February 13, 2008 — “Email is only as good as it is to your consumers . . . . It is the consumer that matters the most to us,” said Jeanniey Mullen, founder of the Email Experience Council (eec), as she led a Tuesday panel of email professionals during the Email Evolution Conference. Hosted by the eec and DMA, the conference is being held at the Sheraton Hotel & Marina in San Diego.
DMA Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ramesh Lakshmi-Ratan, Ph.D., welcomed attendees to the conference.
“Email is not really a channel at all,” Dr. Lakshmi-Ratan said, “it’s a platform that’s shared by multiple communications and marketing channels. This is a natural extension in marketing that can be seen everywhere you look — the blurring of lines between brand and direct.”
“DMA’s job,” he continued, “is to keep every marketing channel open and economically viable for marketers and consumers to choose to use as they see best fit, as opposed to anyone else dictating how marketers and consumers use these channels. The entire direct marketing community needs the email platform, so we’re very grateful to all of you who can help shape this.”
As Mullen pointed out, the first-ever Email Evolution Conference appears to have created buzz and attracted attention. “We exceeded our initial goals for registration and attendance — more than doubled them.”
The panel of email marketing experts consisted of David Daniels, vice president and research director, JupiterResearch; Chip House, vice president marketing services, ExactTarget; and Craig Spiezle, chairman of Authentication & Online Trust Alliance and Director Online Safety & Security at Microsoft Corp.
Throughout the presentation, the panel highlighted the “four cornerstones of email,” namely: relevancy, reputation, ROI, and re-invention.
Mullen explained that email is “no longer an individual channel, but rather the cornerstone of a digital dialog.” This idea was reflected in the eec’s recent effort to remove the hyphen from the word “e-mail,” demonstrating that electronic mail and traditional mail channels are no longer separate. “Everybody reads, writes, and sends email,” Mullen said. “It’s become a part of our lives. You are the future of our community because it is the way people are going to be communicating.”
Regarding relevancy, Daniels pointed out that marketers should identify their detractors, as well as their loyal customers, and communicate with each differently. “Frequency must marry the purpose,” Daniels said, “and purpose must be apparent in the tone.”
Daniels cited JupiterResearch data that showed 42 percent of consumers are most interested in getting relevant email; 51 percent unsubscribe when offers and content are not of interest; 30 percent do not trust unsubscribe links to work; and 40 percent unsubscribe from highly frequent senders.
House pointed out that what is spam for one person may not be for another. Furthermore, he said, 90 percent of email recipients make the decision as to whether an email message is spam or not, without ever opening the email. Therefore, the way marketers present subject and header lines takes on crucial importance.
House said it is also essential for marketers to figure out how to stand out in a crowd in order to achieve ROI with email. The goal for marketers “is to get noticed for having their users want the email they are sending,” and to avoid being the sender about whom consumers are complaining.
Spiezle tackled the subject of reputation for email marketers. One major challenge, he pointed out, is the overwhelming number of attacks that bombard customers on a daily basis. For example, he said, this week an onslaught of spoofing (the forgery of an e-mail header) that was related to Valentine’s Day and the IRS had been hitting consumers’ emailboxes.
Today, Spiezle explained, phishing attempts (emails falsely claiming to come from a legitimate source) are not just focused on consumers, but on all brands, domain types, and businesses. Today’s scammers, he said, are interested in business data. Therefore, it becomes an issue affecting not only business-to-consumer emails, but B-to-B communications as well.
In this environment, methods that help to verify identity and authenticate email messages can provide powerful and important tools, affording protection for online transactions. “Content is no longer king,” House said. “It is about the whole end-to-end experience.”
Mullen echoed this holistic approach to email communications. “Make sure you are not thinking in a single or siloed kind of process,” she advised, “because email of today is no longer about email into the inbox, it’s putting email wherever the consumer receives it.”
About the Email Experience Council (eec):
The Email Experience Council (eec) (www.emailexperience.org), the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) vertical working group that is focused on the email marketing industry, is a global professional organization striving to enhance the image of email marketing and communications, while celebrating and advocating its importance in business, and its ROI value. The eec is committed to regularly conducting a broad series of email initiatives for a variety of organizations that highlight the positive impact and importance of email as a marketing tool, communications vehicle, and branding device. Additionally, eec members are setting the standards for email through Marketing Roundtables. The eec members are representatives of other trade organizations, agencies, advertisers, technology partners, clients, and companies focused on the potential of email marketing via mobile and other digital devices.
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