The Changing of the Guard

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Changing of the GuardIt was pretty interesting to read that the CEO of ATOS, Thierry Breton, was hatching a plan to get rid of email recently. It’s not a new idea. Jay Ellison the COO of US Cellular tried it in 2008 and someone by the name of “Jeremy Burton” started the trend (at least, I like to think) trying it way back in 2004! By the way, I ate my words (which appeared on the front page of the WSJ) a few months later when I drove the acquisition of an email archiving company – their entire business being based on managing vast quantities of email!

So why is this still interesting? Back in 2004 the alternative to doing email was to start speaking to people again – I mean physically… by the water cooler or on the phone. That feels good, but it’s kind of inconvenient. Today, the new world of social media really does provide us with a viable alternative to email.

For marketers, and I know a few, this is a very scary place. For the last decade and a bit “us marketers” have made careers out of taking marketing online – replacing old school direct mail and print advertising routines with a new concoction of emails, online banners, emails, search words, emails, webinars, and… emails. We’ve got vast databases with 3… 4… 5… million email addresses. We’ve implemented the very best, state-of-the-art, marketing automation tools to better track our activities and… send emails.

Sadly, everything we’ve learned over the last decade is about to go up in smoke. In the new world, our email addresses will be useless, our lead nurturing workflows will be useless along with our fancy branded email templates. It’s the first day at school all over again.

Social flips the marketing model in favor of the consumer. Email can invade your inbox and arrive, unsolicited, in front of your eyes. You have no idea how your email address was obtained and you’ve got no way of finding out – and that unsubscribe routine has gotten tiresome. Not so with social. Only if I’m your friend can you then appear on my newsfeed… and if you post something valuable, something of interest, then I’m going to interact with you. Which means that more of your stuff will appear on my newsfeed… that I’ll interact with, and we’ll develop a nice, online, relationship. Then, at some point, I may be able to sell you something. The data shows that people are 10x more likely to buy something from someone they have a relationship with than from a complete stranger.

So, as marketers, we now need friends and followers. And we can’t simply buy those, like an email list – we need to compel people to like us, friend us and follow us. And that requires rich, interesting, content… which means that marketing teams need to bulk up on “folks who know stuff about their products.” Actually its more than that, they need folks who know stuff AND can disseminate that stuff in a compelling way to engage prospects in a dialog. Posting white papers and data sheets on Facebook and Twitter is not where we are headed.

The good news for us marketers is that there is a vast, cheap, distribution network out there to tap into. The bad news is that we’ll need to work harder than ever to get access to it.

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