Good News, Bad News: My 2009 Predictions

Posted by Matt Blumberg on

Matt Blumberg
By Matt Blumberg
CEO & Chairman

I did pretty well with my 2008 “unpredictions” as you can see in my reckoning post. This year I decided to try something a little different again. Here I’ve outlined what I predict will be the bad news – and good news! – of 2009.

The bad news is … Q1 will be tough as businesses try to starve for three months and then let their collective breath out to recover in Q2. I know I’m not going out on the predictive limb here, but the first quarter of 2009 is going to be a rough one. Businesses in sectors that are hurting are going to be cutting back on expenses to try and ride out the storm. And even businesses in less-affected industries will be trimming costs to protect themselves. But no business can cost-cut to greatness, so I think you will see noticeable signs of turnaround in second quarter.

The good news is … email will prosper in a difficult economy as clients flee expensive, hard-to-measure media and hunker down to protect their core. The good news for those of us in the email business is that the tough economic forecast could be good for email marketing resources. Email drives a high ROI and it is very measurable. These factors will give it strong favor with executives who want a quick revenue hit.

The bad news is … many marketers will send way too much email in an effort to wring value out of the channel, which will lead to massive complaint sprees and resulting deliverability problems. Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing, but many marketers will feel executive pressure to “send one more campaign” this week, month, quarter to get that quick revenue hit. For companies that aren’t smart – and particularly for companies that aren’t paying attention to all the metrics that matter – this will lead to email deliverability failures starting in the middle of Q1.

The good news is … email laggards will finally adopt. It might be hard to believe if you are reading this blog, but there are still businesses out there that don’t use email for marketing. We’ve seen research that estimates the gap at about 50% for small and mid-sized businesses and about 40% for larger businesses. That’s a big gap! Even if it’s half of that and half again come to email in 2009, that is going to be a lot more email marketing messages. This could mean an infusion of new talent, new ideas and even new email subscribers as these businesses tap new markets.

The bad news is … increased email means more competition for consumer’s limited attention and dollars. And these new marketers could very well make some of the same mistakes that the first generation of email marketers made – overmailing, relying on weak (or no) permission standards, sending messages with little value to the end recipient. These will not be good trends for email as a channel.

The good news is … marketers will embrace mobile in 2009. I’ve said it before and I’m willing to be wrong again, but I really think marketers are going to take a closer look at mobile this year and even start adopting it for many programs.

The bad news is … these marketers will make the same mistakes with mobile that they made with email. I know it’s a bit pessimistic of me, but I fear that many marketers will rely on the rule of the last channel instead of really being innovative. Just throwing email creative into a mobile format is not going to be exciting for consumers. I’m also a little suspicious that some companies will repeat the mistakes of the past around permission. If anything, permission is even more important with mobile since consumers pay to receive the messages.

And finally … the good news is that, for all my “bad news” predictions, I do think 2009 is going to be a good year. It will have its challenges, no doubt, but I think when we look back in 2010 we’ll feel good about the progress we’ve made …as a society, as an industry. Of course, my marketing team never lets me forget a single prediction I make, so you’ll be able to check back here in 2010 to see how I did!

Have you got a prediction – good or bad – for 2009? Share it in our comments section.


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About Matt Blumberg

Matt Blumberg founded Return Path in 1999 because he believed the world needed email to work better. Matt is passionate about enhancing the online relationship between email subscribers and marketers so that both sides of the equation benefit. It is with great pride that he has watched this initial creation grow to a company of more than 400 employees with the market leading brand, innovative products, and the email industry’s most renowned experts. Before Return Path, Matt ran marketing, product management, and the internet group for MovieFone, Inc. (later acquired by AOL). Prior to that he served as an associate with private equity firm General Atlantic Partners and was a consultant with Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. from Princeton University. You can learn much more about Matt by reading his email marketing and entrepreneurship blog Only Once – one of the first CEO blogs on the Internet. Last year he wrote a book, Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business.

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