Email for 2021

As marketers, we are often drawn to whatever the hot new platform or channel is, and it’s fun to think about what strategy we might use for getting the most out of whatever new tool is on our radar screen.

Most marketers and business owners who do their own marketing will admit to a good dose of shiny object syndrome. We are drawn to what’s new and cool.

This is why I think email marketing often gets overlooked. It’s been around for a long time. There’s nothing incredibly sexy about it. But it works.

Email is very cost-effective and allows a brand to build on a relationship with known prospects. It’s particularly critical in B2B marketing, where the sales cycles are longer, and there’s usually no retail floor or experience. One of the reasons email marketing works as well as it does is that the average worker spends 2.5+ hours per workday checking email. Beyond that, 82% of us check our work email outside of work hours.

Email is one of the few pieces of the digital landscape that we still own and control beyond our website. When we market on social channels, we’re squatting on someone else’s ground.

Their rules and algorithms dictate what we can and can’t do, and those rules can change in an instant.

In contrast, when someone trusts you with their email address (which is the only way someone legally should get on your list), you can communicate consistently and directly. You know your message will get to their inbox and, if your content is compelling, you can be confident that they’ll read it.

By law, you have to make it easy for a recipient to unsubscribe to your emails, which means that anyone who is still on your list is there because they want to be. That makes it permission marketing (they’ve given you permission to market to them), which is a much warmer sales than most other channels.

Despite the potential of email marketing, most don’t take full advantage of the channel because they don’t invest the time, money, and energy to do it well. Email marketing has gotten so sophisticated, if you’re willing to take advantage of your options.

All too often, emails are hastily written and sent. There’s not an overarching strategy or a strategy for each individual email. We rush to execute without doing the proper planning.

One of the most important aspects of email marketing is testing. There are so many elements worthy of testing. You can and should test subject lines, what time of day is most effective, and various calls to action. How frequently you email your audience will also affect open and click-through rates.

But there is no uniform answer to that question. You have to test your audience to get that answer. Even the placement of your call-to-action button can influence the performance of your email.

One of the best aspects of email marketing is how measurable it is. You can track and count just about every aspect of your campaign. Four critical metrics that should be part of the evaluation of just about every email campaign are delivery rates, open rates, click rates, and conversions. Not every email will warrant vigorous measurement, but delivery and open rates are still worth tracking even at the awareness level.

For other emails, click-through and conversions won’t matter, but engagement and pass-along will. Every email will have a unique set of metrics because, ideally, your strategy will have a unique set of goals and calls to action.

Of course, measurement is often tied to where in the sales funnel the email falls. In next week’s column, we’ll explore how email can be used differently for each stage, from awareness to conversion.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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