So apparently AI is the shiny new thing that will revolutionize email. Don’t get me wrong. I like shiny new things as much as the next guy and am all for turbo-charging email programs.
But every time I read about shiny new marketing objects, I think back to the beginning of my career in marketing as a copywriter for a mom-and-pop, four-title B2B cataloger 30—geez, 30—years ago.
I was new to direct marketing and read about the craft voraciously so I could get up to speed. One of the things that struck me was how so much of what I read in the trade publications did not apply to the company I worked for. We were small and didn’t have the resources to implement many of the technologies and concepts they were putting forth.
What is more, it was clear that those who staffed the trades had never actually marketed anything.
Because of this experience, when I broke into the marketing trades in 1997, I began reporting case studies with an eye toward finding techniques and tactics that would actually be doable for a resource-starved small- to medium-sized-business marketing executive.
As a digital-marketing reporter, I certainly covered shiny new things. I would have been remiss not to.
But I was always on the lookout for stories that might help the resource-starved marketing team member I had once been.
This is exactly where reading about AI and email takes me: How doable is it? Can I just plug some whizz-bangery into my current program and have it start working automatically so I can get back to the more-than-enough-to-do job I already have?
Or is this something I’m going to have to fiddle with on nights and weekends? How much technical expertise—that I don’t have—will I need?
What kind of ROI can I promise my boss, keeping in mind that if the ROI doesn’t surpass what I promise, I will be screwed?
If my ESP integrates this stuff into their system and I can flip a switch on a free-trial basis, now we’re talking. But if you’re expecting me to do more than I already do, how about never? Does never work for you? (Apologies to the New Yorker)
A lot of folks who write about email marketing have skin in the game—something to sell—and have never hit ‘send.’ Nothing wrong with that. Got a product or service you believe will help others make more money? By all means, tout it, even if indirectly.
Also, a lot of these writers’ work is aimed at executives at large companies, not the majority of the marketing landscape.
When I was publishing the Magill Report email newsletter, every year I would publish the obligatory New Year’s-prediction piece. And every year I would predict that no matter what the experts said would transform email marketing that year, most folks would simply hit “send” like they had previously been doing all along.
I am making the same prediction this year.
Why? Because shiny new things in marketing tend to be limited to big-budget, large enterprises. Because everybody else is busy, has limited resources, and hitting “send” works. Busy people tend not to fiddle with things that work. That is, unless the fiddling has obvious benefits, is risk-free and damned near effortless.
One of these years, I will be wrong. This is not that year.