Along the digital marketing timeline, email is one of the channels that has been around since Web-based advertising started. From the warmth of America Online's iconic phrase "You've got mail," to today's hyper-personalized and targeted campaigns where it seems like every electronic message is speaking directly to the consumer's needs, email has remained a well-worn tool for most marketers. Its longevity has faced an onslaught of newer, shinier channels in the way of multiplying social networking sites that certainly capture marketers' attention, but do they really end up paying off?
If marketers consistently chase after the prettiest or coolest marketing tool that comes across their path without fully understanding how it fits within their campaigns, they're taking a pretty strong risk that they won't generate the results or return on investment that those holding the chips want to see. While social media is a powerful marketing resource, email continues to be a primary channel that strengthens revenue growth and adapts to fit the habits and preferences of today's consumer market.
What works with social?
Given the rapid pace at which social media sites have proliferated, it's impossible to ignore their place in the digital marketing landscape. Networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are incredibly
"Email customers are 11 percent more valuable than average consumers."
popular, each with millions of users throughout the world. Nonprofit Hub recently published an infographic from WebDAM explaining how more than half of marketers found a customer through Facebook in 2013 and 43 percent said the same about LinkedIn.
However, an article for Forbes emphasized the fact that these social networks are far better used as engagement tools rather than as pathways to generate sales. A 2013 study from Custora indicated that email customers are 11 percent more valuable than average consumers. Meanwhile, customers acquired through Facebook are roughly average, and Twitter users are 23 percent below the bar.
Why email is a workhorse
In the same Forbes article, Simms Jenkins, CEO of BrightWave Marketing, indicated one of the big reasons that email works so well as a way to drive revenue is that it taps into consumer behavior. One of the primary activities that people perform using their smartphones – 40 percent, in fact – and tablets is to check and read their email. That gives companies nearly a 24/7 connection with customers. Another key point is that the people on the email list have typically opted-in and granted the marketer the permission to send them communications. But marketers have to get the message right.
"On email people want offers," Jenkins said. "On Facebook they want to be more touchy-feely with the brand. On Twitter they want breaking news and updates. The best brands understand that, instead of sending the same stuff across multiple channels."
Why timing is (sometimes) everything
Successful email marketing depends on so many things: the data, the deployment, reputation, the subject line, the message and a long list of other factors. However, one of the great strengths of email is that companies have tight control over when customers see them and how the message is conveyed.
The right timing can have major consequences. In fact, a study conducted by University of Southern California and Yahoo Labs cited by the Smithsonian Magazine looked at the habits of roughly 2 million Yahoo account holders. One of the most compelling insights from the study is that emails get shorter as the day goes on. This shouldn't be too surprising; people typically have more time in the morning to spend time reading and responding to emails, and the rest of the day is filled with various commitments, including meetings and other tasks. For instance, physicians are more likely to get backed up with patient visits the further into the day they go, leaving much less time for them to read an email, let alone write at length.
At the same time, email styles become increasingly similar throughout the course of a digital correspondence. In other words, email mimicry is the sincerest forms of flattery and helps develop better relationships between senders and recipients. This can have a big impact on the tone and style of language marketers use to connect with their audience. For instance, if you're trying to speak to a more conservative group of medical professionals, the content of the message should align with how these individuals prefer to communicate.
As social media continues to steal the spotlight, marketers should not forget that email continues to be an effective marketing tool. Focusing on refining your email marketing campaigns by experimenting with timing and tone could improve performance and reignite your love for this tried and true communications channel.