The E-Marketing Forecast for 2003

Marketers were forced to focus on profit last year, realizing that every customer they bring into the business needs to represent value to the company. No more eyeballs for eyeballs’ sake.

Also in 2002, e-marketing became part of an integrated multichannel marketing and sales mix. Pay for performance emerged as the right way to test risky new media options.

What’s likely to happen this year? I polled some leading thinkers in Internet marketing for their thoughts:

Bryan Eisenberg, president, Future Now Inc.: Technology is going to change the behavior of e-mail marketers once again. I am talking about the new spam-control technologies and the release of Outlook 11, which will block HTML bugs. Marketers will have to focus on using e-mail to deliver value, develop a genuine dialogue with customers and create real relationships. Marketers will move beyond mere transactions and promotions. You can scream SALE only so many times before you are ignored.

Debbie Weil, publisher, WordBiz Report: E-mail marketing, including e-newsletters, will remain a vital piece of the integrated marketing mix. But publishers and marketers will have to be even more careful about the quantity and quality of messages they send.

With spam zooming out of control, people are exquisitely sensitive to the contents of their in-boxes. E-mail them too frequently and it’s intrusive; not frequently enough and they may no longer remember opting in to your communications.

Add to this the technical obstacles of getting legitimate e-mails delivered through the spam filters and black lists, and you’ve got an even bigger challenge. It’s ironic. E-mail was heralded as the killer app of direct marketing. But the very speed and ease with which it can be deployed is contributing to its downfall as an effective marketing tactic.

Sandra Barry, director, Marketing Fuel: I see two trends. First, companies will realize that they need to develop guidelines and standards for e-mail use in different areas of the business, from marketing to customer service and fulfillment. It’s no longer sensible to run e-mail on an ad-hoc basis here and there, without a coherent strategy enterprise-wide.

Second, I hope that companies will invest the time and energy to develop customer contact strategies and integrate their e-mail communications with them. Companies that still operate in physical or cultural silos tend to view customer data as proprietary to each group without realizing that, from a customer perspective, the brand is the brand. The best way to crack this nut is by creating cross-departmental marketing teams.

Jim Novo, The Drilling Down Project. Onliners will realize that new-customer source plays an enormous role in understanding customer value. They will start tracking it, just as offline direct marketers have done for decades. Onliners will begin to understand that not all traffic is created equal and that where the visitors come from is a key indicator of their future behavior.

Web analytics will take its place in driving Web site productivity. It is shocking how many companies have the software but don’t use it or don’t look at the reports because they are full of geek-speak. The key is to set up the reporting to provide actionable information, not just data.

Marketers will understand that customers don’t want a relationship; they want great service, interesting products and sharp pricing – just as they always have.

Al DiGuido, CEO, Bigfoot Interactive: Automated e-mail-based solutions such as payment confirmation, billing alerts and other triggered communications tied to individual profiles will help marketers maintain a relevant dialogue while driving efficiencies.

Strong ISP relationships will be critical for reputable e-mail providers as they join their ISPs in fighting spam.

Marketers will leverage the power of e-mail beyond corporate marketing and extend it to the local level. Distributed campaign management will improve sales and ROI while maintaining the integrity and relevance of the communications.

Reggie Brady, Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions LLC: To me, the new idea is multichannel marketing, but from the much narrower focus of a tighter integration of e-mail and telephone. I’ve seen several marketers work this way, with some telling results.

People who receive an e-mail and then call the toll-free number in the e-mail spend more than people who just link through to the Web site. It makes sense. A good call center rep with a transactional history on the customer can cross-sell and upsell the consumer during the call. Armed with this finding, some marketers are highlighting and promoting inbound calls in their e-mails.

John Ardis, vice president of corporate strategy, ValueClick Inc.: The best new idea for 2003 is the old idea: a return to direct marketing basics, the fundamental principles that have been time-tested and proven over decades. With the advent of the Internet, marketers were first infatuated with the technology and then with pay for performance. The next step is to move to a balanced, integrated approach to Internet sales and marketing.

It’s a return to understanding that there are no shortcuts, and that success is striking the optimal balance between cost-effectiveness and volume.

It’s a return to the hard work but great satisfaction that comes from developing hypotheses, designing tests around them, reading the tests and then refining and rolling out.

It’s a return to a mature approach to DM, one that weighs long-term potential at least equally with immediate-term gains.

In short, it’s a return to classic direct marketing.

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