Email has been called the most powerful direct marketing channel ever created, which is true.
But there’s one striking difference between the email marketing community and the rest of direct marketing.
Direct marketers have been historically notoriously stingy with information. With the exception of the non-profit sector, they don’t tell anyone anything about what’s working for them and what’s not. That’s why the old direct marketing saying goes: “Want to know what’s working for your competitors? Just observe what they do repeatedly.”
Traditional direct mail is so expensive to create and send, anyone who sends a failing campaign repeatedly will soon be out of business.
Not so with email marketing. Email is so cheap, poorly performing campaigns can go out repeatedly without hurting the bottom line.
But here is where a serious distinction comes into play between the email marketing community and the rest of direct and digital marketing. The email marketing community is, well, a community whose members share information freely.
I suspect this aspect of the email marketing community stems from the very beginning of email’s transformation into a marketing channel in the mid to late 90s. It was very Wild Westy back then. There were no best practices and it was up to the people who were in the game to establish them.
At the risk of oversimplification, at a typical, traditional marketing trade show, the adults occupy the trade-show floor and strike business deals while lower-level attendees go to sessions to learn the basics.
At an email trade show, or at email panels during larger trade shows, the adults occupy the floor and the sessions where real information is shared. Early on, the email folks at trade shows shared information that couldn’t be found in any book.
Email marketing was brand new and everyone in the industry was feeling their way through seemingly endless issues and details while starving for any nugget of information that would help them navigate more confidently.
Today, email marketing best practices have been firmly established, but the benefits of information sharing still exist.
And nowhere is this more apparent than at trade shows. Put a couple ISP anti-spam executives on a panel and the room will be packed with high-level email marketing executives from vendors competing for the same clients.
Even outside trade shows a lot of information is freely shared.
Some years back, during a panel at an email conference, seemingly a fifth of attendees’ phones were blowing up. Turned out it was a bunch of deliverability folks getting alerted to an issue with Gmail at the same time.
As far as I know, deliverability folks—people who work at companies that otherwise are fierce competitors—still have an ongoing conversation to help each other through issues that regularly arise and affect all of them.
I’ve heard email conferences described as Grateful Dead shows where the same people travel from city to city to listen to the same music.
While that’s true to a certain extent for a lot of email’s old timers, new information does come out at the conferences, new alliances are forged and there is a constant stream of newcomers who need the tutelage of the old timers.
There is no college degree in email marketing, probably because there’s no appetite for it. Who enters college thinking: “Hey, I’m going to study to be an email marketer.”?
Newbies enter the email-marketing community continuously with little to no knowledge of the quirkiest marketing channel in existence. The email community’s collaborative, sharing nature turns them into email marketing professionals more quickly than any other method could.
Here’s to email marketers. May their generous nature never change.