Every year around this time, marketers, industry pundits and vendors begin to speculate about the coming year. Marketing solutions provider Message Systems this month released six predictions for 2013. Carrie Scott, director-product and direct marketing, and John Pinson, senior manager-content marketing, explained what Message Systems' predictions will mean for b-to-b email marketers in the coming year.
- More brands will use a broader array of social media channels to identify online influencers and engage in two-way communications with customers, with Linkedin experiencing the fastest overall growth.
“Email has been the workhorse for so long that now it's time for marketers to find a way to use email with social,” Scott said. “Yes, social is very influential and is an incredible way of having a dialogue; but you need to use email in conjunction with it as a way to go cross-channel in order to continue that conversation.”
Recently, Pinson said, Message Systems started promoting a webinar with social and email, and the sign-ups have topped the 300 mark. Typically, they max out at 100 when the company focuses solely on one channel.
Counter to popular opinion, email will remain the most widespread and effective direct marketing channel and still deliver the highest ROI.
Message Systems did a survey earlier this year and expected to find that marketers were moving away from email; but survey respondents said they were planning to invest almost as much in email as in previous years. The take-away: You'll need to be investing in email in 2013 since your competitors surely are. (“Marketing Channel and Engagement Benchmark Survey,” conducted online in September, polled 100 Message Systems customers and digital marketing professionals.)
Marketing and IT decision-makers will migrate from out- to in-sourcing customer service and email marketing, with a focus on investing in the in-house, on-premise model.
Several analysts recently released reports that said marketers want more control not just over content but databases. “They want to be able to leverage their data,” Scott said. Marketers will need to allocate time to find the right tools and platforms to allow this to happen, she said.
Retailers will take cues from social networks such as Linkedin and Facebook, and engage with customers on their terms and contact preferences.
Email marketers say they have been doing this for years—creating preference centers—Pinson said. However, the 2012 Message System study found that only 50% of marketers actually have preference centers. This will need to change because subscribers are demanding control, he said.
Businesses will consolidate customer data into one holistic view and message to customers more intelligently.
Again, this is something email marketers have been hearing about for years: Removing silos between marketing groups to provide a more cohesive message to subscribers no matter how they engage. “Siloed information makes it impossible to have that true conversation with the customer,” Scott said. If your company is still siloed, now may be the time to broach breaking down barriers and creating a cohesive marketing unit, she said.
Marketers will finally make the full leap to the small screen.
Marketers have been designing for mobile users for several years now. However, Scott said, this may be the year more people access email on mobile rather than desktops. This means your focus should shift more toward mobile design and marketing, she said. “You have to design first for the small screen,” she said. “You can't design just for mouse clicks and extensive keyboard support.”