As someone who makes a living helping people sell things, I get asked a lot of questions about strategy and implementation. As someone who has been dealing with emerging Internet trends for 18 years (18?!? I’m stunned, too…), I get asked a lot of questions about the latest shiny object. Sometimes these questions collide. An example might be “How will getting more people to “like” me on Facebook help me sell more  _________?”

The trouble is, these answers are never simple and are almost always not what the person asking the question wants to hear. Often, the answer includes words like “nurturing” and “patience” and all kinds of other traits that don’t sit well with someone in a hurry. They also include lots of stuff about “noise” and “competition” and “consumer fatigue” and (increasingly) “attention deficit”.  Again, these aren’t the types of things business owners and salespeople like to hear. But the truth is, as they say, occasionally painful.

I recently saw an infographic that is superb at illustrating the problem. It was created by business intelligence company DOMO in an attempt to visualize the “avalanche of digital activity” that is taking place between brands and consumers, every minute of every day. (A nod to Joel Book of Exact Target for sharing this with me.)

Internet activity, every minute of every day

Let me repeat, just to be clear: That is what happens every minute of every day. I’m sure it only took you a few seconds to see the problem. Consumers, including you and I, are being bombarded by information. Every brand you’ve ever heard of, and all the others you haven’t, are competing fiercely for your attention. It’s no wonder that many people feel stressed and harried. It’s also no surprise it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be heard.  So the question is, with all of this coming at us from every direction, what gets through? What’s the best way to communicate with customers?

Joel Book makes a useful observation:

While the Internet has made it easier and faster for consumers to browse websites, access content, download apps, share opinions, and meet up with friends at popular social networking sites, I think the important question marketers must ask themselves is, “Which channels are working best to drive sales and aid customer retention?”
The answer to this question is permission-based Email.

As reported in the 2012 Channel Preference Survey Report from ExactTarget:

  • 77% of U.S. Internet users prefer email for permission-based promotional messages
  • 66% have made a purchase as a result of a marketing message received by email

And just in case you think Email only works for “business getting,” think again.  Email is also #1 for “business keeping.” 76% of consumers surveyed said they prefer Email for customer service messages.

Even among all of the competition – or perhaps because of it – email continues to be the gold standard for breaking through the clutter and communicating effectively. So the real question is, what are you doing to make the most of it?