We’ve Come Full Circle: Email is Dead.

I’m not one to jump on trends. If something brings actual value, then I’m all for it. If it feels like it’s all style over substance, it probably is. Business development in the B2B tech sector for public relations companies is often a timely convergence of need, trends and luck. In the age of email lists – bought and sold like bizdev currency – it is tempting to get stuck in the blast loop, trying to capitalize on buzzwords and current events. Years ago, with its widespread availability, email was considered the best way to get in touch with desired targets, at the expense of a phone call. Today, email addresses are either protected behind contact forms or viewed as an annoying byproduct of electronic communications. We’ve come full circle: email is dead.

Bear with me. This is not to say that email marketing is dead. Nor is it to say that no one uses email anymore. The subtle difference is that email has gone the way of screened phone calls. With instant messaging platforms populating offices – Google Hangouts, Slack, etc. – and text messaging, email is viewed as burdensome. It’s another box that needs to get checked throughout the day. The efficacy of email as a form of efficient, daily communication is nonexistent.

For sales and business development professionals – in the B2B tech world, especially – email communication can be a frustrating metric. Every business needs to be active in email marketing for brand building and content sharing, and many CRM platforms provide exceptional tools for tracking outreach data. Still, it’s a numbers game. Every action is a percentage point. Every percentage is either a success or a failure.

Consider this: everything we do in business (and many aspects of our personal lives) is electronic. It is depersonalized. Humans are avatars: faceless, toneless, emotionless words on a screen – maybe an emoji if you’re especially daring. Attempting to bridge that divide with more words requiring more screen time is like handing a drowning man a glass of water.

The old-school face-to-face is making a comeback. Putting a face to the name, as it were, humanizes a process that we spent so much time dehumanizing. The handshake has replaced ‘subscribe here.’ The cup of coffee (or cocktail, if you’re fortunate) has replaced the blog roll. Each day, we are faced with options to personalize the life experience: what kind of music do you want to listen to? What kind of news do you want to read? Who do you want to talk to? Where do you want to spend your money? The face-to-face is the ultimate personalized experience. It facilitates focus, idea exchange, and nonverbal communication – all things that quickly and easily get lost over the course of email strings.

Interestingly, the way that we perceive the value of developing leads has essentially flipped completely. Technology has helped us streamline processes, communicate quickly and track data extremely efficiently. It saves us the most valuable currency: time. With so many tools designed to give time back, the way that time is invested could be compared to the same way businesses invest in email or social media marketing campaigns. If our time is the most valuable thing, then spending some of it to take a face-to-face meeting, instead of shooting an email, might provide the best ROI, the most elusive of metrics in public relations and marketing.

The death of email has not been swift or especially graceless. It has simply gone the way of communication forms before it. Supplanted by better technology and the need for real-time responsiveness, its value as a daily communication tool has waned. The personalization of the experience – the UX – is the ultimate goal, and what better way than to bring back the face-to-face?

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