Predictions of Email's Death — Again?

In a meeting today, a UK-based CEO said to me, “Isn’t email dead already?” I guess if you equate “alive” with “the coolest new thing to hit the airwaves this month,” then yes, I suppose email remains in the opposite camp: the respectable position of being a proven, trusted and incredibly powerful direct marketing channel.

Our friend Dela Quist, founder and CEO of AlchemyWorx in Britain seems to have the same kinds of visceral reaction that I do when hearing over and over again that email is dead. He discusses it here on the DMA-UK blog and the comments from others are quite interesting as well.

For years now pundits have been predicting the death of email – first because of spam, then because of RSS, then because of social media. The industry remains stronger than ever. When I hear these kinds of comments, I always turn to the facts: enormous reach, highest ROI of all direct channels (including search), centrality to how business is conducted, and willingness of subscribers to sign up for marketing messages.

All of us in email marketing would do well to remind our marketing colleagues and executives about the staying power of the email channel. We can be even more successful if we combine that reminder with suggestions on how to adapt our email marketing programs to engage subscribers who are increasingly distracted. That distraction can result in higher spam complaints (clicks on the Report Spam button) – thus depressing inbox deliverability and lowering response and revenues. Even in a crowded inbox, we have an opportunity to engage with subscribers when we work hard to create relevant messages, compelling subject lines and meter the frequency so as not to fatigue our readers.

Instead of crying a death knell, I’m very encouraged to see that marketers are responding to our Web 2.0 world by making email more social and flexible. Adding “share with your social network” links in addition to “forward to a friend” is just a start. Smart marketers are also adjusting frequency and contact strategies to reflect that subscribers have more online diversions. For example, many email marketers now send more messages after a purchase or site visit, and less when the subscriber is between activities. Other marketers are synchronizing their social marketing and email marketing through coordinated campaigns, featuring comments on their blogs in the email newsletter and collecting email addresses through social media.

This evolution of email marketing strategy will strengthen the channel, no matter what or who the next “new cool thing” is this year.

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