The rumor mill has lots to say about the “inbox.” With the proliferation of other digital marketing channels, some suppose that email marketing could be dead or on its way out of fashion. Perhaps this is among the reasons that many business owners and decision-makers overlook or underestimate the power of adding email marketing into their overall marketing strategy. While many marketers turn their attention to the latest shiny object, sometimes to the detriment of tried and true strategies that might help move the needle, I’d like to revisit a tried, trusted and extremely powerful marketing channel – email.
A brief history of email marketing to get us up to date – It’s fun for marketing geeks like me to dig into the history of major marketing channels like email, so humor me for a moment.
- In 1978 (42 years ago), the very first promotional campaign was sent out by Digital Equipment Corp. This email was sent to 400 users promoting DEC machines via Arpanet with a resulting $13 million in sales.
- The ‘90’s brought Hotmail and SPAM as companies searched for cheaper ways to reach consumers than phone sales and direct mail. With the SPAM onslaught, the late ‘90’s brought about the Data Protection Act and shortly after the CAN-SPAM Law to regulate bad behavior and allow consumers to control their inboxes.
- Soon email service providers began to support regulation and protect the rights of the consumer, forcing businesses to get savvy in their efforts to send permission-based email messages.
- By 2012, statistics showed that 40% of all emails sent were opened on a smartphone, allowing companies to access recipients in places other than their laptops or desktops.
- Fast forward to 2019; there are an estimated 3.7 billion global email users, on-trend to grow to 4.3 billion by 2022.
What a solid email marketing strategy looks like here and now – So, the case has been built. As business owners, we should be paying attention to email marketing. Why? It’s cost-effective, and it works. Your 2019 email marketing strategy is going to vary as related to your business, your industry and your sales funnel, but a few best practices and considerations should be kept top of mind.
Email marketing begins and ends with your list. Open rates, click-throughs and conversions are all contingent on the size and quality of your email list. Many companies make the common mistake of compiling a list over the years that is full of dead, irrelevant or incorrectly categorized emails. Relying on this list and devoting precious resources toward email marketing to a bad list is a detriment, not an advantage for your marketing KPIs. Efforts related to expanding your list by adding quality leads, scrubbing your list by removing dead or irrelevant contacts and segmenting lists based on relevant categories are the key to your ultimate success.
Data intel can set you free. Understanding even basic things about your email list and performance can bring email marketing successes in big ways. Drill down on some important data points that all email marketers should be looking at:
- Open rates, click-through rates and unsubscribe/SPAM rates – Open rates are an important index and reflective of the power of your subject line. Your click-through rates are even more indicative of your email’s success, showing that your target wanted to take action after viewing the email. Unsubscribe rates may spike slightly if you are just launching your email marketing initiative but should be steady once you’ve established your initiative. Watch this rate for any spikes. SPAM reports should ideally be at zero, so be sure to keep a close eye on that metric as well.
- Segment where it makes sense – Segmenting your list is a good idea, but if it makes sense. Creating complex, separate campaigns for too many segments or segments that are too small might not be worth the effort. Depending on the unique nature of your business and your list, you’ll be able to determine the best choice for your email campaigns.
- Personalize where you can – Using a first name, knowing what product the target audience has purchased before or referring to specifics of the recipient’s location are all options for personalization if done well and if it’s relevant. Quality content that is personalized and targeted will bring best results for your campaigns.
Trends to keep your eye on for the future – Email marketing is going to continue to be at the forefront of the marketing machine. Elements like hyper-personalization, multi-channel integration and mainstream proliferation of AI tools will be on the radar for savvy marketers in the coming years. A starting point is working on the quality and growth plan for your email list, and then you will be poised to scale your efforts with future trends.
Emails usage is on the decline. In fact, 126.7 trillion are expected to be sent by 2022. That number alone should prompt you to take a closer look at your email marketing strategy. Add to the mix that email marketing is cost-effective, generates great ROI (if done correctly) and is extremely easy to measure – and you should be convinced. So, the question is, are you?