Is email still a viable tactic in 2013?

Kristy Amy, director of digital strategy, Smart Business Network

Kristy Amy, director of digital strategy, Smart Business Network

While email marketing has received plenty of media coverage over the years, the topic continues to come up with clients as they prioritize marketing activities for 2013 and beyond.

In the past

Email marketing was the first social media tool. It was the first channel that allowed a message from one person or company to reach a mass audience while still being personalized in the delivery.

By 2009, the prediction of the year was that email marketing was dead because of social media.

Well, email marketing continues to be a viable and very productive marketing tactic. It also continues to outperform other channels in generating a return. According to the Direct Marketing Association:

Email generates $39.40 for every dollar spent.

Search generates $22.38 for every dollar spent.

Display generates $19.71 for every dollar spent.

Social generates $12.90 for every dollar spent.

So what makes email marketing still relevant today?

There are only two ways to directly and uniquely contact a person to initiate a one-on-one conversation: by email and by cell phone. While some might argue that social channels enable engagement, social continues to be a “group discussion” and not a direct conversation. This means that an email address and a cell phone number are the doorway to direct communication with an individual — a prized asset!

How are companies using email?

  • Email newsletters — Email newsletters are the backbone of any email marketing program. What makes email newsletters work today is a dedication to developing content that is truly different, meaningful and succinct that your readers (customers and prospects alike) can quickly read and apply to their business. This is not the generic newsletter of the past containing 10 articles. This is a thoughtfully written educational piece that provides value to the reader.
  • Triggered email campaigns — While the usage of email newsletters has dropped slightly in the last two years, there is a rise in the use of targeted and segmented emails. Sending content (emails) to people that speaks to their stage in the buying process significantly increases open rates while also increasing the positioning of your brand as a value-added partner. These are opt-in emails that are time triggered to an event whether that is a subscription date or a recent purchase.
  • Email updates in social media — All social media platforms from Facebook to Twitter to YouTube use email as a fundamental backbone of their infrastructure. By actively participating in social networks, you increase the chance of your content being featured in a social update email generated by the social platforms. This can range from general updates about your company to your individual employees being featured as subject-matter experts within the social email.
  • Email and social together — Content creates conversation and conversation creates content. Social media and email marketing, when used together, are a powerful combination that engages your audience. For example, if you post a question to a social channel that generates responses from your community, these responses can then be turned into content for an email newsletter or blog. Similarly, interesting and powerful content sent via email can ask people to comment or share their opinion thus serving as the conversation initiator on a social channel.

The landscape for email marketing continues to evolve. Email stands to experience another transition this year as trends point to email readership on mobile devices to surpass the 50 percent mark by the end of 2013. The questions to ask yourself are: How do your emails look on mobile? How will your company leverage the oldest social tool for conversation and content?

Kristy Amy is the director of digital strategy for Smart Business Network. Reach her at [email protected] or (440) 250-7011.