Every month, when my column deadline looms, I think to myself, "Is there any possible way that I have another email marketing column in me?" I've been writing on this subject for longer than I care to remember, and I actually consider myself a data-driven marketer, not just an email marketer. And every month I surprise myself by coming up with yet another thing to write about regarding email marketing. This month I hit the wall -- I have no advice at the moment to offer those of you who are doing email marketing on a daily basis. But that doesn't mean I have nothing to offer you!
This month I'm going to focus on the four things that we email marketers wish everyone else in digital marketing knew about email marketing. We've all been frustrated at one time or another by the misconceptions of others in the marketing department. So your job is to share what follows with as many people as possible on your marketing team!
Dear Fellow Marketer:
In the spirit of better collaboration between you and your email marketing team, I want to share with you four things regarding email marketing that you need to know. I think you already are a swell marketer, but there are some things that stand in the way of you working at peak efficiency with your email team. If you approach this with an open mind, good things will surely come as a result!
The similarities between direct mail and email end at the word "mail"
Let's face it: You've always thought of direct mail as existing on one of the lower rungs of the marketing ladder. I'll admit that I've been known to refer to people who do this as "stamp lickers." But for you to put email marketing into the same box is a huge mistake, and not just because there are no stamps to be licked. Direct mail is expensive, slow, and generally unwelcome. (Obviously many catalogs are welcome, but they are more similar to a website than an email. And my website is smarter than your catalog.)
Email, on the other hand, is inexpensive, fast, and despite what you think, it's welcome. People sign up to receive email. Think about that for a minute: It's the only ongoing marketing message in the universe that someone has actually asked in advance to receive! Meanwhile, your customers are using DVRs to skip your TV commercials. And -- admit it -- so are you.
Everything else you do would suffer without email marketing
The ROI of every other channel and tactic you use to engage your customers would be lower without email. Despite what you think, not every consumer using search is ready to buy right now. For those who are merely looking for information, email provides the means by which you can continue the dialogue after the initial interaction. Without it, you'd be wasting a lot of the money you spend on search.
And regarding your website, were it not for email, you'd have no second chance to get someone to complete a transaction after abandoning a shopping cart. Without email your social media properties would struggle to gain members, and those that you had would have limited means by which they could share your content on their own networks. And even your display would have fewer targeting options if you could target (or not target) your email openers with the most appropriate display offer based things you've learned through the email channel. (If you're not doing this, stop reading and immediately go speak with your email team.)
Email marketing isn't rocket science -- it's a lot harder
There's a classic scene in the move Apollo 13 where NASA engineers have to construct a carbon dioxide filter using only materials available on the Apollo 13 spacecraft. One of them dumps a couple of boxes of stuff on the table representing what they have on the ship and tells them that, in essence, they have to make a square peg fit into a round hole.
Those types of people still exist, and they can be found either in your email marketing team or on one of the teams that support it. The best analytic minds and data-driven strategists are hard at work developing new ways to segment and target their list subscribers. And they are also developing the decision engines that can populate email templates in real time as they are opened with the best offers that reflect everything that subscriber has purchased, browsed, or otherwise engaged up until that precise moment. I encounter email marketers on a daily basis who refuse to accept that something can't be done, just because it hasn't been done before. They challenge their internal teams to find a way to do XYZ. They don't bother to ask if it can be done. So when you are facing a challenge using data to optimize your other marketing channels, ask the folks on your email team to help. For them, "failure is not an option."
Email marketing isn't dead -- it isn't even sick.
Every time something new catches your eye, you like to say things like "this will be the end of email marketing." We've heard it many times. First SMS was supposed to kill us off. Frankly, it's SMS that, from a marketing perspective, should be on death watch. Smartphones took care of that.
Then you discovered social media, and that was going to kill off email marketing. Of course, that was before you discovered the unequal relationship between email and social. Email can exist just fine without social, but not the other way around (as we discussed earlier). So for the record, email is alive and well. It's making lots of companies a ridiculous amount of money. Frankly, we're a little tired of people who try to demonstrate what savvy digital marketers they are by making the latest pronouncement that email marketing is dead. We get it that we're not the "cool kids" of digital marketing. But we'll get the ship and crew home safely.
So there you have it! I have no doubt that your email marketing team appreciates the time you spent reading this. Perhaps you can get them to show their appreciation by taking you out for some beer and wings. Having attended a lot of email marketing conferences, I'll add one bonus item about email marketing that you need to know: The people who practice it really know how to party.
Chris Marriott is the vice president of services and principal consultant at The Relevancy Group.
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