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Saturday, March 21, 2009

MarketingSherpa 2009 Email Marketing Summit Summary

For starters, I'll be straight with you and admit it's been a while since I've been to a "summit". Did I enjoy it, learn a lot, meet some fantastic people, and justify our significant expense? Absolutely! Will I go to the Email Marketing Summit already on the books for March, 2010? Definitely.

I've spent many years on the summit scene. The problem with these, is usually not the variety and quality of topics and speakers discussed, but the amount of time allocated to each subject. I spent much of the last day meeting with several of the vendors that were displaying outside the conference rooms. As it turned out, I had some very detailed and high quality discussions while the rest of the 400-500 people were inside listening to 30 minute summary presentations.

Several email marketing themes were repeated by presentation speakers and vendors throughout the event. Here are the most discussed (and Tweeted).

- Increased attention to list segmentation in an attempt to get the right message in front of the right recipient at the right time. The days of blasting a message to the entire list aren't completely going away yet, but the smartest marketers will leverage new technology to cost effectively reduce list churn (unsubscribes) by increasing message relevance to the recipient.

- Looking for new ways of integrating email marketing with Web 2.0/social media like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, SMS and others.

- An increase in automated/triggered messaging where messages are sent automatically. These include everything from simple "Welcome" and followup messages to new subscribers, messages triggered by actions initiated by subscribers on the website or sales channel, and messages geared to re-activating inactive subscribers.

I was surprised that deliverability was not discussed much and the complete lack of attention to actual HTML coding practices critical to ensuring that an email renders the way you expect it to across the top email clients. Perhaps our Hal Seltzer can offer his time to present this topic one day.

By far, the highlight for me was the Email Messaging Optimization Professional Certification class offered by MerketingExperiments on Sunday. I learned enough before the morning break to justify the entire 5 day trip for both Hal and myself. We came away with valuable information that we have already started implementing for our clients that will surely have positive results.

I have to thank Senior Strategic Manager Ana Gabriela Diaz of MarketingExperiments for spending so much time with us evaluating our website and for all of the great suggestions she offered. Despite working with us at the tail end of the final day, she quickly identified several areas for improvement and clearly explained why. We will implement every single one of them.

While the email marketing industry is still struggling for structure and strategy, I'm glad to see that many companies plan to improve email marketing effectiveness by increasing the relevance of the messages to their recipients. It's especially nice to come away from an event like this seeing that All Web Email continues to innovate in areas that will ensure our competitive advantage while providing all the same bells and whistles to our clients that other higher-priced ESP's offer.

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