Should marketers spend more on social and mobile than email in 2012?

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Mobile and social vs. email: Where should marketers spend their limited dollars this year? It's a question that's top-of-mind for many marketers out there — and that's why we asked you.

We polled our readers on what they thought and we've tabulated the responses. Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Click here to see if you made it into print.

YES

David Chapman, founder and CEO, 919 Marketing Company, more than 30 years experience in the marketing industry

My initial reaction to this question is that marketers and businesses should spend more money on the marketing programs that are working best for them in 2012. If it's not broken, why try to fix it?

But I believe marketers would be better suited to spend more money in social and mobile than email in 2012, particularly if those programs are being used to supplement traditional marketing activities, such as media buys, public relations and direct mail. In the past few years, many of the companies we work with have been pleasantly surprised about the amount of customer engagement they've generated when they have executed targeted social and/or mobile marketing campaigns in tandem with traditional marketing tools. Far fewer have reported similar experiences and success stories surrounding email campaigns.

Personally, I believe this is because people are more mobile and social than ever before. In this day and age, brands can no longer rely solely on “push” marketing to drive brand awareness and preference because customers have the power. Blogs, comment streams, social media profiles and other online tools give customers a voice. Each customer can have a powerful impact on brands he or she uses so it's important for brands to get involved in the conversation. Therefore, in addition to “pushing” customers toward their products and services via traditional marketing tools, it's also important for brands to “pull” them toward their brand by contributing to online conversations and offering up valuable discounts through texts and social media posts.

Also, this isn't just a trend that impacts large corporations and multi-unit franchise systems. In fact, it may be even more important for local businesses to manage the conversation online than it is for large businesses because just one negative review could destroy the company's reputation and loyal customer base.

Email is a great tool and can certainly be a difference maker for many companies, but it's typically used as another “push” tool. I anticipate a continued rise in mobile and social marketing efforts because they allow marketers to influence the conversation online while both “pushing” and “pulling” customers to their brand.

NO

Adam Shlachter, managing director for digital, MEC, 13 years of experience in the marketing industry

Every chart and stat and report I've seen over the last few quarters and years point to exponential growth in the social and mobile spaces. So it makes sense that many of these reports indicate that there will be a stronger focus on mobile and social when it comes to digital ad spending or the channels in which marketers are planning to invest in next. Both mobile and social — in fact, the whole digital space — is ever-changing and evolving, and is becoming a more serious communications vehicle, as well as an excellent platform for marketers and commerce. With such dramatic growth, some would say that social and mobile have become almost as significant as email, but while email is a more mature channel, it is still one of the most effective drivers of positive return on investment and customer engagement for many brands, particularly retail brands. 

Billions of emails are sent every day to users who have chosen to receive the brand messages and offers contained within, and we need to understand how these consumers' preferences for brand communication may have changed, or if they have changed at all. Maybe they have a brand's mobile app to keep up with their account, or they subscribe to the brand's social feeds and updates — or maybe it's a combination of all of the above, but for different reasons and in different mixes. Clearly, there is an opportunity to look at customers' behavior and optimize how, when and how often they're pinged, texted, emailed or pushed any sort of message, including direct mail, print and even TV if there is enough valid data available.

Every brand should invest, or continue investing, in its social and mobile platforms to keep up with the trends and remain relevant to customers who are engaging in these channels, but not at the expense of what may already be working well and efficiently. Finding the right balance between all of these touchpoints is key, and email remains an important and viable channel for communication and engagement.

Direct Marketing News Decision

Although mobile and social marketing are exploding as consumer channels, they're still new and largely unproven in terms of results as marketers explore their value. Email is a proven channel of engagement with results marketers can rely on while exploring new communications vehicles. The key to making the best use of advertising dollars is remembering that channels are not mutually exclusive, and this is a good time for marketers to explore all those available to understand their true viability. Many are likely to find that different segments of their consumer base may prefer to be contacted in different ways.

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