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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

E-mail: King of Tactics

E-mail maven Jeanniey Mullen wrote an interesting article this week in her Clickz column about e-mail's role in the digital revolution.

Every so often I get an itch to write about the future of digitial communications and my thoughts on e-mail in the new world order. Reading this sparked one of those itches and gave me some good context for it.

Many times a revolution is initiated through the introduction of a new way to do something or a new product. A revolution isn't justified until people can't imagine life without that element or product. That's when a revolution becomes a true success.

The great thing about revolutions is that they change people: culturally, socially, and even economically. And in this case, the digital revolution changed us all. It made us digital consumers.

In terms of driving digital consumerism, e-mail has been at the forefront. It allowed for mass, personalized marketing delivered as a digital version of analog direct mail. E-mail fulfilled the transactional communication needs when selling without meeting face-to-face in a brick-and-mortar store. And, e-mail wasn't competing with other online communication channels.

E-mail became a strategy. So much so that an entire industry built up around using email as a marketing tool.

Where I see the change with the rise of the social web, is that the strategy is changing to "Communicate with customers in the digital channels they use" and e-mail is shifting to a tactic within the larger group. Because most online communications channels are still relatively new, the fare of early adopters, the e-mail channel is still king.

And I do expect that it will remain the king for a while. But as other technologies reach their tipping points and gain mainstream adoption, I also expect that e-mail will target a more narrowly defined segment rather than the general population it is assumed to reach now.

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