Email is still alive and well in the marketing world, but what can you do as a marketer to ensure your emails are engaging consumers today?
In 2009 The Wall Street Journal published an article declaring that email was, if not quite dead, very much on its last legs as the king of digital communication. Ironically enough, it was the single most emailed article of the day. Five years on, instant messaging, shares, likes, tweets, and all the other ways we have of exchanging information have become increasingly important, both within the marketing world and the daily lives of increasingly tech-savvy consumers. But email remains alive and well, and can still be a remarkably effective way of engaging with customers.
Here are a few statistics to consider:
- According to research from the Radicati Group, there were 3.3 billion email accounts in the world in 2012. This is predicted to rise to more than 4.3 billion by the end of 2016. This is more than half the entire global population, although many will represent users with multiple accounts.
- Ninety-four percent of Americans age 12 and over who are Internet users cite using email as one of their regular activities. According to social media author and speaker Jay Baer, 58 percent of American adults check their email first thing in the morning.
Email clearly still plays a huge role in global communications, but how effective is it in marketing terms?
Time to crunch a few more numbers:
- In a recent survey 77 percent of consumers listed email as their preferred medium for receiving permission-based marketing communications. This eclipsed other channels such as social media (6 percent) and text messages (5 percent).
- For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment (ROI) in 2011 was $40.56, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Search engine marketing offered the next best ROI at $22.44 - just more than half that of email. Online display advertising, meanwhile, offers $19.72.
- Around a quarter of email accounts are corporate accounts, making email marketing well suited to B2B as well as direct consumer marketing.
With email enjoying such a massive potential reach, it's little wonder that 64 percent of marketers indicated that their organizations' spends on email marketing were set to increase. Email marketing can be a great and cost-effective way to reach a high volume of consumers, but there are challenges involved and poorly targeted, poorly constructed emails could even be counter-productive.
In the U.S., the CAN-SPAM Act only requires a clear opt-out mechanism. In some markets, consumers must opt in to receiving commercial emails. In the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe, for example, direct marketing email messages may only be sent to subscribers who have given their prior consent. This can actually be more effective than a more "scattergun" mailshot approach. Your emails may reach fewer people, but those who receive it will already have expressed an interest in doing so.
Opt-ins obtained during actions on your website, social media, and other sources provide a great foundation for any mailing list and other recipients should be segmented according to demographics, interests, and behaviors to ensure that the right people are receiving the right messages.
Beyond building an initial mailing list, you also need to maintain it. Your list is like a carefully nurtured garden that would fall into ruin and end up choked with weeds without constant care. Metrics are your gardening tools in this respect. You need to monitor essential data such as how many emails are sent, received, and bounced. Of those that are successfully delivered, you also need to know the ratio that are opened, clicked, unsubscribed, and marked as spam. If you can combine all these metrics into a single measure, you can strategically manage your campaigns, adjusting your tactics where necessary and begin to incorporate true financial metrics, such as revenue impact and return on investment.
The Best Marketing Doesn't Feel Like Marketing
How many emails did you receive today? How many did you read, how many did you merely glance at, and how many did you consign to trash without even opening?
Most consumers are bombarded with information every single day and most have developed their own personal filters alongside any actual spam filters they use in there service provider's software. There's a constant battle for attention and your email has to overcome these defences. The subject line is hugely important, but so is the content of your email.
Once you've defined your customer base and tailored your list accordingly, you can make sure that the offers and communications you send are relevant. That doesn't mean you should plunge straight into the hard sell. Sometimes a direct offer for something the customer wants will yield results, but the important thing is to base your emails on what the customer wants, not what you want them to do. Try to create a conversation rather than an advertisement, listening, adapting, and sending messages that flow one to the next.
Coordinate your emails with your social media and other channels and you have far more chance of engaging each individual customer. Effective email marketing isn't about making a sale or even getting a click on every message you send. It's about building a relationship with the customer that lasts.