Subscribers Rule!

by Morgan Stewart 

As Jeff mentioned in an earlier post, I recently worked with the folks over at Ball State Univerity’s Center for Media Design on a paper outlining personal and marketing communication preferences of 6 commonly targeted groups. It is always interesting to follow the coverage after releasing a major piece of research like this and to see how different people choose to cover it. Here is a short list of the more entertaining coverage we have received:

  • “According to research conducted in part by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design…” No mention of ExactTarget on this one. But of course, this was a pick up by a competitor. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
  • “… from an ExactTarget-sponsored survey conducted by the Ball State University Center for Media Design.” I must admit, the two paragraphs on page 3 of the whitepaper about the methodology was a little on the dry side. But really, this was a collaborative project where they did some work and we did some work. We even had phone calls and stuff to compare notes, combine findings, and talk about which findings would be the most relevant to marketers. 
    If I got credit for David's work!

    If I got credit for David Daniel’s work!

  • “A recent survey conducted by JupiterResearch for ExactTarget suggested that the 18 to 34 age group is more likely to be influenced by email marketing than…” Now how in the world did David Daniels work his way into this one? David does fantastic work and I enjoy hanging out with him at industry events, but c’mon. Wait, that gives me an idea…
  • And this from a UK, “It might be worth noting at this point that ExactTarget are an email marketing company, but they did have the academics at the unfortunately-initialled BS University to back them up.” Gotta hand it to the Brits on that one… funny! That said, it is too easy to dismiss research because it was conducted in part by a email marketing company. The goal was not to prove email superior, it was to find the channels most appropriate for different types of communications. There is a clear shift toward social networks and SMS among younger demographics. Our research supports that, but we also found that assuming that subscribers want companies intruding into these mediums is simply wrong. Marketers must be delicate in their approach to these mediums.
  • And my favorite from a company specializing in SMS, “I’d rather you text me!”

Perfect! That is what this is all about… preferences! Some people would rather you text them, others may want you to post to their wall on Facebook. But there is a huge problem we came across: it’s nearly impossible to predict! It is truly a matter of individual choice. Emerging channels–especially social networks and text messaging–are highly personal channels that the majority of people feel are off limits to marketers for one-to-one messaging. Banner advertising, okay. Fan sites, great! Promotional messaging, not so much.

To get the full scoop, download the paper and read it. If you really don’t have the time, let me point out the 3 key take aways: 1) Traditional direct marketing channels such as email and direct mail are not going anywhere. They are the foundation of direct marketing communications for all commonly targeted demographics. 2) For those subscribers heavy into SMS and social networks, it is nearly impossible to determine based on demographics alone what channel people prefer for promotional messages–so we need to ask. 3) Try emerging channels such as SMS and social networks, but take time to understand what subscribers expect through these channels and make sure you take permission very seriously. If you don’t, your subscribers will cease to be subscribers for long.