Less is the new more: E-mail marketing is social

The social nature of the Internet is changing e-mail marketing for the better. The old mentality: “Just send it; it’s cheap.” The result: High subscriber fatigue, inconsistent inbox deliverability, declining response rates and virtually no ability to forecast or predict response.

The low cost of e-mail marketing blocked any incentive to do the right thing by subscribers.  Now, subscribers find they can easily connect to brands in other ways, and they demand that e-mail messages be more relevant and inspiring. If not, they unsubscribe, ignore or click the Report Spam button (which can depress inbox placement for all messages). 

Conceptually, most marketers get that we have to loosen control and “give to get.”  Plus, overcrowded and fragmented inboxes now include mobile devices and social networks, making it hard for anything but the most timely and valued messages to break through. 

E-mail remains a strong channel because of two attributes:

1.      Reach:  Many more customers and prospects are connected to brands via e-mail than social.    E-mail marketing subscription rates have not dramatically declined because of the availability of social connections.

2.      Data:  Advances in eCRM have made managing and responding to this data even easier and more integrated.

Testing social marketing is a new craze, but it’s still hard to tie efforts to business goals. E-mail has always been social (although too few marketers use it that way), so linking social to e-mail marketing can improve the impact of both. 

1.      Focus on content.  Both channels are rooted in a great content strategy – you must have something interesting to say.  However, the forum dictates the message and timing.  Status updates on Twitter are not the same as newsletters, and Facebook contests do not encourage the same level of engagement as behavioral trigger email promotions.

2.      React to loyal behavior.  Knowing that someone is a social influencer is nice, but it’s better if we can actually adjust marketing to that person. Social identifies and scores the influencer, e-mail does the nurturing.

3.      Track activity.  Track social behavior back to an email record to profile subscribers and be proactive in marketing. For example, Facebook Connect now provides some data, and data management services that range in price and sophistication include Radian6, Rapleaf, Klout for Twitter and the new Flowtown.

4.      Tell stories.  E-mail has always been about engagement through content. Endless refrains of “Hi, are you ready to buy?” are not engaging. Focus on helping subscribers. Storytelling is a better approach and enabled by segmentation, targeting and customization. 

Bottom line:  Less is more. Focus on less clutter, less chatter, less broadcasts. Add in more relevance, more nurturing and more intelligent targeting.  That is how to generate more revenue via a synergized email and social strategy. 

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