I just got back from the 2011 Email Evolution Conference in sunny South Beach. The fourth annual event, sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association’s Email Experience Council (EEC), didn’t disappoint. I met many of my “virtual” contacts in person, did some networking, gathered some interesting content for our e-newsletters and acquired leads for future articles. There was a positive vibe about email in general at the event, with more than 500 attendees and exhibitors milling around the Eden Roc Resort. Here are four takeways from the conference:
1. Email needs to be more humanized. In his entertaining keynote address, Gary Vaynerchuk, the online marketing trailblazer, entrepreneur and author of CRUSH IT! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In On Your Passion and the upcoming book The Thank You Economy, told attendees that for the email industry to evolve, it must offer a more human experience to consumers. “I’m convinced that nobody in this room cares about their customers enough,” Vaynerchuk said. “In the ecosystem we live in now, the currency is trust, appreciation and humanization.”
2. Marketers need to pay close attention to Facebook Messages. This Facebook service, which allows email, text messages and instant messages to be linked together in a “social inbox,” will be offered to most of the more than 500 million Facebook users over the next two months. Since people will undoubtedly be switching over to this service, marketers need to make sure they have a mechanism in place to deal with all the new addresses.
“Persistent consumer switching behavior and increases expected to be driven by Facebook Messages will have an impact in the number of dormant email accounts, requiring marketers to exert more effort in understanding subscriber engagement and reactivating subscribers,” said David Daniels, CEO of The Relevancy Group, in a presentation he led at the event.
Daniels also discussed his newest report, The Social Inbox: The Impact of Facebook Messages on Email Marketing. The report, which surveyed 1,000 consumers about their feelings toward Facebook Messages, found that nearly half of online consumers would switch their personal email address to Facebook or create a new address. These behaviors are trending higher for younger demographics.
“As consumers begin to spend more time on Facebook and in Facebook Messages, they’ll be less attentive to their other email accounts,” added Daniels. “The survey data indicates staggering implications for Gmail and Yahoo. Even if users maintain a separate account for their marketing messages and they move to @Facebook for personal communication only, they’ll be spending less time in their traditional email account — even if they don’t abandon it.”
3. Stick to the basics. While email is going through a rebirth of sorts (see No. 1), some industry best practices must remain the same. Austin Bliss, president and co-founder of FreshAddress, made the case that marketers should make it easy for consumers to sign up to receive their emails.
“Ask for their email addresses everywhere — on every page of your website, during every phone call and on every paper form,” he said. “Also, make sure to include email sign-up capabilities or a link to your website’s sign-up page on your social networking pages. Other best practices that were constant themes at the conference included the following: be vigilant of email law; master the subject line; be careful when using lists for acquisition; and strive for targeted, relevant and engaging emails.
4. Loren McDonald was named the winner of the Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year Award. After much speculation, McDonald, the vice president of industry relations for Silverpop, was named the winner of the first-ever award from the EEC. The award was presented to McDonald by David Springer, CEO of Resposnsys, at Tuesday morning’s keynote in front of a teary-eyed audience.
This annual award was established in honor of Stefan Pollard, a highly respected and beloved member of the email marketing community who passed away last year. Pollard was considered a selfless mentor and champion of best practices in email marketing. The award honors an individual who demonstrates the qualities and professional standards that Pollard exemplified during his lifetime. Congratulations Loren!