Email marketing is not dying, but we are killing it

A few weeks back I was asked to speak at an email marketing conference in Stockholm. It’s a regular fixture and a very well attended and run event. Every year more and more marketers come through the doors (this year there were over 400) and it’s a day dedicated to email marketing, arguably the oldest (most established?) of all digital channels.

Steve Kemish at Email Marketing Evolved

As with any conversation, discussion, speech or chat about email marketing over the last couple of years, talk invariably turns to whether email marketing is a dying channel.

I pondered that very question long and hard in the lead-up to the event. It’s my strong feeling that no, it’s not dying (and there are plenty of projections of email send to support this) BUT we are killing it – this “we” being the very practitioners that are charged with sending or utilising email marketing as part of an organisation’s strategy.

The results are no doubt declining for email, and this is intrinsically linked to that increased send. It’s becoming easier (and “cheaper”) to send more email as more of the world goes online, but that means more and more email marketing that isn’t getting the requisite love and attention to ensure it delivers the best possible results.

Those results should not all centre on us, the sender, but if more time is spent making sure it delivers a result for the recipient then surely that will follow for the sender too?

At the heart of my presentation then were thoughts and ideas on how we can collectively counter this trend – how we can continue to send more, but send more that adds value and delivers results – for us and for our audience.

And as you’ll see from a few suggestions below, it’s not “rocket Cyance”, it’s just advanced common sense – which for me is marketing in a nutshell.

How to get more results and take your foot off the neck of email marketing:

Test

It doesn’t matter what you test, test something. In my view you should start with the basics – subject line, sender name and timing of send. These can all make a difference to your results. It’s worth remembering that even a single percentage increase in opens could result in multiple more sales at the other end, so it’s really worth doing.

Send more helpful messages

Organisations that use email as a helpful news channel are going to get better overall engagement than those that don’t.

Understand your mobile audience

Mobiles and tablets are on the surge and will be the largest platform for email receiving over the coming years, but what’s your audience doing? If your email service provider can’t tell you the current open rates by device, have a look in your overall web analytics and get a feel for how much website traffic you’re already getting in from mobile and tablet to help give you a clue.

Get on a streak

We obsess about producing reports on each campaign – the opens, clicks etc. but what do we actually do with them once we’ve read them? Try and instil some gamification into your team. Pick a metric (opens say?) and challenge the team to constantly increase the open rate with every send – even if it’s a fractional increase. Set yourself a goal and celebrate your best streak – how many consecutive emails can you send where you see an increase?

Benchmarking is not theft

We’re not all lucky enough to have large teams or budgets to ensure every element of what we do is as optimised as it could be. But good ideas are not exclusive to these organisations either. Get into the habit of signing up to lots of other organisations’ emails (tip – use a dedicated email account!) and then make time to read and assess all you receive. If there’s a good idea there is no reason why you can’t look at how you try and do something similar for your own email marketing.

Even if you don’t start with the above, start somewhere. The vast majority of email marketing that is sent every day doesn’t have the care, love and attention that it should, so just focusing on one or two things in what you do could make a big difference.

Steve Kemish

Managing Partner, Junction @skemmo

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