There isn’t a more tried-and-true tactic in the digital marketer’s playbook than email. Yet email’s reputation for delivering dependable results also causes amnesia of sorts: brand teams sometimes forget just how valuable their email marketing program is – especially as they add newer, “cooler” tools to their martech stack.
By all means, embrace those newer technologies! An email service provider alone does not a martech stack make, to revise an old saying. Just don’t lose sight of your email campaigns as a cornerstone of modern marketing.
Email has always been important. It’s still important and always will be important. Let’s look at five reasons that’s true.
1. Your email list is yours – and yours alone.
Marketers must regularly play in other companies’ sandboxes – social is a prime example. That means marketers must also play by other peoples’ rules in those spaces, and cede at least some control (if not a lot of control) to the companies that own them.
With email, you own your list. That’s huge. Built the right way and from the ground up, your email list is irreplaceable. No one else has the same list; no one else can use it or copy it. It’s your audience. You can communicate with that audience as you see fit.
Obviously, you don’t want to treat email as an “anything goes” scenario – you want to communicate with value, maintain your list and technology, and not do anything to rub customers and other audiences the wrong way. You still depend on other platforms and organizations – deliverability is critical. But you likely already know this, and if you’re doing all the right things, email is invaluable for this very reason: it’s your list, and it’s your marketing base.
2. Email addresses are painless and easy to collect.
Email’s ubiquity – everyone has it – is ironically part of why we need to remind ourselves of its immense value from time to time: it’s everywhere and, therefore, easy to take for granted.
But that’s intrinsic to its importance. People generally don’t mind sharing their email addresses, especially if you’re offering some value in return. Email is “cheap” for people – they get lots of it. They expect it and want it from brands and businesses they’re interested in.
There’s less resistance when building a list than with other channels. People are usually more hesitant to give out their phone numbers. While SMS/text is great, it’s harder to build a comprehensive list. And customers may never download your mobile app – or turn on notifications even when they do use your app – for any number of reasons. SMS and push are more intrusive and difficult to ignore. Not so with email. That raises the bar for your email content but makes organic list-building within reach of even the smallest of businesses.
People tend not to worry too much about sharing their email, especially when offered a discount or other incentive. Email remains the most reliable, simple, and cost-effective way to communicate with your customers all the time.
3. You can do a better job of connecting and engaging with customers.
SMS is great. Mobile is great. Social is great. It’s a wonderful time to work in marketing. But email remains one of the very best ways to connect and communicate with customers directly because it allows you to do more – and with less noise.
Here are some reasons why:
- You can write more: Email is the copywriter’s friend. Sure, you’re dealing with limited attention spans, and people may skim or scan. But you’ve got more room to work with relative to SMS and push. People don’t want to scroll in a text, but they’ll go below the fold in an email. You can use modules or elements to chunk things up and better enable things like personalization, render-on-open, and other technologies. The canvas is bigger and brighter.
- You can personalize more: In that same vein, email has become an excellent vehicle for the kinds of personalization that makes people feel seen and appreciated by the companies they do business with. Personalization is a must these days, and email is a great way to make it happen. With the right platform and ESP, your email could have a half-dozen or more modules, each one tailored for the individual audience.
- You can tell your story: Because email (within the context of best practices and standards) is yours and yours alone, you can tell better stories – not just in words but with images, videos, and other elements. You’re generally not constrained by, say, a social platform’s character limits or similar restrictions.
4. Email metrics are great – and always getting better.
Email marketing is a sweet spot for any data-driven marketer. There are so many ways to test, track, and evaluate the efficacy of your campaigns. Subject lines have always been one of the go-to examples here, and they remain a very visible, important component of any email. But you can test so much now – body text, images, audience demographics, timing, and so forth.
Testing – and measuring the results of those tests – is where you can really hone in on specific messages and audiences. Especially, as you do more specific segmentation, personalization, and so forth. That’s where learning starts to occur because you can continuously apply your lessons in the next email – and the next, and the next. You can become super-precise about what really works.
You can certainly apply this mindset to other channels, but email has some particularly useful features for testing. For one, you can send more of them (because people expect to receive lots of emails) relative to SMS and push. For another, there are so many different things you can do (and test) in a single email that the options are almost limitless. Finally, because email is so ripe for segmentation (with the right platform in place), you can become very granular in your testing and metrics.
5. The technology keeps improving.
Because email is indeed tried-and-true, it seems a bit vanilla in the landscape of emerging technologies like AI and machine learning. But email doesn’t exist in a silo – it can have a complementary relationship with those and other new technologies.
That means that with the right ESP and martech stack, the technical capabilities of your email program are regularly evolving and getting better over time. Tools like Google’s AMP for email and Movable Ink and others are enabling all sorts of exciting, data-driving possibilities for engagement and personalization.
Render-on-open technology is a great example of how email tech is always getting better. It enables much more dynamic, event-driven email engagement. If an email about a flash sale that ends in six hours doesn’t get opened for six days, the recipient won’t open an offer that no longer exists. The information and content in an email can update according to when someone opens it.
It’s a great reminder of email and email marketing’s continued dynamism and importance. Plus, why marketers should regularly revisit and re-energize their email programs.