Email marketing is not dead. In reality, it’s still the best tactic for generating B2B and B2C leads, nurturing those leads, and scoring tons of conversions.
Email marketing is pretty old in digital years (which are kind of like dog years, only shorter).
In its long and storied life, email marketing has experienced many changes, adaptations and abuses. In spite of billions of deletes, unsubscribes and spam, email marketing has stood the test of time. It just plain works.
But along the way, it has been corrupted by myth, legend and outright falsehood.
I’ve written this article in order to dispel the wrongheadedness that surrounds email marketing, and help you get better at this extremely important marketing technique. Email marketing can be conversion city. You just need to overcome your false beliefs.
1. People actually want to get your marketing emails.
There’s this common misconception that marketing emails are negative. Marketers create them while cringing. They wince when they hit “send.” They think, wrongly, that the recipients will hate getting them.
It’s like the marketing email is some sort of demonic force that creeps into the inbox.
Actually, consumers prefer to receive commercial communications via email. Get this: 74% of adults who are online prefer to receive marketing messages by email rather than direct mail, according to MerkleInc’s research.
And if you do your email marketing right, they’re going to be happy to get yours, too.
Basically, people don’t hate your marketing emails.
There are so many disclaimers that I could append to this point, but I’m going to limit myself to just one:
Write your marketing emails to a real person, not to a mailing list.
Even though you may be gleeful at the prospect of sending an email to your mailing list of 82,820 unqualified leads, let me caution you. Instead of crafting your email with a massive list in mind, write your email to a real person — a “persona,” to use the correct marketing term.
If it helps, you may even want to tape their picture and a few facts to the corner of your screen while you work on your email.
When you target personas and segment your email lists based on multiple marketing personas, your CTRs will go through the roof.
Why did HubSpot, cited above, see such a big spike in clickthroughs? Because they used persona targeting. In other words, people liked their emails more. The marketing emails were sent to them, aware of their needs, and catering to their interests.
People want to get your marketing emails, as long as you send those emails to a person, rather than a generic faceless list.
2. Good emails produce great conversion rates.
I can’t believe how depressing some people can be when it comes to email marketing. Here are some of the doomsday laments that I’ve heard:
- CTRs are going to be somewhere around 0.008%.
- People don’t really buy or convert based on emails. It’s more for brand exposure.
- Email marketing has a limited ROI, but I guess we have to do it anyway.
Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
In truth, a solid email marketing campaign will get results, will score conversions, will nurture leads, will have an awesome ROI, and will make you happy and make the birds chirp sweetly in your ears.
Let these facts speak to your misconceptions:
- 66% of online consumers bought something based on an email marketing message. That’s a lot of conversions that are based solely on an email. In the consumer age group of 45-54, a whole 71% made a purchase based on an email message. These statistics come from the Direct Marketing Association. ExactTarget’s 2012 study places email at the top of the list as far as marketing channels are concerned.
- Also from TheDMA, and cited by others, email marketing has an ROI of 4,300%. Email is inexpensive, unless you’re suckered into buying garbage mailing lists. Email marketing services are as cheap as they come. Crafting and sending that email costs just a few bucks. Email marketing is like ROI heaven.
One final comment: Just doing email marketing doesn’t mean that you’re going to luxuriate in the 4,300% ROI rate, or experience 96% CTR. You’ve got to do email marketing right. Great content produces great results.
I’m simply trying to tell you not to be so down in the mouth about email marketing. It works. It’s effective.
3. Purging your list is the way for higher conversions and CTRs.
Here’s one of the fattest misconceptions in the industry: “The bigger my email list, the better.”
Huge email lists look nice as far as raw numbers go, but they might be ruining your CTR, limiting your sales, and making you odious among your target audience. In reality, less is more when it comes to an email list.
HubSpot’s research turned up the fact that you can improve your deliverability rate by 3-5% simply by suppressing any addresses that haven’t engaged with your emails in 12 months or more.
Your email list is a living, breathing, growing, shrinking organic entity. You want to get rid of the cruft, nurture the active ones, and constantly solicit engagement.
By getting rid of nonresponders, you’re actually refining your email list into something truly valuable.
4. Subject lines are still the clear winner.
Never, ever get lazy about your subject lines. With so much ad nauseum material on “making better subject lines,” I can see why you’d be sick of hearing about it. I feel that way sometimes, too. But I remind myself of these facts:
- Short subject lines have big open rates. According to Adestra’s 2012 report, subject lines that were nine characters long or less had open rates of 58%. To put that into perspective, the sentence that follows is eight characters: Open Me.
- Personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened. Also from Adestra’s report, we learn that if a subject matter is personalized — using the recipient’s name for example — the recipient is more likely to open it.
- Subject line content matters. According to research group Chadwick Martin Bailey, 64% of recipients will open an email based on the subject line alone. Conversely, as reported from ConvinceAndConvert, 69% of recipients will hit the spam button based on a fishy-sounding subject line.
Clearly, you have to shore up your subject lines if you expect to have a happy email marketing life. They can mean the difference between an unsubscribe and a conversion.
5. Email marketing now targets a mobile market.
Every email you send should be optimized for mobile platforms. Perhaps you finally have a responsive-design website. Your site looks good on your iPhone and the desktop. You’re excited. But what about that email that goes out to 10,000 subscribers every week?
If it’s not optimized for mobile, it’s a piece of crap.
A lot of email marketers love to go hogwild in MailChimp or Constant Contact, creating spiffy colorful HTML emails with headers, images, and maybe even some flashing GIFs for good measure.
But the depressing truth is, so many of those emails are purely unreadable by the recipients, because they’re designed and formatted for desktop email applications.
That is a big mistake. Here’s why. (Statistics ahead.) SearchEnginePeople reports that 35% of all business professionals check their email on their mobile phones, and 64% of decision makers read email on their mobile.
HubSpot says it like it is: “If you’re one of the 89% of marketers not optimizing email for mobile, you’re not properly reaching 48% of your list.” And — shock of shocks — 69% of recipients will delete an email if it isn’t optimized for mobile.
Look at this. People freaking open up emails on their mobiles! More and more, mobile opens are the way things are done.
On the flip side, as much as you may love that shiny email you created specifically for your Gmail desktop users, it’s not hitting their inbox. Remember the tabbed inbox fiasco that sent the marketing world scrambling last May?
Here’s what it does to your open rate.
Why, then, do you not optimize your email for the huddled masses yearning to breathe mobile?
If you don’t have mobile-optimized emails, you’re wasting your time.
6. Stop sending out that stupid newsletter.
Newsletters are passé. The fact of the matter is, the only one who will be interested in your “company newsletter” is your mother-in-law’s pet canary.
By “company newsletter,” I’m referring to marketing emails that communicate company information to your consumers or target audience.
Such “internal information” could be as exciting as a new product line, or as dismal as a retiring CEO. Whatever the case, people don’t care about this stuff. It’s not email-worthy material.
Who cares that you got a new water fountain in the break room, or that you just promoted internally to have a new mid-level manager of data statistical analytical crap?
Inc.com author Michael Mothner makes the case for closing up shop on the newsletter department: “Your carefully crafted newsletters are getting read far less than you’d like.”
Newsletters are a waste of email. Mashable reports that 49% of recipients will unsubscribe from emails because they are “repetitive or boring.” 25% say that that content isn’t relevant to them. “Boring” and “irrelevant” seem to characterize many “newsletter” emails that companies send out.
By reducing the amount of internal boredom that you put in your emails, and spicing them up with stuff that your target audience actually wants to read, you’ll see your open rate improve, big time.
7. Long emails are fine.
Somewhere in the pile of wrongheaded information that people write about email marketing, someone said that your emails should be short.
- If you’re saying something important that people want to hear and are interested in, then why would you make it short?
- If you’re saying dumb stuff that no one cares about, then, yes, please make your email short.
I propose longer emails, because:
- Long emails can improve engagement.
- Long emails can produce higher CTRs.
One of the best examples of long marketing emails comes from Ramit Sethi, of IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com. I received his marketing email yesterday, which clocked in at 717 words. Two days ago, he sent an email that was over 1,700 words. On average, Ramit’s marketing emails are 1k words or longer.
The reason behind Ramit’s email success doesn’t depend on the length of his content. It depends on the quality of the content.
For example, he will use subject lines like “How to systematically cure your anxiety,” “How to get out of your comfort zone,” “I never thought I’d be doing this,” “5 ridiculous memories from my first side business,” etc. And within each email (which is mobile optimized), he uses pictures, charts, videos, links, and plenty of call to actions.
Length is irrelevant, as long as your content is good. So don’t be afraid of writing nice long and juicy content in your email marketing efforts. Instead, be afraid of writing dumb content that people don’t want to read.
My killer article on email marketing isn’t going to end all your email marketing frustrations. Though I’ve spent most of the space above telling you where a lot of people go wrong on email, I don’t want to leave you with zero actionable material. Instead, I want to encourage you to do the following:
- Keep at email marketing. It’s a successful marketing technique, probably even your most successful. Test and discover.
- Get better at email writing, subject crafting, and email preparation. The better your emails, the more successful your company will become.
- Test, test, test. Although I like to dish up statistics and prove things with research, the only really accurate information for you is going to come from A/B testing. There is no other way to discover, truly actionable information specifically for your site unless you test it. A/B split test your subject line, personalized intros, content, colors — everything. Testing wins the day.