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Email started to become widely available in 1993, when services like AOL started to connect their proprietary email systems with the Internet. Not long after that, email marketing began taking shape. Which means that email marketing is approximately 18 years old.
Thinking about email marketing in this context can be useful. Email is at its prime, marked by yet another resurgence as the result of smartphones. These devices have made email more accessible and are driving increased email utilization across every age group. Even teens, whose lack of email use has served evidence that email would go away someday soon, are likely to use email frequently if they own their own smartphone.
In short, email has made it through the awkward adolescent years. Look at human development, and the teenage years are full of challenges: peer pressure, insecurity, trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Sure, there were a few bumps and bruises along the way, but email has come out the other end stronger and ready to take on adult responsibilities.
This concept took hold at the Email Insider Summit on Captiva Island, Fla. The conversations there seemed rooted in a confidence I haven’t seen in a long time. We talked about the importance of content, and how email can act as a barometer for brands to determine which messages resonate in-market. Arthur Middleton Hughes, vice president of The Database Marketing Institute, Ltd., showed attendees how to determine lifetime value and how to apply that knowledge across marketing activities. We talked innovation and the integration of email with television.
Not once did I hear complaints about email not getting the respect it deserves. Instead, I heard conversations about how email marketers are earning respect within their organizations.
But with this newfound confidence comes responsibility. As I have been thinking about this topic, I have come up with a number of ways email marketers can demonstrate they now belong at the “grown-up” table:
Articulate value. When email marketers talk about email as a “cost-effective medium with high ROI,” others hear this as “email is cheap and easy.” Remove this phrase from your vocabulary and replace it with conversations about value. How can email drive incremental revenue? How is your program providing insights into the heart and soul of your target market? For that matter, how can email help you identify who your company’s actual target market is, and what they want from your brand? Email allows you to do these things very well — tactics that are valuable to any CMO or CEO, regardless of industry.