I spent four days this week at the Email Insider Summit in beautiful Park City, Utah. As a program chair for putting together the agenda, I can honestly (and humbly!) say the content was great and the location was sublime. We all left with more contacts, lots of great ideas, case stories to apply to our programs, many intriguing conversations, potentially some great partnerships to explore, and definitely less sleep than we need.
Here are my top five observations and predictions for the industry based on the numerous and insightful conversations I had this week with marketers and industry leaders:
1. No matter what (or where) you call email marketing, it’s all about the “R.” Relevancy is still the key to success. As email marketing expands to include mobile distribution, social networking and multi-channel approaches, creating amazing subscriber experiences now includes not just pace and content but place. We have more opportunity than ever and the technology is making it easier to tap multiple messaging channels to reach and engage with subscribers and prospects.
2. Subscriber fatigue is real. The bar is higher and we marketers need to step up and work harder to create compelling subscriber experiences. Even outside of the horrible spam, our inboxes are too full of messages that do not speak to us as individuals. We saw some great success stories this week, but these are exceptions, still not the rule.
3. Sender reputation matters. The ISPs and receivers are working harder than ever to battle the spammers, and legitimate senders still get caught in the trap; the dolphins in the tuna net is an analogy that was used this week. There is still a lot of friction between marketers and ISPs/receivers, and marketers and government regulators. We as an industry need to step up and remove some of this friction. Return Path is working on this, to ensure that senders with good reputations have one set of standards and guidelines, and are consistently rewarded for that behavior across the entire ecosystem. And you have my personal promise to explore this more through my leadership roles at the DMA/eec, Shop.org and BMA.
4. Segmentation isn’t going far enough. I was delighted to see how many more marketers employed segmentation in 2007 than in 2006. Bravo, bravo! But the net effect for subscribers is that too many programs still feel generic. We are not yet creating 1:many experiences that feel like 1:1 to our subscribers, and that is what is driving up subscriber fatigue and complaints, and depressing response rates.
5. List growth will come from well timed, short term email experiences, rather than one size fits all opt-ins. Not every email experience has to be forever. Instead, we marketers will be able to tap into key moments of the customer lifecycle to create unique and powerful experiences when the customer is in market. When the customer is not in market, we’ll send less email that focuses on the relationship rather than the transaction.