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The Truth About Email

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“Email is dead”

“Everyone’s using social media. No one reads emails these days”

“People are sick and tired of more and more email. They’re overwhelmed”

Have you heard comments like this recently? Me too.

It’s tempting to believe them and focus more on other ways of communicating.

Except for my business, email seems to be working just as well as ever.

Just me? Apparently not according to a bunch of market research that’s been done in the last few months.

Is email being wiped out by social media?

According to research by Merkle (View from the Digital Inbox 2011) – text messaging is the preferred method of personal communication amongst 18-29 year olds and the phone is the preferred method for other age groups: email comes in a strong second, being preferred by well over double the number who prefer social media.

And when it comes to commercial communications – email sweeps the board as the preferred method with 65-78% of people preferring it. A pitiful 0-4% of people prefer social media for commercial communications.

So while many people are beginning to use social media (and especially text messaging amongst younger people) instead of email for personal communications. When it comes down to business – email is still king.

But surely no one opens emails any more?

It’s true – average – open rates have dropped from 14% to 11.4% in the last 3 years according to MailerMailer’s Email Marketing Metrics Report.

But that’s largely due to more (bad) email being sent (and not opened). If your emails are still as valuable as they were 3 years ago with subject lines just as interesting – they’ll still get opened.

In fact, click rates (rather more important than open rates) are as good now as they were three years ago (and better than they have been in the intervening years).

But no one wants to be “bombarded” with email

It’s funny, whenever I speak to people worried about emailing too frequently and “bombarding” their customers and prospects with emails and I ask them how frequently they’re currently emailing – it’s usually monthly or at most weekly.

Is one email a week “bombarding”? Only if the emails have little of value in them.

In fact, I spoke to a marketing consultant earlier this week who switched to emailing his subscribers daily nearly two months ago. That’s right: daily.

The results?

His open rates have remained the same. His unsubscribes have dwindled to virtually zero. And most importantly, the number of enquiries he’s getting for his services from email subscribers has shot up.

I’m not saying you should email daily. But the chances are you can email more frequently and get better results. The people who object and unsubscribe when you send that one extra email a week? They were never going to become your clients anyway.

But I can’t do those fancy graphical emails

You don’t need to.

I got a bit cross recently when a (very) famous sales guru put up a video saying you needed to use highly graphical emails to get the attention of your prospects. (As it turns out, the guy was selling – you guessed it – a system to make graphical emails).

The facts on this are pretty clear. The best research I’ve seen is from MarketingExperiments a couple of years ago. They discovered that:

  • Emails that use lots of graphics and formatting got 34% fewer clicks than plain text emails.
  • Emails that had a little bit of formatting: the occasional underline or bold text and highlighted links got 55% more clicks than plain text.

Why is that?

Lightly formatted emails look like the emails we get from people we know and trust. Friends and business colleagues.

Graphics heavy emails look like advertisements.

So stick to neat, lightly formatted emails.

Make sure they can be read on mobile devices too. According to Knotice, 13.6% of all emails are opened on a mobile device.

Fancy graphics play havoc with mobile devices. At best, they make the text appear tiny. At worst, the email is unreadable.

So you’re saying I should use email as one of my key marketing channels then?

Yup. Without a doubt.

According to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2011 Report “The Power of Direct”, Email brings in $40.56 for every dollar spent on it, compared to catalogs’ ROI of $7.30, search’s return of $22.24, Internet display advertising’s return of $19.72 and mobile advertising’s return of $10.51.

Difficult to argue (too much) with those figures.

PS Sadly, that really is a screen capture of my gmail inbox along with the number of spam emails I’ve had over the last few months since the last clearout.

PPS If you’d like more in-depth tips on email marketing – completely free – you can sign up for my series of Email Marketing Power Tips here:

Email Marketing Power Tips >>.

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  • http://www.differentiateyourbusiness.co.uk Paul Simister

    Ian, you’ve done a great job of digging out the facts about email marketing vs texting (which I hate to get) and social media.

    I know I don’t send enough out to my email lists after an initial burst of autoresponders. I just wish I wasn’t so sensitive to unsubscribers and especially when I’ve sent an email that I thought was very high in value with no promotion.

  • http://www.schmoozyfox.com Schmoozy Fox

    Hi Ian, great post. Email works well for me, provided it comes from someone I know, or at least heard about. I’ve discovered your blog, liked it, and then opted in to your email letters – so there’s a good chance that I’ll also read them.

    I would say that social media can play a role to help us find experts like yourself, and once we’ve found them, then email is a better tool to stay in touch.

    cheers, Olga (aka Schmoozy Fox)

    • http://ianbrodie.com Ian

      You’re right Olga – social media works better than email for initially finding people – emails from people we don’t know usually don’t get much attention.

      Ian

  • http://www.awovi.com griselda

    I love your emails. Keep them coming.

  • http://www.kelsopr.com Tim Prizeman

    Hi Ian

    Another great post and rings very true to me. I do lots of email marketing for my business. Always use text with a bit of formatting, and invariably get a good open rate (unless I really have miscalculated with the title/content for the target group).

    However, the best response rate comes when I send event invites to my contacts via LinkedIn…. so some social media, when used appropriately, shouldn’t be ignored (which I am sure you would agree with). Social media gets all the attention because it is new, but good “old” email marketing is still a better channel if you had to choose just one.

    • http://ianbrodie.com Ian

      That’s interesting re the event invites Tim – although if I’m right, Linkedin event invites also hit their email inbox, so you’re using two channels in parallel their which is somethign to not.

      Cheers,

      Ian

  • http://www.joethwaitesconsultancy.co.uk Joe Thwaites

    Good stuff Ian, just when we we’re thinking that Mailchimp et al where about to go West!

    Most interesting was the demographic data, young people have been texting for ages now but its reassuring to see some hard data to back up the anecdotal stuff. I’ll pass your article on to my colleagues.

    Cheers
    Joe

    • http://ianbrodie.com Ian

      Yes indeed – good old facts! What was interesting to me was how texting came in as a strong #1 for personal communications for the young – well above social media – I’d have thought it was facebook. I’d completely ignored texting.

  • http://www.cherryfbg.com Lucy Snell

    Ian, I totally agree. I’ve been working with marketing and design agencies for the last 10 years helping them get new clients. My biggest and most successful tool is undoubtedly email, I then use to the phone to follow up on my emails. I think bespoke, personalised emails work best where possible or, as you suggest, text emails that don’t look like mass advertising aka Spam mail. With many PA’s opening post, often letters/mail don’t reach the senior decision makers whereas so many senior board level staff still control their own email. The key is Content and Timing, making sure that what you have to offer is relevant to them and that you appreciate their time constraints and don’t bombard them with irrelevant emails.

  • http://growmotor.com Graeme Roberts

    I find that I subscribe to emails from sites that I like in a moment of enthusiasm. After some time, from weeks to months, I unsubscribe. I may have opened a few and been less than delighted or never even opened them, because baroque music of the harpsichord seems less important than it did at the time. Only the strong survive. Seth Godin, always. Harvard Business Review for now. Ian Brodie always. How hard it is to stay interesting and useful.

  • http://www.socialmediahelp4u.com Carol Lawrence

    I really need to bump up my email expertise. I’m really great at helping other people build their lists but need to put time into building my own.
    I’m like a lot of people, I delete, delete, delete a lot of emails, but there are those few who I look forward to receiving and make sure I take time to read their newsletters. I think more than anything, content is king in the newsletter world as well. Great tips on formatting emails for electronic devices. Thanks!

  • http://mhjones51.tumblr.com/ Supply Chain Management

    I think that people will keep using email but you are right, the fact that they are overwhelming and to many numerous is quite annoying!

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