Digital marketing has evolved in big ways over the past couple of decades. Take for example Google’s search results page. It looks different today than it did even a few months ago, let alone in 1998. Because of this, we’ve come to learn that what works for brand marketing today, may not work (or even be around) next year.
Reports of Email’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
About five years ago I was convinced that email marketing was in its decline and was being displaced—or at the very least, succeeded—by social media. This was back when ISPs were gaining big ground in their fight against spam and other unwanted email. We were also fixated on the growing dominance of social media in all things news and culture. Every day seemed to bring a new platform or technology that made it easier for us to openly share everything with each other—for better or worse.
Despite those factors, my prediction that email marketing was going extinct was, to put it mildly, not accurate. So why are brands across varying industries and audiences still relying on the email medium in 2016?
Email Marketing is Measurable
Tactics that don’t generate results get killed swiftly in analytics-driven industries like today’s marketing. Email-related tactics, in conjunction with analytics tools—Google Analytics, marketing automation, lead gen platforms, etc.—allow marketers to dive deeper than ever into how well, or not well, a campaign is performing.
Here are just a few of the top-level metrics marketers use to guide their strategy:
- Open Rate: percentage of recipients who open your email (also, Click-to-Open, which measures a more intentional version of this metric)
- Clickthrough Rate (CTR): percentage of recipients who clicked at least one link in your email
- Conversion Rate: percentage of recipients who completed your desired action (clicked a CTA on your landing page, called for a quote, etc.)
- Bounce Rate: percentage of sent emails that couldn’t be delivered
- List Growth Rate: arguably more important than list size, the rate at which new users subscribe
Email Marketing is Mobile
In some ways, email was easier and quicker to adapt to mobile than websites were. Making a website look, feel, and function great on a 4.7-inch screen is no small undertaking: marketers must often face the uncomfortable triage process of deciding which content stays, and which content goes. Marketing emails, on the other hand, are inherently more lightweight and scalable for small screens. This mobile-friendliness has made it possible for 64% of decision-makers to say they read and process their email on mobile devices (TopRank).
Email Marketing is More Tailored
Not all marketing emails are blasted out to a 10,000-user list—some of the most effective emails are generated one at a time and customized to the unique interests of individuals (marketing automation and lead nurturing). Consider that…
- Nurtured leads, including those maintained through email, make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads, according to Unbounce.
- 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation.
Email marketing in its most basic form can lead to big results for some brands that don’t want or need more personalization. But for those who do, email is a great utility player, coordinating seamlessly with other tactics and tools to deliver exactly the right message at the right time to the right inbox.
Email Marketing Still Has an Audience
And finally, the reason for email marketing’s longevity that eclipses all others: people continue to positively engage with it. One study found that 7 in 10 people said they made use of a coupon or discount from a marketing email in the prior week. Another study found that 27% of consumers were more likely to say their favorite companies should invest in more email.
When executed correctly, email marketing continues to enjoy a high level of engagement and success with audiences. Now more than ever it’s critical to think strategically and deliver smart email marketing.
An Important Reminder
Cutting corners in email marketing will lead to anemic performance (at best), and in some cases being blacklisted on email servers from future efforts. This is a very real consequence that I have inherited from some clients and the fallout can be troublesome for everyone involved. My advice here, as in all marketing, is there are two approaches: the easy way and the right way. Choose the right way. A little extra hard work now as you build permission-based lists can pay off nicely down the road.
On that note, the people at Copyblogger just happened to recently put out the following video. It speaks to my last point above, and reminds us why trust is critical to effective email marketing.