"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” It’s a Mark Twain quote (probably) but it’s also applicable to email marketing. For all the reports of email’s demise—we’ve been hearing them for years—email continues to be a solid way to market to individuals, as long as you do it right.
If email marketing didn’t work, it would have died off years ago. People rely on their inboxes as stockpiles of information, both from brands and from friends. Inboxes are searchable and, thanks to platforms like Gmail offering nearly infinite storage, you almost never have to delete anything. If you’re vaguely interested in a brand and want to bookmark them for later, you sign up for emails. It’s easy, quick, and you can come back to it when you need it. If doing so gets you a discount, a heads-up on future offers, or any other perks, so much the better.
Ever since we started carrying access to our email around in our pockets (hello, mobile domination), we’ve spent an astounding amount of time in our inboxes. According to Adobe’s most recent Consumer Email Report, people spend more than five hours a week in their inboxes. (If you’re looking at that number and going “that seems low,” well, join the club.) Even millennials continue to engage with email, from their commutes to the gym to the couch. And email continues to be people’s preferred way to hear from brands: 61% of consumers would rather get their offers via email than any other method.
So we know that people are checking their inboxes and want to receive offers via email. Sounds pretty good from a marketing perspective, doesn’t it? Email is a powerful tool—when it’s done the right way. If you don’t do it the right way, you’ve wasted a valuable opportunity. Here’s an example:
Company A makes some cool stuff. Joe Consumer sees their stuff in an ad on Facebook, pokes around on their website, and is intrigued enough to sign up for their email list. Company A proceeds to flood Joe’s inbox with wide-ranging daily emails about their products, their events, their company, and their sister companies. They even sell Joe’s email address to other companies, and he starts receiving other emails from brands he’s never heard of. Joe gets fed up and unsubscribes from all of it, cursing Company A the whole time. He never buys their products, never goes back to their website, and tells his friends about his experience.
Don’t be like Company A.
Here’s what they did wrong, and how you can avoid it:
- Don’t assume you know what your customer wants. By flooding Joe with emails about all sorts of things, Company A reduced their chances of putting the right offer in front of Joe at the right time. Give your subscribers the opportunity to tell you what type of content they’d like to receive, then respect their choices. Segment your email list into buckets so you can ensure your subscribers know they’ll receive relevant, interesting content every time they open one of your emails. What’s the best way to find this out? Ask them. Send out a survey, or allow people to choose what type of content they’d like to receive when they sign up in the first place. You can also use automation to help sort your database—we’ll get to that in a future blog post. It’s pretty awesome.
- Don’t overdo it. Email is one of the many instances where less is more. Daily emails have their place—for news organizations or daily deal sites, to start—but for most brands, more is not better. According to Adobe’s survey, half of consumers say the most annoying thing about promotional emails is when they arrive too often. Only send your subscribers emails when you have something to say. It’s another way to show that you respect their time, their inbox space, and their attention—and it’s another way to increase your chances of having your emails opened when they arrive.
- Don’t sell your database. Not only is it annoying and inconsiderate to your subscribers, it’s also a good way to taint your own brand. If you don’t respect your subscribers enough to protect their personal information, why should they give you their time or their money?
Avoiding those three major mistakes will already put you in a good place. Here’s three other tips to really maximize what you can do with your email marketing.
- Design for mobile. We went over this last week, but it bears repeating. Assume the majority of people who open your email will be doing it on a phone, and design accordingly. That means no slow-loading pictures, no endless scrolling through text, and making sure your content gets right to the point.
- Test, then test some more. The first type of testing is the one you do before you ever hit send. Make sure your email works on all platforms, all devices, all browsers, so if someone does open it it’ll work the first time. The second type of testing is what you do in the email itself. The best email marketing platforms allow you to see not only how many people are opening your emails, but what they’re doing once they’re in there. That means you can see what buttons and links they click (and don’t click), and make decisions accordingly. Is everyone clicking on the “Holy cow, this thing is awesome and you need one” link, and not the “shop now” link? That tells you something, and it’ll help you shape your future emails.
- Do build your email strategy into the rest of your marketing. Email shouldn’t be independent, or the only part of your marketing strategy. Instead, it should be integrated into the rest of your marketing plan. Email is an important part of converting someone into a customer, but it’s far from the only part. A truly integrated marketing strategy—one that works together across multiple channels and platforms and that works with user behaviors—is one that uses the strengths of email as part of a larger plan.
Amazingly, this is just the tip of the email marketing iceberg. There are all sorts of things you can do once you’ve been given an email address, as long as you don’t waste the opportunity. If you don’t want to wait for a future blog post to learn all about email (or anything else marketing-related), give us a shout. We’re here to help with email and beyond.