Notes from the Client Side

From the eec's Marketing RoundtablesDuring a recent eec Clients-Only Roundtable meeting we got the discussion going with a very simple question: “What keeps you up at night?” We hope the vendor and agency side is listening because what we said—and heard—speaks volumes for unmet needs. Here are our top three issues:

Value Proposition of Email
With marketing dollars being stretched across more investments than ever, virtually all of us have a crying need to re-justify spend on email programs and infrastructure. For some companies, email is still ramping and its value is still not fully established against more traditional media. For others, the need is to reframe email as a great ROI investment against the newer and sexier Web 2.0 capabilities that are diverting attention and budgets from email. And finally some companies need to update or expand aging systems or databases just to keep the lights on.

Since this is the same No. 1 pain point we talked about a year ago, it’s disconcerting that we are still struggling to find a good answer to this key question: Why invest in email marketing over other tools in the marketing mix?

Every one of our agency and ESP partners have a vested interest in helping us get this value proposition right. It’s clear that they all work hard to create evidence to support an investment in their point solution. But that’s simply not enough anymore. The question mark is higher up “in the stack,” as we technology marketers like to say.

Upgrades to Aging or Outgrown Systems
A couple of us are looking to expand beyond our first generation ESP partnerships to support growing use, while other companies need upgrades to their aging or inadequate systems. This forces email marketers to put on their IT hats: writing RFPs, assessing vendors, justifying internal IT projects and all the rest. It’s messy, time consuming and distracting work and in some cases we don’t have the skills we need to get it done. Vendors and suppliers who can make this easier get an inside track to the business. But look back at Item 1 above—if you can’t demonstrate that your solution supports a clear value proposition for email marketing, you might still lose out.

Email Governance
Even smaller companies are complex organizations with unclear boundaries regarding who “owns” various audiences, and especially the data about them: “the house list.” Drawing up business rules for appropriate use of the audiences in our house lists is becoming increasingly complicated and urgent. Fear and greed are driving the big challenge here: Don’t chase off valuable and hard-to-acquire prospects on the one hand (opt outs), but make sure they don’t simply loiter in our database either. This is as much art as science: balancing business needs with the desire to nurture and woo customer and prospects. Here we’ve seen some good work from our outside partners helping to develop and refine contact strategies, but we still need in-house leadership to create protocols and policies that stick. Otherwise we risk falling into frequent debates which can stop campaigns in their tracks.

How would we measure success? A new top three list a year from now!

—eec Clients-Only Roundtable chair Brian Ellefritz of Cisco Systems