I have the #emailmarketing feed on twitter scrolling live across my screen while I’m working. It’s been an interesting experience as many of the people who tweet #emailmarketing aren’t part of my social network.
Over the last week or so there’s been a lot of tweeting going on about Ben and Jerry’s GIVING UP EMAIL MARKETING!!! Only, come to find out, that’s not what they’re doing. Yes, they are moving more into the social networking arena but they will be continuing to connect with subscribers through email. Today many are tweeting that perhaps they “jumped the cow” with their initial reports of email abandonment by B&J.
Watching the ongoing discussions led me to wonder if a lot of email marketers are so focused on the trees that they miss the forest? Are they so disconnected from how people actually use email, and social networks for that matter, that they spend way to much time chasing a response and not enough time thinking about what they’re saying and doing?
Email marketing discussions often focus on a limited number of things, the biggest are how to get mail to the inbox and how to get recipients to engage. Many marketers spend time and money looking for the elusive combination of factors that will get their mail to the inbox and impel the recipient to give the sender money. The focus is on details like color and pre-headers and length and timing and content above and below the fold and the perfect call to action.
The discussions focus almost exclusively on the sender and only mention the subscriber in passing. That is understandable on one level. Senders can only control one end of the equation and figuring out what inputs compel the best response from the other side is what marketing is all about.
But there’s another part of email marketing, and that is that subscribers invite marketers into their inboxes. When someone subscribes to a newsletter or mail from a company they’re offering that company the opportunity to interact with them in their personal space. This is, in fact, the holy grail of marketing having the customer invite contact from a seller.
I suspect this is why the rumors of Ben and Jerry’s abandoning email had people all up in arms. A company abandoning a channel where they had an engaged and interested audience? PREPOSTEROUS! What’s happening to email as marketing?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t pay much attention because it was such a silly idea. Any marketer worth their salt wouldn’t give up a way to interact with customers. Ben and Jerry’s is a company with an almost cult like following. Anyone who was going to subscribe to a B&J newsletter was going to want that mail (new flavors! coupons! new locations! inside information!).
Someone started a rumor, though, that B&J were abandoning email marketing and everyone focusing on the trees grabbed that story and ran with it. They were so focused on the details they didn’t take a step back and think about what they were repeating. Had they taken a step back and thought about the forest they would have realized how silly the idea of B&Js abandoning email as a customer communication channel was.