Getting the big picture for the future of email

Email Marketing

This month I’m going to deviate from my regular series and talk up the new Periodic Table of Email that Marketing Land just released. 

After being in the email business for 20 years, I can recognize the effort and organization needed to put this grand data visualization together. I give total props to the Marketing Land team for the work and the value it will bring to our industry.

As I reviewed the chart, my eyes wandered immediately to the elements in blue and purple, and I began thinking about how they’re related and what they have to tell us about the global picture.

One of the beauties of this chart is that it plays with many of the concepts that I advocate – looking first at the strategic components of our effort, the “why” before the “how” of email marketing.

One sign of a great marketer is the ability to look beyond the short-term take to see the bigger global picture, which is the true interplay between just sending another email and seeing email’s relationship with the brand’s equity and the goals for email and the whole marketing program.

That’s what this chart gives us – the big picture of email.

For years I used a slide deck that listed everything marketers could do with email beside just sending another campaign. This chart serves the same purpose. Give it to your team and your boss so they can see the possibilities beyond just sending another campaign.

Optimization versus experimental

These areas force people to take a step back to see the big picture and interplay of all of the elements.

As I noted before, I am most drawn to the optimization elements in this table, and in particular the audience elements (blue squares) and the experimental elements (purple).

If we think about email marketing’s future, much of what we focus on is that email is a data-rich environment. Data is everywhere in our online experiences. As marketers, it’s our job to use it appropriately and responsibly.

The future state of email is much like Minority Report but takes it a step further. Think about information communicated to the end user based on direct communication and propensity to purchase.

The medium is not as important as the message, but the message is delivered through the right medium for consumption.

The fun of this future vision is that this can be done in a small way today.  Propensity models that encompass products AND media already are in place, yet we have a hard time applying those in a scalable and practical way.

That experience is everything – relevant, demand-driven and ruled by instant gratification.

Remember that the ultimate end goal for email is that we have demand-driven messages that consider every piece of data and experience to deliver a message. It’s not just the email – it’s the message the email sends.

That message can be delivered where it’s best consumed based on individual needs, preferences and situations.

So, if people want to experiment with artificial intelligence (the element Ai on the chart) or voice activation (element Voi), how can the data help us get closer to consumer intent?

Looking at the elements individually won’t help us in the operation of our programs. But they establish where the floor is today. Most of us still do a singular element like batch-and-blast emails that use no data to power the messages.

When you take the experimental and relate them to the audience elements, those audience elements become more important to think about. When you look beyond the opens to audience preferences, you can begin to see how email can draw you closer to your customers.

3 steps to move closer to the experimental stage

No, we’re not going to ask you to optimize your creative for a screen in a mall.  Yet, even now, you can get closer to that global view of the elements.

Here’s what you can do to move your email program closer to the experimental stage:

1. Consider all of the elements on the chart

Mark which elements you incorporate now in your email program, almost like a test. This will show you the gaps you need to fill. Maybe you aren’t looking at customer preferences or intentions in delivering messages. You need to find what moves the needle. Knowing that is what makes you a good marketer – understanding how to effect change.

2. Look for the strategic path forward

Having a strategic plan means you have a plan to execute on that account with strategies (the “why”) and tactics (the “how”) to drive your program, data in automations and rules for how to treat all of your customers.

Consider those elements that you haven’t selected. Create a plan for attacking that element. How does that affect your short term plans or 2020 planning. 

I’ve talked a lot about the need to create strategy before tactics. This exercise is a roadmap to help you order your business and program.

3. Learn what you don’t know

Marketing is full of buzzwords. Too many of us just know the buzzwords and not what they represent. They don’t know the depth of information you need to succeed in marketing today. Could you write a description of every element in this chart? Could your team?

Your plan for next year is to make sure you’re up to speed, especially in the experimental elements because there’s so much that we either misunderstand or don’t know yet about them.

This is important because these elements will become the mainstay for how we do marketing in the near future. If you’re serious about becoming a better marketer, don’t wait for your next job promotion to start learning. Go out now and learn what works and what doesn’t.

Back to the big picture

You could develop an entire educational conference around Marketing Land’s Periodic Table of Email. But the true value is seeing the connective tissue between each element and among groups of elements.

Your success as a marketer depends on your ability to step back and find those connections that make up the global picture. It’s not another click or another sale. It’s that comprehensive look at strategy and executing it to perfection.

More about the Managed Inbox

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Ryan Phelan is co-founder of Origin Email and brings nearly two decades of worldwide online marketing and email experience. Ryan is a respected thought leader and nationally distinguished speaker with a history of experience from Adestra, Acxiom, BlueHornet, Sears Holdings, Responsys and infoUSA. In 2013 he was named one of the top 30 strategists in online marketing and is the Chairman Emeritus of the EEC Advisory Board. Ryan also works with start-up companies as an advisor, board member and investor.

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