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E-mail marketing mania in Minnesota

I pulled into the Depot in downtown Minneapolis last week on a gloomy morning. It was dark; it had suddenly turned cold after weeks of unseasonably warm weather; and it was icy, courtesy of an overnight sleet storm.

I was there for a one-hour presentation on e-mail marketing, and I expected only a few other hardy souls to have rolled out of bed and braved the slick streets for a 7:30 start time.

So the scene in the lobby stunned me. It was crawling with people: noisy, animated people drinking coffee and talking on cell phones and engaged in intense conversations. This was no breakfast meeting – this had the look and feel of a jazzed-up crowd just getting started on a big, all-day conference.

I double-checked at the desk to make sure I hadn't somehow showed up at the wrong event. No, they told me, I was in the right place. This was the e-mail marketing event. And then I realized that I shouldn't have underestimated the people of MIMA.

Smart people

The Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association has got to be the liveliest, most passionate group in the Twin Cities marketing industry. I've been to a half-dozen MIMA events in the last couple of years, and they always share these traits: a big crowd, passionate presenters and a very high SPF: Smart People Factor.

Interestingly, the crowds often don't skew quite as young as one might think. You'd expect that an interactive marketing group would be dominated by twentysomethings, but the events I've been to are well attended by people in their 30s, 40s and beyond.

Last week's event was typical. The featured speaker was Jeffrey Rohrs, marketing VP of ExactTarget, an Indianapolis-based e-marketing vendor. Rohrs offered a thought-provoking perspective on challenges facing e-mail marketers. For example, did you realize that a lot of people now have 20 or more e-mail inboxes to keep track of?

But the action at MIMA events is always as much in the audience as it is onstage. All around, people are liveblogging, tweeting, shooting cell phone photos and using any other interactive platform you can name.

And MIMA members defy the geek stereotype. I saw a lot of smartly dressed, socially polished people at that event last week. They're outgoing and eager to network — not the sort you'd envision hunched over a computer in Mom's basement.

I've also found that MIMA maintains one of the most comprehensive and active job posting services in the Twin Cities.

As interactive marketing continues to grow, the people who populate MIMA will be playing an important role in developing the commercial messages you see and react to.

The history of the Twin Cities marketing business is peppered with memorable characters like the Hamm's bear, Betty Crocker and the Pillsbury doughboy.

When the next chapter is written, it's likely to include more icons of the inbox.

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Comments (2)

Thanks for the kind words, John. As a member of MIMA's board of directors, I can tell you we are just as impressed with the Twin Cities community as you are--and not just for its sartorial flair. We're all very lucky to be a part of such a vibrant, enthusiastic community that supports and encourages events like the one last week.