It was 14 years ago when my husband and I decided to market an email marketing solution. I remember the time clearly because I was also pregnant with my fourth child, while on maternity leave with my third child for six months – yes we were only granted six months maternity leave back then.
So, our fourth child was born in 2000, 1 year and 2 weeks apart from the third child. Fast forward to 2013, and my babies are now teenagers (13 and 14 years old). So much has changed since they were born, and I wanted to look back to see if email marketing has also grown up.
We did our first tradeshow booth in 2000, and we literally felt like aliens. People were looking at us as though we were odd because they didn’t think email marketing was going to be a useful, let alone powerful marketing tool.
Email Marketing – Back in 2000
At that time, this is what we had to work with:
- Basic Contact Lists – We were working with lists that contained mostly just email addresses, and were really happy when we found a list with a first name and last name.
- Generic Contact Acquisition – We used an automated robot to collect random email addresses from Internet.
- Basic Design – Email messages were sent in text version only.
- No Personalization – There was no personalization or specific relevancy for email campaigns. High volume was the objective.
- Basic Tracking – We added a basic tracking tool few months after launching the product.
- Subscription Management – It was a basic feature labelled as wither active or inactive.
- Reader Environment – NO smartphones. The only way to read an email was from a desktop computer screen.
When I look at these last few years, it is incredible how email marketing has grown up!
Email Grown Up in 2013
- Complex Marketing Lists & Databases – We now collect and manage data from multiple sources, both offline and inline from CRM and transactional systems, website tracking and more. Our clients have a 360 degree view of their contacts.
- Relevant & Permission Based Contact Acquisition – We no longer use a robot to collect contacts, and an anti-spam law was recently introduced in Canada to manage how companies collect and use their contact data. We help clients manage and track their collection of customer data, and use email marketing best practices so we remain within the law and their contacts are relevant.
- Design – HTML email campaigns are the most effective, and companies need to adapt their designs to all email platforms available.
- Personalization – During the evolution of email marketing, we were able to add contact information at the very early stages. Now, we can adjust the actual email copy to make it more relevant and personalized for each client by using conditional content. For example, using order information from the last products purchased or the number of points available to redeem.
- Tracking – We can track not only the clicks and open rates on an email, but also the conversion rates. Scoring tools help to manage this data and create indicators and information tables to use to send more personalized emails based on behaviors and interest levels.
- Subscription Management – We are seeing more and more preference centres. Clients can tell you what kind of emails they want to receive and how often (once a week, once a month, which types, just newsletters, etc.)
- Reader Environment – Now, we create responsive email to adapt the content to a smartphone or tablet. We have to also think about clients clicking on the links using their fingers.
At this point, I think email marketing has evolved beyond being a teenager. It’s also easier to manage! Having said that, I’m sure we have a lot to discover in the next few years for email marketing.
The thought reminds me of a discussion I had more than five years ago with one of the most highly regarded social media specialists in Montreal. At a cocktail party, she asked me if I was thinking of a new business model because she thought email marketing will be dead in few years. I was sure it wasn’t true because at this time I knew we had a lot more work to do, to personalize and create more relevant email campaigns, and by the same way, increase the email marketing ROI.
The only thing I wasn’t able to tell her is that social media tools are really large users of email marketing. We still have direct mail, radio and TV ads, I’m pretty sure we will need to keep an eye for the next few years on how those marketing tools will work together. We will need all of them for each stage of marketing and the client cycle.
When I think about what email marketing will look like in 15 years, I just wonder how it can be a better ROI tool, and I’m pretty sure we’ll find a way.