Mar 282007

Marketing is Like Baskin Robbins

Marketing is Like Baskin Robbins

A couple years ago, I wrote that Marketing is Like French Fries, since you can always take on one more small incremental marketing task, just as you can always eat one more fry, even long after you should have stopped. Today, inspired in part by our ongoing search for a new head of marketing at Return Path and in part by Bill McCloskey’s follow up article about passion in email marketing in Mediapost, I declare that Marketing is also like Baskin Robbins – there are at least 31 flavors of it that you have to get right.

McCloskey writes:

I submit that the über marketer who is expert in all the various forms of interactive marketing is someone who just doesn’t exist, or is very bad at a lot of things. An interactive jack of all trades, master of none, is not the person you want heading up your email marketing efforts. What you want is someone who is corralling those passionate about search, RSS, email, banners, rich media, mobile marketing, WOMM, social networks, viral into a room and figuring out an integrated strategy that makes sense.

Boy, is he right.  But what Bill says is just the front row of ice cream cartons — the interactive flavors. Let’s not forget that running a full marketing department includes also being an expert in print, broadcast, direct mail, analytics, lead gen, sales collateral and presentations, creative design, copywriting, branding, PR, events, and sponsorships.  Wow.  I’m getting an ice cream headache just thinking about it.  No wonder CMOs have the highest turnover rate of any other C-level executive.

I think Bill’s prescription is the right one for larger companies — get yourself a generalist at the helm of marketing who is good at strategy and execution and can corral functional experts to coordinate an overall plan of attack.  It’s a little harder in small companies where the entire marketing department might only be 2-3 people.  Where do you put your focus?  Do you have all generalists?  Or do you place a couple bets on one or two specialties that you think best line up with your business?

I think my main point can be summed up neatly like this:  Running Marketing?  Be careful – it’s a rocky road out there.

Mar 212007

Leaders Discredited from Leading?

Leaders Discredited from Leading?

In Bill McCloskey’s Email Insider column on Mediapost today (hopefully the link will work; sometimes Mediapost isn’t open if you’re not a subscriber), he decries the lack of passion and industry evangelists in the email marketing space and compares it to the search world with at least one example involving Dave Pasternack, co-founder and president of Did-It.  He then goes on to say that there are a few evangelists in the email world, but that two of us — myself and Rich Gingras, CEO of Goodmail, don’t count because we “have a vested interest in being passionate.”

While I appreciate Bill’s main point and appreciate his recognizing that I do evangelize our space and am passionate about it, I have to take issue with his comment on a few points.  I have already privately emailed him about this, and Bill and I have known each other for a long time, so this isn’t meant to be an attack on him at all.

First, the internal inconsistency in his argument is glaring.  By his definition of “vested interest” (company founder/leader), Dave Pasternack has about the same vested interest in what he does as I have in what I do and Rich has in what he does.  So why does the passion count for search and not for email?

Second, I’d argue that we as an industry need more passionate CEOs and founders and executives to step out and be evangelists for our cause.  Just because we started companies or run business units — we’re somehow discredited or unqualified to speak out and lead the charge on something?  I think it’s the exact opposite!  The industry needs more of its leaders to do just that.  And Bill of all people (CEO of Email Data Source) should know that.

But finally, I’d argue that we (meaning we humans) all have a vested interest in what we do, whether it’s Baker or Mullen or McCloskey or Melinda Krueger or Stephanie Miller.  All people who work for a living , at any level (and I am certainly on that list), have a built-in reason to support their field/cause/company — they want and need it to succeed.  But beyond that, high quality people are always emotionally vested in what they do, even if they didn’t start a company or have equity in it.  They throw themselves into their work and treat it like a cause.  Discredit all those who have a vested interest in something as legitimate evangelists — you eliminate most evangelists, at least in the corporate world.

All that said, I agree that more people should be out there sharing their passion for the email space and evangelizing it, and kudos to the Bakers, Mullens, Kruegers, Millers, McCloskeys of the world (and there are more of them than that group) for doing just that every day.

Dec 072005

The Rumors of Email’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, Part V

The Rumors of Email’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, Part V

Thank goodness I can finally write a positive piece under this headline, and not a rebuttal like I did here, here, here, and here.

It seems like there are signs of an email marketing renaissance left, right, and center these days.  First, the industry has enjoyed significant growth this year.  Every vendor I speak with in the space except for one or two is posting record numbers — whether they sell data, technology, or services.  And lots of vendors have been swallowed up by larger multi-channel CRM or DM companies for nice prices.  Every marketer or publisher I speak with is investing more money into their email programs, and they are seeing stellar returns.  In fact, their most persistent complaint is that they can’t get enough good names on their lists fast enough.

But beyond those signs, the much-maligned email channel has finally garnered some positive press of late.  First, as, Ellen Byron wrote on November 23 in her Wall Street Journal article entitled “Email Ads Grow Up – Department Stores Discover Devoted Fashion Fans Read Messages in Their Inboxes,” consumers are beginning to much more easily separate spam from commercial email they want, one consumer even going so far as to call emails she receives from retailers “like a quick shopping trip…a guilty pleasure.”

Byron also went on to quantify what some mailers are doing to tilt the balance of their marketing spend ever so slightly in the direction of email.  For example, The Gap is diverting over $26mm that they spent last holiday season on TV towards online and magazine.  And analysts point out that no matter how much marketers spend on their email programs, it’s still a small fraction of what it costs to create and insert a big print or broadcast spot.  I couldn’t even find the full article to link to, but it wouldn’t matter, as you have to be a Journal subscriber to read it (annoying).

And today, email industry guru Bill McCloskey wrote an admittedly self/industry-serving piece about how he is seeing the signs of this email renaissance moving into 2006 as well, starting with the fact that trade associations like the ESPC and the DMA are doing more to step up to the plate in terms of defending and promoting the email channel with the press and consumers.  He also cites the fact that consumers are getting more used to spam and mentally separating out good email from bad email as a reason for the comeback.  Bill even goes so far as to say that “email will surpass search in the battle for marketers’ hearts and minds.”  The full article is here, but warning again, you have to be a Mediapost subscriber to read it (free but still annoying).

It’s nice to see the media tide turning here towards a more rational, balanced position on email.  It’s not just about spam and scams — it’s about the power, customization, and intimacy of the channel!

Jun 102005

The (Email) Elephant in the Room

The (Email) Elephant in the Room

Email marketing continues to be under attack by some members of the media who are looking to stir up melodrama and controversy and seem to be uninterested in or unwilling to look at real metrics from real companies who are enjoying unparalleled success with email.

I can’t say this any better than Bill McCloskey from Email Data Source, who writes in MediaPost:

The Elephant in the Room that no one is willing to talk about is that Spam is not the problem. The problem is the OVERREACTION to Spam. This overreaction is not something that is hurting e-mail marketing communications–it is hurting all communications.

Read the full column here.  It’s great.

UPDATE:  Apparently, the column is only available if you register for MediaPost (grrr…).  It’s good enough, and free, but don’t feel compelled.  Two other useful paragraphs to read are below:

And all this hysteria is wiped up without looking at the facts. Because if you look at the facts, you’d see a pattern emerge. For instance, according to the DMA, e-mail has the second-highest ROI of any direct marketing channel, even with reduced deliverability and open rates. The fact is that if you examine the clickstream data from companies such as Hitwise, you will see that the biggest traffic driver time and time again is e-mail. E-mail is not just an important interactive marketing channel, it is the most important marketing channel–but you’d never know it judging by today’s trade shows and industry publications.

In the name of keeping us free of viagra ads in our inbox, we have crippled the most efficient communications system ever developed. We have allowed the free flow of information to be hijacked by fanatics. And because no one speaks for the e-mail industry, this is going on under our noses with no cry of protest.