The need for speed in email marketing
Big data is great, but don't let it slow you down. Columnist Jason Warnock says marketers need to take a hard look at their technologies and find solutions to achieve responsive, real-time marketing.
The marketplace moves at the speed of light. Email marketing technology? Not so much. Now more than ever, marketers have a need for speed — nimble technologies that help us respond to real-time opportunities by targeting key audience segments.
Big data equals slow data
Customer data is the fuel that drives effective marketing campaigns. In the world of big data, conventional wisdom has said that a massive database is the variable that separates rock-star campaigns from the rest of the pack.
But conventional wisdom is changing.
Increasingly, marketers are realizing that big data only tells part of the story. The other part involves converting that data into actionable insights that can be generated on a moment’s notice to take advantage of marketing opportunities.
Let’s say your company sells umbrellas. Since no one cares about umbrellas on sunny days, it would be helpful to market to audiences who live in cities with rain in the forecast. All you have to do is check national weather forecasts and use your email database to create a list of customers who are about to get wet.
So far so good, right?
Not so fast. Searching your database for the right customers won’t be easy.
In fact, given the instant results we get from other technologies, such as Google research results or Excel formulas, it’s surprising that we accept how long it takes email marketing solutions to create filtered lists from large databases. The industry standard for count times (the amount of time it takes to compile highly segmented email marketing lists) is several hours, or even days.
By the time you receive a list of customers with rain in their forecasts, the weather will have changed, and your opportunity to sell umbrellas to the right customers at the right time will have passed you by. That doesn’t even take into account the time it takes to design or deploy the campaign.
Don’t get me wrong. Big data is great. But more often than not, big data means slow data. And slow data simply isn’t acceptable, especially in markets that can be as fickle as the weather.
Bringing our marketing technology up to speed
At Yesmail (my employer), I frequently hear marketers complain about count times. Most marketers have bought into the idea of responsive, real-time marketing. But they’re frustrated when they discover that technology doesn’t enable them to execute responsive campaigns in a targeted way.
Excessive count times have become so problematic that many email marketers have decided that real-time marketing is impossible for them. That’s a sad thought.
Let’s turn this around. Rather than claiming something is impossible because we don’t have the tools to make it work, let’s think about the real barriers and ways to overcome them.
When I’ve spoken with email marketers about their real-time problem, I find that most of their barriers boil down to these three common themes:
- Lack of accessible marketing insights — Most databases are slow and clunky, and the marketers who use them are drowning in data. In today’s marketing climate, marketing pros are over big data. They need agile databases that give them the customer information they actually use to develop and execute campaigns without the clutter.
- Delays in pulling data — Slow count times are killing innovative email marketing campaigns. The hours or days it takes to create targeted lists from large databases need to be reduced to seconds. The good news? It’s possible to reduce those average count times by as much as 90 percent.
- Multiple platforms — Multiple platforms are another chokepoint in the real-time marketing process. When marketers are forced to transfer data from the database to another platform for creative and to yet another platform for deployment, then inefficiencies, incorrect insights and delays are inevitable.
The digital world is rapidly transitioning to a real-time universe. Don’t believe me? At the recent Facebook F8 conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company plans to release an API (application programming interface) that will let developers build Facebook live video capabilities into their apps — and they’re doing it because online users want to interact with each other right here, right now.
Consumers also want to interact with the brands they care about in real time. But to get there, marketers need to revisit their technologies and look for solutions that accommodate the marketplace’s need for speed.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.