Email Marketing Trends: 3 Experts on the State of the Business
This is a guest post by Myles Dannhausen, content strategist at Lightspan Digital.
You may not think it when your inbox is flooded with newsletters, but the business of email marketing has changed – for the better.
Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to talk email marketing with three of Chicago’s email marketing experts, and each had a unique perspective on the subject. All three agreed, however, that the future of email marketing is looking bright.
Email as Kid Rock
Rapleaf’s Phil Davis framed the transition at an appearance last winter at Entrepreneurs Unplugged, when he compared email marketing to Kid Rock. Like Kid Rock, he said, “email marketing hung out with the wrong crowd in its formative days.”
It was tainted by the spammers and list-buyers, the folks sending garbage offers to tens of thousands of addresses who didn’t want them. These folks sparked fears that people would actually stop using email, as it became a chore to sort through the trash.
“But like any good artist who told their story on VH1, we recovered,” Davis said.
Thanks to anti-spam laws, ethical email service providers, and the retrenched value of quality content, marketers are no longer so heavily rewarded for carpet-bombing the marketplace in hopes of hitting on one or two targets in a sea of millions.
With inboxes bombarded, email marketers must provide quality content, actionable advice or content that inspires the reader.
The Content King
Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina is a man who likes analytics the way I like football (“If you watch analytics long enough, you’ll see a lead being born,” he said once). As co-founder of his web development company, Crestodina persistently stresses the importance of providing great content.
“When a customer opts in, it doesn’t give us the right to email consumers,” he says, “it gives us the privilege.”
It’s an important distinction, and one that frames a marketer’s approach to email marketing. If you think of it as a right, you only focus on what you need and what you want to get out of the interaction. That approach inevitably ends in failure. When one thinks of it as a privilege, the focus shifts to providing content that’s important to the person on the other end of the email.
Take nonprofits. Many of them exhaust their resources telling you what they need, or worse, begging. Their emails focus on their next big funding challenge, their tight resources, or frivolous gift offers. Most of our nonprofits are providing an extremely valuable service to the community, one their supporters are proud to help make happen. They should focus on this–on what they’re providing for the community and their donors. That will keep their email subscribers engaged, leading to more donations, either today or down the road.
Giving them What They Want
While Crestodina focuses on content, Erik Severinghaus, the founder of 1871-based email startup SimpleRelevance, approaches the email evolution from a different angle.
“Fundamentally, the way many companies send email has not changed in the last 12 years,” he said. “They still bash and blast. The time of day that most send is the time of day when they happen to hit the send button.”
His company uses consumer data to curate content for individual recipients, sending emails to customers featuring the products they’re most likely to be interested in, at the time they’re most likely to open the email. His company has garnered the support of venture capitalists to the tune of more than a million dollars thus far.
Those who bemoan the future of email marketing are likely those stuck in the poor practices of yesteryear. At Lightspan, we continue to see great returns on email marketing for clients who have quality email marketing programs focused on the customer’s needs, not their own.
Myles Dannhausen is a content strategist at Lightspan Digital, a Chicago digital media company. He frequently writes about business, silent sports, and his hometown in Door County Wisconsin. Connect with Myles on Google+ or on Twitter @mylespulse.
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