<Pick up microphone>
In my February blog post for Only Influencers, I asked you, "How strong is the state of our union?" My own answer was ambivalent.
I see brands trying cool things that showcase everything I believe about data driving email's future and First-Person Marketing. And then I look at my inbox, which overflows with batch-and-blast emails from brands that clearly have no idea who I am.
Then, I staffed my company's booth last week at IRCE in Chicago and numerous events over the last 6 months, and had incredibly in-depth conversations with so many motivated digital marketers.
Now I need to change my tune.
Focused, higher-level questions
I usually field lots of "Intro to Email"-level questions when I'm speaking or working the Adestra booth at marketing shows. Not this time.
At IRCE, Adestra's relaxation lounge was a great place to host conversations with marketers. They usually began with "Here are my biggest successes ..." and then segued into "But this is my biggest challenge ... "
"At last!," I thought later. At last, we're seeing people who have the basics down and are eager to build on their successes. They know where they want to take their email programs but need help mapping out plans. They're focused on strategy – the "why" – over the "how" of tactics but also want to know how tactics fit in with their strategies.
"I really need to get my engagement rates up," one said. "It's taking too long to get the email product out the door. We need to look for efficiencies," another one told me. Finally, another one told me about their focus on integrations saying “we need to ensure we have all the data for targeting”.
It was impressive to have marketers tell us what they know, what they want and what they need to get there. Any service provider in our industry can tell you how energizing it is to meet with prospects who are on a mission to improve and share solid information, not a sales pitch.
Digital marketers seeking connections
At IRCE, I spoke with marketers who had broad digital responsibilities, not just email. They were seeing the connective tissues among email, paid search, SEO and social and seeing the need to integrate them into a complete digital program.
They're looking for ways to make the pieces fit together better. They're asking, "How does email enhance all my other channels?" They're seeing email not just as a channel on its own but as a benefit to their search, social and non-digital channels.
From my viewpoint, it looks as if all the time we've spent on education at conferences, in client sessions, on webinars, in books, e-books and white papers is finally starting to pay off.
Yes, we still see a lot of brands doing nothing but batch-and-blast. But, based on my conversations and presentations in the six months since the year began, I'm encouraged to see marketers asking more about strategy, tactics, data and integration and not just how to send more email.
How email is like genome mapping
Remember the gene-mapping program called the Human Genome Project? It launched in 1990 and wrapped up in 2003. It was a massive, multi-national research project that seemed to take forever to get going. After three years, the group announced it had completed barely 1% of the project.
When asked why it took so long, the scientists said the beginning was the hardest.
Email evolution is like that. The initial stages are the hardest, but, once we get through the beginning, we can make giant leaps. So, just like the study of DNA, email is just getting over those initial movements, that 1% to 2% project completion.
How to foster big leaps
Six month in to 2018, I can see that incremental innovation is moving us toward the point where we're poised to take the giant leaps in innovation across the board, not just some brand outliers. Ask questions, like the marketers I've been talking about these last few months and years.
Ask questions of your service providers, of your peers and leaders in the email industry. Ask questions on the Only Influencers forum. Get involved in industry organizations like the Email Experience Council.
Also – ignore the zombies. Believe me, zombies don't just live on "The Walking Dead."
The zombies who get in our way are the people who say things don't need to change, that we can make enough money doing email the same old way, the executives who don't think they need to invest time and money in email to make it anything more than a discount-driven sales channel.
What we know – and what the zombies don't understand – is that customer preference is key to our email success.
We can either get on board or get passed over. And people are getting on board. Are you?
<Drop mic. Walk away.>