“Are people really still doing email marketing? Isn’t it all social media now?”
This question, posed to me by a freelance photographer, threw me for a loop. Are people still debating the value of email marketing? Despite the rise of online shopping, people still visit brick-and-mortar stores. Television changed the nature of radio, and the automobile changed the usage of trains, but both are still alive and well. So yes, Virginia, there is still successful email marketing.
Sure, social media is the cool new kid in town that everyone wants to meet – the one that makes the parents a little nervous. But email marketing is still there in the background doing its job like the reliable student council president, getting straight A’s and making the adults proud. Social media is exciting and novel, but sometimes its results are unpredictable. Email is a known quantity at this point, very effective and easy to measure when done right.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in the value of social media. I think nearly every business can benefit from it in some way. But if you’re ready to abandon your email marketing efforts for the bright, shiny new world of social media I think you’re making a big mistake. Here’s why.
1. Email Users Still Outnumber Social Media Users
You need to be where your customers are, and the vast majority of them are on email. Many businesses block social media sites for employees, but these days email is as vital to business communication as the phone. I still know many people who don’t use Facebook or LinkedIn, but I can only think of one friend under the age of 65 who doesn’t have an email account.
For us left-brainers, the numbers back up the story – 92% of online adults use email, while 65% use social networking sites. Among people over 50, social networking use is growing but still relatively low at 32%, so if you’re targeting Baby Boomers you’re going to have better luck with email.
2. Email Helps You Make Friends, Not Just Acquaintances
I knew someone in college – let’s call him Gary – who would go to parties and try to collect phone numbers from as many women as possible. Gary wasn’t a bad guy, but when he called these women a few days later they hardly ever agreed to go out with him. Why? Because they didn’t know anything about him. By the time they were ready to have a real conversation with him he had moved on in search of another phone number. Finally a friend suggested to Gary that he would have more success with women if he spent a little more time getting to know them. Sure enough, by graduation he was happily dating someone he met this way.
What does this have to do with online marketing? Social media is a great way to gather a lot of numbers – that is, make a lot of acquaintances who have a weak connection to you and many other businesses on their social media site of choice. (Blogs are a major exception to this rule, but many small businesses don’t have the resources to devote to making a blog successful).
Email, on the other hand, is a way for your customers to really get to know you. Ideally, if you’ve built your list according to the principles of permission marketing, your contacts have raised their hand and said they’re willing to listen to what you have to say. They’re not ready to be exclusive, but as they get to know you through your emails, they may be willing to commit to a first date – attending a webinar, downloading an e-book, or trying a free sample of your product.
By all means, use social media to broaden your reach and get your name out to the world and keep in touch with your contacts. But use email to build a deeper relationship by teaching and informing them about your business.
3. The Rule of Seven Advertising Touches – Once Is Not Enough
Marketers like to throw around the statistic that you need to touch a customer seven times before they buy from you. I’ve never been able to find a source for this magical number, but after 15 years in marketing I can tell you without reservation – once is not enough. Suppose you’re a restaurant owner. Imagine your prospective customer sees a link to your latest promotion scroll by on his Facebook newsfeed, hears a radio commercial, drives by your place of business with a huge promotional banner hanging from your awning, sees a paid ad when he Googles for local restaurants, glimpses a sidebar link on your website when he goes there to check out your menu, and gets an email from you in his inbox. If you’re lucky one of those impressions will break through the cacophony of twenty-first century marketing noise into his consciousness and he’ll think of patronizing your restaurant when he takes his wife out to dinner this Saturday.
As a small business, you need to use multiple marketing channels, but you have to be smart about your budget and time. Email allows you to do that, by allowing you to set up a template that you can re-use to get your messages to your customer base without spending a lot of money.
4. Your Customers Are Carrying Your Emails in Their Pockets
Email is going mobile. A recent study from Return Path shows that email use on mobile devices increased by 34% while desktop and webmail email use decreased by about 10%. That’s a net gain in email views as more and more people are checking email on smartphones, iPads and the like in their spare time. When John Q. Public pulls out his smartphone while waiting in line at Starbucks, make sure your email shows up in his inbox with a short, descriptive subject line. Even if he doesn’t open it, that’s one more impression that may lead him to think of you the next time he’s in the market for your product or service.
5. Email and Social Media Aren’t Either/Or Propositions
This isn’t Sophie’s Choice. You don’t have to choose one form of marketing over the other, nor should you. Social media is a great tool for getting people familiar with your business, building your email list, sharing updates about promotions, events and news in your industry, and directing people to your website. Email also helps you update your customers about your latest promotions, but it really shines when it comes to educating and informing your customer base.
Keep on Emailing in 2012
Social media is a great marketing tool, and every business should be using it in some capacity. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Keep email an important part of your marketing activities and your customers will keep buying and referring in 2012.
What do you think? Do you read emails from your favorite businesses or do you hit the delete key? Are you still marketing to your customers via email? Let me know in the comments.