Thursday, 14 May 2015

Email: The #1 Social Network

I had an interesting conversation with a marketer recently about his renewed interest in email marketing. His head had been turned by social media but, after much trial and error (with a particular focus on error), he was edging his way back towards email.

The bottom line was – the bottom line. Experience had shown him that email marketing works better than any other online marketing medium in terms of ROI.

Two very interesting topics arose from our conversation:
  1. The concept of email being a social network
  2. The danger of email marketing becoming more challenging as an increasing number of marketers re-focus and fight for engagement in the inbox environment.
In both cases, I believe my marketer friend to be correct.

Email as a Social Network
If we define a social network as a dedicated website or application that enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, etc., it would be pretty reasonable to expect  to see email playing nicely alongside the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.

In fact, you could suggest that Email was the first, continues to be the most popular and may ultimately be the most successful of all online social networks.

Email provides a more formal social environment than those offered by the sites we more commonly associated as social media. But it is this formal environment that makes it such a viable marketing solution.

We use email for important things like applying for and accepting job offers, delivering contracts and other legal documents, invoicing and order confirmation. Because of this formality, email is largely the only social network where business and consumers feel comfortable with the concept of being sold to.

The fact that email as a medium has been successfully monetized by ESPs like iContact (where I am gainfully employed) and has a proven track record of returning the highest ROI of any online marketing channel ($44 for every dollar invested) should have many social media experts questioning the rational for their predictions around the death of email following the rise of social.

Email Becoming a Challenging Environment
My friend suggested that marketing might be cyclical and, to some extent, he is right. A backlash against social media may very well send more marketers back in the direction of email marketing and this will make subscribers’ inboxes more competitive environments as brands fight for engagement.

Those who succeed will work hard and stay in the game. Those who dip their toes in the water and play at email marketing will ultimately fail and quickly head off looking for the next quick win. If you are a lazy marketer, this should worry you. Irrelevant, dull and uninspiring email campaigns which might have yielded positive results in the past will become less successful.

Ambitious email marketers will need to become more strategic, more focused and more prolific. Successful email marketing demands the perfect mix of the right product at the right price, delivered at the right time, in an engaging, informative and non-obtrusive way.

This means better segmentation, improved testing and ultimately the delivery of more emails to fewer people. While email marketing is very much in rude health, I would suggest that the days of the untargeted, monthly email newsletter and full-list, shotgun, email blast are certainly behind us.

Online marketing has definitely grown up in recent years and as it matures it is becoming more accountable and sophisticated. It is not down to luck that email has been at the forefront of the online marketing industry since the earliest days of the web. If you really want to engage your customers, it’s time to invest in the original social network

About John W. Hayes
With more than 18-years’ experience in online marketing and ecommerce, John W. Hayes works with major technology brands including iContact and Viralheat, demonstrating how organizations of all sizes can maximize their potential from email, social media and content marketing-led strategies. He is the author of three books, Becoming THE Expert: Enhancing Your Business Reputation through Thought Leadership MarketingA Crash Course in Email Marketing for Small and Medium-sized Businesses and Bricks & Mortar Oughta: What Real World Businesses Can Learn from The Internet. He is a regular speaker at events throughout the UK, Europe and the US and is a prolific blogger across numerous sites. To learn more about John W. Hayes’ latest projects you can connect directly with him on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.


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