I’ve spent my professional life in the “Land of Confusion.” In 1986 Genesis released that song, and when I look back on a career in media research, ad sales and digital advertising strategy, the title always seems prophetic. The media landscape only gets more fragmented; it’s harder than ever to get our messages through to consumers. The signal to noise ratio is incredibly low. While connecting with our customers has never been more important, getting it right has never been so difficult, in part, because I think we’ve been looking in the wrong places to clear up the confusion.
The answer is right in front of us. The next revolutionary change in truly understanding consumers is coming from email. The universality of the medium is making email so much more than a marketing channel, more than a revenue driver, more than a loyalty builder. The real value of email is in the data it produces. All we need to lead our organizations out of this land of confusion is the analytical power to turn data into direction.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. First, we have too much data. We know the answers we need are in there, somewhere, so we try to analyze everything, like drinking from a fire hose. (I talked more about this in my Burst presentation at Exact Target's Connections last month. You can click on the fire hose image to see it.)
Second, even finding and analyzing the right information doesn’t guarantee a way out of confusion because data does not necessary equate to insights, and not all insights are actionable.
And third, at the same time information about our customers is proliferating, it’s also changing: The hundreds of millions of connected screens have triggered changes in consumer behavior unlike nearly anything we have ever seen.
The good news is that no matter how many sources are contributing to our confusion, the answers are beginning to gravitate toward a single place. A familiar place: The inbox. It’s all email, or email data, that we can turn into actionable insights to make decision-making easy – or at least easier – not just for us, but for our entire organizations.
We all run different businesses, but share a common need to understand our customers as well as possible: Their behaviors, what they like, what they don’t, what’s important to them, who’s important to them and myriad other questions. Daunting as this may seem, the answers exist, and they exist in a form that is accessible, useable and, most important, actionable.
Because the inbox aggregates so much of our customers’ lives in a single point, it offers a uniquely complete view of who our customers are, what they want, and how we fit into their lives. The random streams of messages are actually the collected tiles that form the digital mosaic of our customers – the first truly complete picture of them we’ve ever had.
We sit at an inflection point. Within our respective organizations marketers have always had a seat at the table, but now, armed with the strength of data that can answer our biggest business questions, we can sit a little higher and speak a little louder and more confidently. Because more than ever before, we have the vision to determine the direction our organizations take. We can quiet the noise and strengthen the signal.
So now it’s our turn – and email’s turn — to lead the way, to turn the tiles in the inbox into the mosaic that shows who our customers really are, what they really want, and how we can matter more to them. With email data, we can deliver our organizations out of the Land of Confusion.
Matt Spielman rejoined Return Path in 2013 — a decade after working with the founding team to launch the company – to apply his integrated marketing, sales strategy and digital advertisingexpertise learned from his time IAG Research (Acquired by Nielsen), MTV Networks, and Moxie Interactive (within the Publicis Groupe) toward unifying the stories gleaned from Return Path’s proprietary data to help its clients understand who their customers are, what they want, and how they can matter more to them.
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