Ever a “Duh” Moment

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I’ve been working with email ever since it emerged as a marketing tool. It’s one of the most powerful, cost effective media ever invented. It is the first channel that allows for genuine personalization and interaction. As such, it can be a key channel for building, maintaining and maximizing customer relationships.

And since the beginning, I’ve been saying that never has such a powerful tool been in the hands of so many amateurs. And never has a medium gone so quickly from panacea to pariah.

The fact is, most marketers misuse email in any number of ways. They mail too frequently; they fail to use the capabilities of the medium to create relevant content; most forego even the minimum quality control and pre-send testing every direct marketer should have learned at his mother’s knee, or some other low joint. (Not mine; that’s a paraphrase of Adlai Stevenson.)

Failure to use simple good marketing sense and basic quality control results in such breaches as addressing customers as prospects; sending irrelevant offers or information to customers; delivering graphics and links that don’t work. I could go on, but I promise I won’t. Although I would love to hear your email horror stories as responses to this post.

I’ll close with the “duh” moment promised in the header. I am always amazed at the extent to which “experts” say the stupid or obvious. Two such instances arrived in my email box this morning, and both are about email.

First, an expert wrote in an “email insider” newsletter that one of the great advantages of email is, “it works even when you don’t do it well.” While the writer obviously advocated doing it well, the notion that it is acceptable to use email poorly because “it still works” just floored me. How does any person or industry expect to be taken seriously with that kind of cavalier attitude?

Finally, a leading expert on one-to-one marketing invited me to a webinar, suggesting that email marketing is at a crossroads, and that, “customer relationships may be at jeopardy” because of the failings of email marketing programs. I’m shocked and astounded at this notion, about which I’ve been ranting for almost a decade.

Don’t experts say the darnedest things?

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