Email is still one of the most effective communication channels. Although social media has now a significant share of customer-company interactions, it is the fleeting nature of social media (an extreme example is the short lifespan of Snapchat messages) that makes it less suitable for certain interactions. Compared to social media, email is a more personal and intimate channel allowing (and requiring) a different messaging.
One of the biggest advantages of email is that it is a very cost effective and highly measurable channel. Also, most internet users have an email account, and it often is the primary way to sign up for a new service. This is very powerful as marketers can use email as the first touch point with a new customer and start working on building a relationship immediately. I believe that email is a much better tool for retaining and engaging customers than for acquiring new customers. On top of the funnel, other tools such as SEO, SEM, social media or content marketing will lead to much better results.
There are many awesome email marketing tools available that allow even marketers without coding skills to run sophisticated campaigns. The usual suspects are: ExactTarget, VerticalResponse, Constant Contact, MailChimp, SendGrid and Customer.io (a pretty cool newcomer).
The three main types of emails are:
- Newsletters (emails regularly distributed to a subscriber list).
- Behavioral (emails are automatically sent when users trigger certain conditions).
- Transactional (emails inform users that something happened on their account).
In general, email shouldn't be seen as an isolated marketing instrument, but it has to be integrated in holistic marketing campaigns and customer relationship management systems.
A drawback of email is that it is literally used by everybody, and most people suffer from email overload. Not only do companies frequently send emails to their customers, but people obviously also receive private emails. The work email address usually gets even more abused by the bad habit of employees of putting too many people on the carbon copy list. As a result, there is a fine line between email as an effective communication channel and as a distractor with negative consequences in terms of image and reputation.
So what should marketers be aware of regarding their email marketing activities?
I believe one of the key aspects is providing value. An email has to include relevant and important content that the recipient really cares about. Please don't just try to sell stuff by sending all the people in your database a daily sales pitch email. This is not a sustainable way to grow a business and to build lasting relationships. Make it also easy for your customers to change the frequency and/or type of emails they want to receive. They are clearly the owners of their email inbox, and companies should give them the power to control it.
Email is definitely not dead and still a powerful communication channel. It is important that marketers use this tool wisely and think twice before sending out emails. The content always has to be highly valuable for the recipient.