Bitter truth of Email Marketing

Do you know there’s an elephant in the email room? Or what happens to you when you hear it one day. It’s that it doesn’t work like or as well as it once did and I know why. Having spent the last four years doing email marketing, not all of the lessons I’ve learned are necessarily intuitive.

For example, the onslaught of spam and the sheer amount of acceptable emails extant can render email marketing less effective than just a few years ago. Brand leaders thought that increasing the volume of emails they sent may have an inverse impact on the results. Precision matters; avoid generic email blasts, they believed. As a result, these times call for more focus and discipline. In the past, we believed that limiting the number of emails could actually increase effectiveness.

But this is just one of the rules that worked a few years ago, but which no longer applies. In truth, because there are 100 times more emails in people’s inboxes, emails are being buried and you are competing against bosses, customers, and more important people for attention. Many successful programs use other mechanisms aside from email to capture attention. LinkedIn Messenger or even video campaigns – cool, funny, short – can grab their attention. Then marketers can offer a ‘give’ – for example, “Free Product/Consultation, Valued at $X.”

Relevant Email Marketing
Limit your emails to what’s relevant to your customer. Make sure the timing is in accordance with the rules of drip campaigns or campaigns that have proven to be effective. The subject line will do the selling.

Personally, my tendency is to delete emails — unless I see something or someone in the sender or subject that is going to make me stop/think and open. Usually, that’s the name of a familiar person or company — possibly even a competitor or a customer. Get one of those into the subject and open rates will be higher. Cognitive computing technologies like IBM’s Lucy can help message creation ONLY if you know your persona.

A host of other newer solutions has sprung from these challenges. Not necessarily to replace email, but opt-in apps and platforms — ranging from Slack (admittedly for captive audiences and internal team messaging) to WhatsApp. These supplement the marketing effort; the challenge is to use each tool in its most effective manner.

On the consumer front, Evite is now enabling customers to use text messaging to invite people to events, from baby showers to tailgate parties to concerts and lectures. It is reasonable to anticipate Evite being adopted for business.

Try (Gasp!) Non-Email Marketing
One more observation: Going back to tried-and-true methodologies, like snail mail or real meetings, have yielded more responses than you might have predicted. It is axiomatic that using multiple platforms, rather than increasing the usage of one platform, will increase reach.

Account Based Marketing
With account-based marketing — which everyone is supposedly doing — be more prescriptive. No generic notes. Identify with sales your top 20 targets and become a detective. Figure out who the right people are to go after, and research the heck out of them. Everything short of being a stalker. Once you’ve gathered all of the data you possibly can, format prescriptive campaigns to get their attention. This can even be direct mail followed by or integrated into an email campaign.

Other Email Software
Tools are the last thing I’d worry about. There are many … Pardot, Eloqua, Marketo, Salesforce, Zeta Hub. But if your content and your persona hit list are not on par and successful conversions are not happening, tools will do nothing.

Finally, while email marketing can be great and very useful for consumer marketing and product marketing, it’s less straightforward for B2B or services-oriented companies.

Companies that are B2B and have a SaaS-based business model may be much better off, as they can offer free versions of their products/solutions in the form or trials or bite-size discounted offerings. I believe everyone likes something for free — even if it’s just a trial. When people can get a taste, then:

  • You have them locked into a free version;
  • Next step, the trial expires, they love your product, and
  • You can start charging them.
  • If they don’t love it, there’s no refund to deal with, and there’s an opportunity to collect customer/prospect data about the reasons.

This is a tried-and-true model. But again, even “try it for free” gets buried in the avalanche of daily emails. So, all of these other considerations — rationing, pinpoint focus, multiple devices — need to be considered. Marketers need to use a multitude of media channels to communicate one message rather just EMAIL 🙂 🙂