I spent much of May and June on the road in eight cities with the Online Marketing Summit Whistle Stop tour. It was great to get out and meet with so many smart digital marketers.
Here are seven observations/trends:
1. Email rocks. It’s still a very important part of the online marketing mix. In fact, email this year has been elevated to a sort of celebrity status. Lots of executive attention due to the low cost and high return. It’s the biggest revenue driver in the toolkit.
2. No amount of celebrity can trump the realities of lean budgets. Marketing budgets do not seem to be growing, but the investment continues to be strong with email and search, where the immediate revenue and return is. For email, there isn’t so much innovation as preservation: Preserving our jobs and our team, growing our database assets, tying the various eCRM elements together (even loosely) and maintaining our list hygiene and deliverability budgets.
3. Top challenges around email are still deliverability and breaking through the clutter (relevancy). Especially with tight budgets. Marketers need immediate return.
4. Social marketing still gets all the hype, of course. But (dare I say it?!), it’s lost a bit of shine. Every marketer is being asked about social marketing internally, and everyone needs to have a “testing” strategy. Yet, I’m also hearing a lot of dissatisfaction around the options available. “You want me to spend time on mobile or Twitter or Facebook, with uncertain return, when I have a big number to hit and reduced staff?”
The best solution is to find the points of synergy. Spending time on the email marketing program is smart, because that is how you hit your number and reach large numbers of customers where they spend time online. However, certainly some of them are also active on Twitter or Facebook. Look for the simple, occasional things to link your email program with social marketing. Consider having a once a month “Twhale” (Twitter Sale) that is promoted both in email and via Tweets. Conduct a weekly lifestyle or fun poll on Facebook and highlight the results in your email messages. Host monthly catalog cover tests on Facebook, your website or Linked In that link to the merchandise you are looking to move this month.
5. There is still a LOT of confusion between “delivered” as reported by most ESP systems (which is really your bounce rate) and inbox deliverability (meaning your message actually reaches the inbox and can earn a response). This is something that I blogged about last month (http://www.returnpath.net/blog/2009/06/delivered-may-not-mean-to-the.php) and is an issue that I’m working on with a group of industry volunteers through the DMA’s Email Experience Council. We want to publish new definitions of these terms to eliminate confusion and ease benchmarking comparisons. (Email me if you want to participate! We’d love to have you.)
6. Data integration is finally starting to be possible, but too many marketers, even big brands, can’t do it efficiently. The promise of truly end-to-end eCRM is very attractive, but remains elusive for most. A lesson for all vendors – we just have to make this easier, more automated and tied to stronger analytics.
7. My session was about how complaint and deliverability data are essential parts of a good email marketing optimization effort. You can’t make good decisions about your program if you don’t have access to inbox deliverability data. Period. Think about what happens when you see erratic or suddenly poor campaign results. What do we do? We blame the creative. “Oh, that offer must have been terrible.” Or “Gee, subscribers must hate blue backgrounds.” Actually, what is likely is that the messages never reached the inbox – they were blocked by the ISPs like Yahoo! or Gmail or Orange due to a weak sender reputation or an infrastructure glitch. If you don’t have access to inbox deliverability data, ask us. You may also be able to get this data from your ESP, but it’s not usually part of the standard reporting package. You have to ask for it.
If you would like a copy of the handout from my session, just email me!