As most email marketers have come to realize, the nature of email marketing is changing, becoming more sophisticated, complex, and quicker in tempo. As Silverpop’s Loren McDonald noted, “Having observed the email marketing industry the last 15 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that our beloved channel is entering its next phase: adulthood.”
To be current, email marketers today must confront a host of new concepts, many of them still evolving-including real-time marketing, behavioral marketing, lifecycle marketing, triggered email, dynamic personalization, Big Data, mobile marketing and integrated multichannel marketing.
Email marketers also must keep pace with the latest tools and techniques for monitoring and analyzing customer behavior, and for integrating email and social media. In addition, keeping current requires marketers to stay on top of the latest trends to ensure reach, relevance and deliverability. This requires navigating the shifting sands of ISP rules and filters, as well as new wrinkles, such as Gmail’s new Inbox.
The Buyer’s Journey
Central to this major shift is the new “buyer’s journey” caused by the collapse of the traditional marketing funnel. The buyer’s newfound power, unleashed by the Internet, is described in numerous whitepapers and articles, such as this one from Marketo:
“Buyers today are more empowered. Information is abundantly, overwhelmingly available, and buyers are using that easy access to tune out unwanted marketing messages while simultaneously seizing control of their buying processes.”
All of the above-mentioned concepts (real-time marketing, behavioral marketing, multichannel marketing, et al.) are aimed at identifying, targeting, engaging and winning the business of prospects in this new buyer-empowered landscape.
Study after study, however, shows marketers unprepared to adopt the leading-edge techniques deemed necessary to win business in the new buyer landscape. For example, while integrated multichannel marketing is found to produce better results, a Forrester Research study found a “skills gap” was impeding multichannel marketing efforts, with respondents pointing to a lack of knowledge and skills.
Likewise, Marketo reports that most companies are not prepared to deliver integrated channel experiences. “The consumption and buying habits of Internet-savvy buyers,” says Marketo, “have zoomed ahead of companies’ organizational and technical abilities to communicate and interact with them.”
The same problems are seen in other new areas like Big Data and real-time marketing, where markers are wrestling with simply understanding what the concepts mean and how they should be approached. As Neolane’s real-time marketing study reported, “There is still much uncertainty in the market around what exactly is real-time marketing and how it can be applied in real world marketing organizations.”
The same incapacity is seen in lifecycle marketing, which is described as real-time, targeted, triggered email used to deliver the right message at the right time. Despite research showing 9x greater gains can be reaped from lifecycle marketing, Silverpop reports, “Many marketers are confused about where to begin and are concerned about the additional work required to implement this truly one-to-one strategy.” For these reasons, says Silverpop, “few email marketers are taking advantage of this customer-oriented strategy.”
Adapt or Perish
It is the complexity of the new techniques (behavioral marketing, real-time marketing, triggered email, etc.) that is creating a skills gap among email marketers. This can be seen in the Email Marketing Reports section devoted to Advanced Email Tactics, which covers behavioral targeting, dynamic email messaging, lifecycle marketing and triggered email.
As the section summary notes, these are “clever tactics for those with the right skills and resources.” However, as Mark Brownlow notes, the technical complexity of these systems tends to be glossed over. Brownlow also points out that there is a technology and skills gap among marketers, while urging vendors to make their systems simpler and easier to use.
Ultimately, those with the resources and ability to master the new email marketing concepts and techniques will be able to separate themselves from the rest of the field. As email expert Chad White notes, “This is a ‘keep up or get left behind’ industry. Mobile, social, big data, automation-all are big challenges and opportunities.” The biggest challenge and opportunity for email marketers, said White, is the pace of change.
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Photo Credit: stevendepolo