’s a mistake that will be rectified in 2010.

We won’t see “rich email” yet. While I’m a fervent advocate of rich media and video in email, employing these methods on a large scale is still at least a few years off. Most ISPs don’t support Flash within email, and even the most sophisticated new smartphones like the iPhone don’t either.

• DJ Waldow Director of Community - Blue Sky Factory
SWYN (Share With Your Network) Explodes: 2009 saw marketers begin to dabble in the "new" world of social media. Facebook pages were set up, Twitter accounts were launched, and even a few brave companies began to not only feature their social presence in emails, some even went as far as to include SWYN features. In 2010, marketers will get more strategic about SWYN - offering incentives to share (contests, exclusive offers, etc).

Mobile is Money: As smart phones become ubiquitous, marketers will be forced to start thinking of ways to design emails for smaller screens. Additional opportunities will continue to arise with SMS options as well. I see more and more email sign ups happening directly from your mobile device.

• Michael Kogon, CEO - Definition 6

Marketers will increase their spending on both email marketing and social media this year – and work to find more ways to integrate the two

Marketers will look for new ways to leverage video and other multimedia content through email and social media

Email will no longer live in a silo – rather, it will finally become an integrated component to interactive marketing programs.

More sophisticated use of analytics will help marketers better target email marketing – and develop more unique dynamic messaging that drives deeper engagement.

As an add on to the previous point – marketers will get better at the “test, retest and refine” steps in the interactive marketing process, continually looking for new ways to improve performance.

Will marketers realize all their goals across these areas all at once? No. Will this be a huge year in terms of driving more substantial ROI from email, social and a broader range of interactive marketing? Yes.


Take a deep breath now. What do you think is big that's not included? Please add your comments and, more importantly, dive right in and make 2010 the best year yet for your e-mail marketing program.