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The truth (and lies) about email marketing

G. Simms Jenkins
The truth (and lies) about email marketing G. Simms Jenkins

There are many misconceptions about email marketing. Some never change and may sound familiar:

"All email marketing is spam."
"Email marketing is too technologically imposing for my company to use."
"Email marketing doesn't work for us."
"We have done everything we can with our email marketing program."

On the other side of the coin, email marketing is always evolving, and those who rest on their laurels (or their high open and click rates) may find themselves leaving money on the table or not adapting to their subscribers' evolving needs and preferences.

In this article, and others to come, I will break out an important truth and a widely believed lie about email marketing. For anyone using this powerful and often controversial communication tool, understanding the fact and fiction behind these points is crucial to your success.

Truth: Email does more than drive sales.
Too often email marketing's sole purpose is to drive sales. In this economy, I don't want to understate the importance of revenue and email's piece in delivering it, but many email marketers are missing the boat on a few other fronts -- ones with strong long-term implications:

Build relationships. While it may not deliver precious short-term revenue, email is an incredibly underrated tool for building, continuing and extending a relationship with a prospect. Especially in the business-to-business world, email marketing should be used to build relationships as much or more than it is used to generate leads and sales.

One final thought on this: If you are spending any money on paid search or social media programs, you likely are not converting 100 percent of your visitors. If they don't sign up for your emails, then that money could be considered wasted. Email allows you to stretch the media buy and continue the relationship phase before the visitor is ready to buy. Make this a priority in 2009.

Drive awareness and branding. Just like any marketing that reaches your targeted audience, consider the benefits of using email to increase awareness of your products and services while also positioning your brand appropriately in the inbox.

Build loyalty. Loyalty is a crucial asset to have with your customers in any type of business, especially in this economy. Email marketing campaigns should play to this while also enhancing these efforts. Strong email programs will inherently do this while providing exclusive and valuable benefits to their subscribers.

Cut costs. Back to the lovely recession topic. Companies are finally flocking to email not only as a sales and marketing vehicle, but as a major way to reduce expenses and resource needs within their business wherever possible. Many organizations are looking to eliminate, or at least decrease, costs in printing, direct mail, catalogs and call centers -- not to mention statements and other transactional or billing-related pieces -- by establishing email marketing as a preferred communications channel for their various audiences. The cost savings for some companies has been substantial, which leads me to believe that 2009 may be the year of email as the cost-savings platform. Take that, email doubters, non-believers and the other folks that have been shouting "email is dead" for the past several years!

Lie: There is a definitive best day of the week and time to send.
Undoubtedly, this question will surface at every speaking engagement or webcast where I present: What is the best day of the week and time to send my email campaigns?

Let's peel back the onion here. Here's just a sampling of widely circulated answers to this question:

  • The highest peaks for read rates are at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

  • The best time for email responses is during the working day, except Monday (and Friday afternoons).

  • The highest open rates are on Wednesday, Monday and Thursday.

  • The highest clickthrough rates are on Wednesday and Thursday.

  • The highest clickthrough rates are on Thursday and Saturday.

  • Tuesday is retailers' favorite day to email, followed by Thursday, Monday, Friday, Wednesday, Sunday and Saturday.

So does this information provide a magic formula to follow? Did I uncover the panacea that all email marketers have been searching for?

As you may have gathered, the data you may see on this widely debated topic often contradicts other data. Or you may have noticed that, according to the different studies cited above, you couldn't go wrong sending an email during the day or night on most days of the week. Now is that really helpful?

While these studies generate copious amounts of interest from the blogosphere and trade press, you probably won't double your conversion rates if you follow the strategies they suggest. The best answer to the question of the best day and time to send email depends on your own data. By testing out campaigns at different times and days of the week, then you will be on your way for truly having a good idea of what your audience really wants and when, and just as importantly, whether or not it really affects your bottom line.

G. Simms Jenkins is founder and CEO of BrightWave Marketing, an award-winning agency specializing in the strategic optimization of email marketing and digital targeted messaging programs. For more on this topic, check out Jenkins' book, "The Truth About Email Marketing."


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