Email marketing reminds me a lot of the rail industry. The first railroad was a steam locomotive in Wales over 200 years ago. The automobile did not kill it nor did airline travel. Did they alter how it was used? Absolutely and, in some cases, forced innovation and change in their industry and by its leading players. Today, the rail industry is an increasingly dynamic industry that supports 1.5 million U.S. jobs and contributed almost $274 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014, according to a study from Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute. The rail industry is a cornerstone of how business gets done around the world, yet it operates in a largely unglamorous and behind-the-scenes fashion.
Connecting the dots, email is the engine of digital marketing: toiling behind the scenes, bringing essential information to customers and prospects across the world from brands they are interested in working with. One of the oldest digital channels, email has long had a reputation issue tied to scammers using email for phishing. However, I believe that turned the corner a few years ago and now email is back as one of the most important (if not the most important) weapons in the digital arsenal.
As the CEO of an email marketing agency with almost 20 years of experience in this industry, I have seen it all – including the good, bad and ugly. Let’s look at why email’s star continues to rise and why it will remain the hub of digital marketing.
• Permission still trumps reach. Many marketers have mistakenly looked at email as a media buy or a list. However, the reality is it is your most valuable piece of owned media. These subscribers (some that are likely customers and some that are not) provided permission to be marketed to when they opted into your email program; it doesn’t get much better than individuals inviting you to send them offers and information. Whether your list is 10,000 or 10 million, that inbox is incredibly valuable real estate.
• Email is the ROI king. Email marketing remains the best digital marketing channel for return on investment, according to the Data & Marketing Association’s 2017 study [registration required]. The study also found that email marketing was the top profit generator. This is no surprise to many people who have leveraged email as the jet fuel for their sales.
• Email is the hub of the customer journey. “Customer journey” is a phrase many CMOs are obsessing over. Every transformational enterprise is evaluating the role of digital for its entire buying process, whether you sell school buses or HVAC systems. One common thread to an often-complex roadmap is that email is the hub of both the marketing efforts and the customer’s touchpoints with the brand. Therefore, if your email program is weak, your customer journey will come up short. No matter how sophisticated or well built your customer journey is on the tech stack side, insufficient email integration can cause you significant losses in revenue.
• Mobile makes email omnipresent. According to Litmus, 54% of all email opens are on a mobile device. This should not be news to you, but most email programs are still under-investing in ensuring their emails make it past the typical recipient’s ongoing email. Because consumers are always checking email, the window to get your message read is large. The screen time to engage the end user, however, is tight. It’s important to take full advantage of email’s pervasiveness as a 24/7 marketing channel.
• There’s so much upside. Only 40% of marketers described their program as best in class, according to Ascend2’s 2017 State of Email Marketing report. That means most marketers are leaving a tremendous amount of money on the table. The reality is that you can be average at best — or maybe even below average — and still see dividends from your email even while eroding your relationships with your customers. The message here: You can terrible at email marketing and still see some results, or you can be great at email and see a windfall.