Secret Marketer: ‘Below the line’ is dead, but let’s not forget the key to great marketing is conversion

Has email marketing stopped being all about demand generation, and instead morphed into ‘above the line air cover’ for a campaign?

Secret Marketer

What is the role of communication? Is this not a question that our forebears have been wrestling with for multiple generations? Well, it was brought home to me earlier this week when one of my direct reports came back from two weeks’ leave and bemoaned the fact that of the 4,000 emails that he had received while he was away, 25% were from me.

I responded by explaining to him that it was important that he was aware of all the developments that were happening while he was on holiday. I suggested that he would be the first to complain should something happen that he was unaware of. But I had to admit that in many cases it was easier (and habit) just to copy him into emails that I was sending to the rest of my senior team.

The same is true when we communicate with customers. On my personal email, I regularly receive the same email repeatedly from some (well known) brands – often several times a day – on the basis that they assume that I missed it the first time.

And with social media, I make no attempt to read every tweet and Facebook comment on my feed when I log in.

I regularly moan how frustrating it is when prospect agencies email me and I respond to them but then they email me again a few days later – oblivious that I have already replied – on the basis that they never expect a customer to respond in the first place. Also, their limited marketing automation systems are set up simply to send the stuff out, never to check whether any action has been initiated in the meantime.

So why do I get frustrated? It is the opposite story with advertising – where brands rely on ‘opportunities to see’ their print or broadcast ad, multiple times.

On that basis, has email marketing stopped being all about demand generation, and instead morphed into ‘above the line air cover’ for a campaign? And if so, what is that campaign – where is the call to action now? How does a brand ever get a customer to break through inertia and choose to buy?

We live in a complicated and fast-moving age. But as marketers I contend that we are also getting lazy, and hence we are fulfilling our own prophecy.

We have to go back to basics; use our creative skills, our intuitive and calculated planning and targeting brain. Although we can hope that this is enough to make customers want to purchase, I contend that we also need to think again about what we need to do to tip them over the edge if ‘below the line’ has disappeared from the lexicon.