From time to time, the discussion on the Only Influencers' Email list turns to whether we as marketers need to be complex or not. Some email marketers say "Blast away!" Others say, "Let's be smarter than the average bear."
Let's get one thing straight right away: if you see yourself as a button-pusher, and if your email strategy is just to blast out campaign after campaign, this article is not for you. Unless you hunger for more. In which case, stick around.
If you're convinced that batch-and-blast is the way to go, let me save you some time. Watch this video instead.
However, if you want to see things change – whether in the way you manage your own email program or in our industry – I want to introduce you to the concept of First-Person Marketing.
Why we need First-Person Marketing now
As we look around the Internet, everything is becoming more intelligent and relevant. It's all keyed into data. Advertising, shopping … everything around us is getting smarter, more personal – maybe even a little creepier.
Overreach notwithstanding, this is where progress is happening, in digital marketing, technology and from start-ups to companies going public, like Snapchat. These companies are dealing in data and relevance. They are finding meaning they can apply to their own programs in order to enhance their relationships with their customers.
When individual email marketers say, "I send batch-and-blast, and I'm doing fine," that's ignorance on a par with people who believe old-fashioned direct mail is the only marketing channel that pays off.
Many of us have the same challenges: lack of time, resources and money, as well as management indifference. I know it's hard. I've been on the front lines on the client side, too.
I know it's not easy. But If you can innovate your program incrementally so that you learn something new every day and make one small improvement with each campaign, at least you're trying.
Just the other day I was talking with someone who wanted to know how he could move from Email Marketing 101 to an advance stage. "Do something. Anything," I said. "Then, at least you're one step closer than the guy who's doing nothing."
What is First-Person Marketing?
First-Person Marketing makes marketers smarter about how they use email.
First-Person Marketing is 1:1 marketing done at scale. Advanced technology and data integrations allow marketers to create the kind of personalized, relevant messages for a mass audience that look as if the marketer composed a personal message to each customer in the database.
First-Person Marketing incorporates preferences, behavior, interests, lifecycle/journey touchpoints and other third party data points in each message. It creates a "first-person" experience that tells your recipients, individually, that you know who they are.
In other words, First-Person Marketing is everything batch-and-blast isn't. Now this is not merely just a change in name to make it sound cooler, it’s actually a change in mindset. You have to see your efforts and your “list” as not just a list, but as an cluster of people that have particular traits. Deeper than that, First-Person Marketing recognizes that the email address is the key to the entire digital universe.
First person marketing connects the email address to the entire digital landscape through retargeting, acquisition, reacquisition and insights from additional third party data. The mindset is about seeing the entirety of the possibilities and working every day on making that a reality. Knowing that you hold the virtual keys to the digital universe and not just blasting your way to your goals and with any knowledge, the First-Person Marketer is moving in that direction….no matter how small the steps.
The goal, is superior experience management across all touchpoints with the customer…including email.
What First-person marketers do differently
Here's how you can spot a first-person marketer in a crowd:
1. First-person marketers look at their email address lists and see people with needs, interests, goals and attitudes, not as records in a database.
Every email first-person marketers send gets them closer to marketing to their customers as individuals. A first-person marketer is always looking for ways to incorporate customer data into campaigns so that each message is as relevant as possible to each recipient.
2. First-person marketers reject the notion that batch-and-blast is the best way to email.
Yes, there's a place for broadcast email in a well-rounded email marketing program, but as one of many tools instead of the only option.
3. They test every aspect of their email program.
First-person marketers say, “We tested this, this, this and that, and we were able to zero in to what our customers want.”
They test everything they deploy in a campaign. Everything, that is, but the subject line. Subject-line testing tells you only what worked on that campaign on that day. It can’t tell you why your email program is working and that is what is what first-person marketers want most to know.
First-person marketers always ask "Why?" and "What if”, and then figure out how to make it happen.
4. First-person marketers work hard for incremental changes.
Even if their own system, budgets, company structures and internal politics don't allow them to make big leaps, they resolve to change one thing at a time and then build on each change until one day they astonish everyone with their accomplishments.
Take that first step
We know change is hard. I've worked with clients whose innovation level ranged from "some change" to "massive change" to "no change." Although it's difficult, let me posit this:
The most up-to-date stats from the DMA show that the median ROI for email is 122 percent. The next closest channel to email is social media at 28 percent.
Think about this for a minute:
If email's median ROI is 122 percent and a significant number of email marketers are doing batch-and-blast, what do you think the ROI would be if more marketers started doing First-Person Marketing?
The time for change is now and change is happening more rapidly than ever. Those who refuse to change because of some archaic belief that broadcast email is the only way to go are the ones who will get left behind.
We have been preaching for 10 years or more that we must do email more intelligently. We know we can use the email address to identify consumers and address our customers across channels. That's why it's hard for me to grasp that the beliefs of the past can continue without consequence. Now more than ever, the digital evolution is accelerating faster than the email world wants to embrace. We must….MUST make this move before we become the digital cousin of the Sunday circular in your mailbox.
First-Person Marketing is here. Embrace it, or step aside for those who do.