It seems like email marketing always has to defend itself from handwringing naysayers who question how relevant and effective the technology is, especially amid emergent platforms like social media. Is it still a good idea to use email marketing? Isn’t it outdated?
The largest problem with email marketing is spam. Everyone gets it, nobody likes it. If email marketing were all spam, it would not exist and email would have long since fallen by the wayside to give way to some new, powerful electronic communication. But not all email marketing is spam, and email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to maintain contact with returning customers, advertise relevant promos and reach out to potential customers.
The key to successful email marketing is in drawing a distinction between spam and whitelist emails. The difference is pretty straightforward in a way – spam is good, whitelist is bad – but it’s deeper than that.
Over two billion people globally use email. Many of us start and end our days with email. It is the one communications technology that we interact with more than any other.
What about the rise of social networks? Facebook has 800 million active users, Twitter is touching 300 million users (give or take), and Foursquare announced 10 million users in June (the service has grown since then but it is unclear by how much). All these provide engaging distribution channels that can target consumers in a much more interactive way than previously available.
But building a profile on Facebook does not mean that you abandon your email. Facebook tried, and failed, to popularize its own email platform because they realized what a valuable channel it was for reaching people where Facebook could not.
Rather than view social media in opposition to email marketing, clever marketers have used the two together. Marketing Sherpa published some data on the efficacy of this tactic:
With approximately 750 million active Facebook users, 119 million active Twitter accounts, and 10 million Foursquare members, it’s clear that electronic social reinforcement has wide appeal in multiple formats. With two billion people regularly checking email, some marketers are now using this massive channel to let customers influence each other.
While social media is still fairly new, marketers have found that it helps achieve their objectives. According to the Marketing Sherpa 2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report, 55% of marketers surveyed found social sharing buttons on company branded or managed websites somewhat effective. Another 14% found it very effective.
Similarly, 55% of the respondents found sharing buttons on email content somewhat effective. An additional 10% found it very effective. But, some marketers now find success by moving beyond sharing buttons to make email truly social.
Leveraging the influential effects inherent in social media into email marketing is extremely effective when done right.
How do you explain the fact that people are spending less time at their computers and more time on the go? Mobile platforms are the future!
This is true. Market research firm Gartner reported that more than 440 million smartphones were sold worldwide in the third quarter alone. Nielsen predicted last year that one in two Americans would have a smartphone by this Christmas. With the Kindle Fire making waves in the holiday shopping season, the tablet wars have heated up, which only means more products sold for the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google.
As people migrate to a new mobile platform, many of them retain their email habits. Mobile Internet is not displacing the Internet we’re used to. Rather, mobile complements and augments it. Now, instead of only having access to people when they are seated at their computers, email marketers have access through phones and tablets 24/7. This opens the door to time-sensitive emails, notifications and alerts.
The most compelling evidence for email marketing is simply that it works. Email Marketing Reports has all the numbers but here are some interesting ones:
- The DMA puts email marketing’s ROI for 2011 at $40.56 for every $1 invested. The figure for 2012 is predicted to “fall” to $39.40, when email will account for $67.8 billion in sales.
- 72% of respondents to an Econsultancy survey in early 2011 described email’s ROI as excellent or good. Only organic SEO scored better.
- A 2011 Merchant Circle survey of more than 8,000 local business owners in the US found email marketing cited by 35.8% as a Top 3 most effective marketing or advertising method. Only social network profiles and search engine marketing scored higher.
- A 2011 business survey by Ireland’s Marketing Institute saw 84% claiming email marketing was important or very important to their marketing strategy.
- In a 2011 Focus survey of marketers, the channel cited most often as the best performer over the previous 12 months was email.
Sure, it might be one of the oldest toys in the play chest, but email marketing proves itself a worthy investment time and time again, and where other online tactics may rise and fall with the fickle public, email marketing continues to maintain.
Thomas Stone is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Ethical Affluence.