Email marketing is at once a boon and a bane. All the advancements that email marketing has gone through in the last ten years can make marketing efforts to shine out from any inbox. On the other hand, spam, junk emails and similar other dehumanizing effects are slowly turning it into bad business practice. Where is the equilibrium point?
Email marketing is a form of direct marketing, which uses electronic mail as a means of communication and building relationship. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. The basic concept is simple; use a mailing list to send direct messages to a large group of potential customers to flip marketing process.
“Over 188 billion email messages (far more than Facebook and Twitter updates combined) are sent every day,” writes Joe Brockmeier of Red and White Web. In January 2011 a survey by BtoB Magazine found that 63% of respondents are likely to increase spending on email in 2011 (second only to websites). Forrester research describes email marketing as one of the most effective online marketing tool because of its high response rate. According to an estimate by E-Marketer, around 61% of all medium and large commercial concerns use email marketing on a regular basis. Research suggests that email marketing is growing rapidly and should be integrated into the overall communication mix.
Email marketing is changing the online marketing environment due to its power to reach out to masses. Compared to other forms of direct and digital marketing, the basic characteristics of email marketing are, it is low cost, shorter turnaround (time involved to prepare, send the messages and receive the responses), high response rates and its flexibility to customize. The advent of HTML, audio and video email has also improved the scope for creativity in email marketing. Other benefits includes, its targeting criteria which is data driven, drives direct sales, builds relationships, loyalty and trust and it supports sales through other channels. That is what has made email marketing as one of the most widely used online marketing techniques today.
Sure email marketing works, but businesses have to get the basic rights including preparation of a list of people who may have interest interested, crafting a message, and to ensure that emails get through to those on the list. Once a business has an opt-in list, a whole spectrum of more sophisticated tactics to employ opens up. But that doesn’t happen in some cases.
On the bane side, email marketing may be its own worst enemy. Spam – unwanted, untargeted and negatively perceived – is growing at an alarming rate in both personal and corporate inboxes. According to the Radicati Group, spam accounts for 45% of all emails and this number is expected to increase. Indiscriminate distribution of messages without permission of the receivers and without consideration for the messages’ appropriateness can not only be damaging to marketing efforts but also cost in terms of lost productivity and revenue. Similarly, junk email also gets negative results, this is different from spam – these are sent by persons who believe, they have the permission to send it. They should not email anyone unless they have given explicit permission for a business to email. But, where do we draw the line?
Equilibrium lies in permission marketing. Consumers giving their consent to receive marketing information make any email expected, personal, and related in the first place. The idea of consent is not new; customer permission had been introduced in the context of privacy issues in direct marketing already. The key to permission marketing is knowledge of customers’ interests and needs. Permission marketing improves the targeting and relevance of promotional messages, thus improving response and conversion rates.
Consumer’s content is what will ultimately direct to leads and deals. Segmenting a target market for the online side of business and adjusting email marketing strategy to accommodate specific requirements and interests can flip marketing efforts. Paying attention to each individual consumer’s needs and requests is the new face of strategy in online marketing. Unanticipated bulk email marketing is no longer accepted in today’s competitive and well considered market. Consumers are very sensitive these days and it amounts to exposing your business to unnecessary risk. Email marketing continues to remain the most underutilized in local market relegated to procuring email addresses (one can buy millions of addresses for a small amount) harvested randomly from the internet and bombarding them with messages. Exceptions apart, many local businesses are using third party rented lists, third party hosted email marketing software and email sending software. They need to do more. Carefully constructing email marketing campaign can be a good way to reach interested customers and provides great opportunities for businesses.
The writer is Deputy Controller of Examination at Lahore School of Economics. He blogs at http://logicisvariable.blogspot.com and can be reached at [email protected]