How to monetize e-mail marketing programs

For those of us that have been buying, selling or covering e-mail marketing over the past decade, the conversation is only now beginning to shift from the basics toward a more focused conversation on how to drive the strongest ROI from our programs. Why has the shift taken so long? For one thing, e-mail as a marketing and media channel is relatively young, so there was a substantial learning curve to overcome. Before marketers looking to integrate e-mail into their multichannel media mix could realize its revenue potential, they needed to understand it. During this time, deliverability, e-mail optimization, compliance, e-mail feature sets and workflow took center stage in the dialogue.

Today, the same conversations continue, which is fine for marketers who are new to the space. These marketers need to understand that, just because they represent a top direct, consumer or b-to-b brand, they don’t get a free pass into consumers’ inboxes. However, there is a substantial need for more advanced conversations like the ones that the E-mail Experience Council (now merged with the Direct Marketing Association), the Interactive Advertising Bureau and other industry pundits have begun. These conversations are focused on measuring the lifetime customer value associated with e-mail, leveraging performance marketing and sharing true campaign metrics.

In short, the new conversations are about the next phase of e-mail marketing. They discuss the blurring lines between branding and direct. They are not about how to get to the inbox or how to tweak e-mail creatives per se, though those are talking points. They are about how integrated e-mail marketing retention and acquisition campaigns can be measured from a revenue perspective within a larger multi-channel marketing investment. It is a multichannel investment that includes search, online display and offline media spending. They are about the value of the customer you win and who, over time, becomes loyal — responding to you with more trust and wallet share. They are about multi-touch campaigns that show proven results and can be replicated, automated and tweaked for increasing performance over time. They are about dissatisfaction with the status quo of pricing models (CPM based pricing) in a convergent e-mail, search and display marketplace that could be cost-per-acquisition across the board. In short, the conversations are the high-level ones that marketers have in the board rooms that answer the question, “How do we turn what has been a cost center into a high revenue channel?”

Rather than pontificating on all the various long-term possibilities, here are immediate resources to explore for readers interested in participating in these conversations (in addition to DM News). Keep them handy throughout the year and join the dialogue.

  •  The Direct Marketing Associations 2007 Integration of DM & Brand Report

 The Direct Marketing Associations 2007 Integration of DM & Brand Report

  •  The Email Experience Council Website

  • The Interactive Advertising Bureau

  • David Baker’s Whitenoise Blog

  • The Outperformance Marketing Blog

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