Is email marketing dead? Why no, it’s more alive than ever!

Posted On by Brian Coles

Twenty-five years ago, email marketing was a shiny new toy. Now it has become a marketing tactic that no e-marketer wants to be associated with. That’s a mistake, said marketing guru Dela Quist when I discussed marketing tactics with him recently. In a podcast in our ‘Dear Marketing Automation’ series, Dela argues that nothing is likely to get you more money than sending another email.

Dela Quist is Founder and CIO at Alchemy Works and Touchstone Intelligent Marketing but, to me, he is, above all, author of the book ‘Fear and Self-loathing in Email Marketing’. Since reading that book, I have been looking forward to discussing marketing tactics with him. While it’s impossible to ever summarise a conversation with Dela (instead, I recommend you listen to the full podcast), I’d like to highlight some of his findings after over 35 years in sales and marketing.

Email marketing is not intrusive

No one really likes advertising. We don’t like it when our favourite tv programme is interrupted by ads, we don’t like it when websites have pop-up ads or send us notifications. “It’s ironic,” says Quist. “Everyone complains about email, but it’s actually the least intrusive form of marketing. You have to make a conscious decision to open your mailbox. When you do that, you say that you’re ready to read and process messages. It’s the only channel where you can unsubscribe and have your records deleted for all time.”

Email marketing is the only open system

Anyone can send email marketing, without having to rely on someone else’s platform, except for the telcos that provide the bandwidth you are using. For most other forms of marketing, you depend on a third party, such as Facebook, Google, a magazine, a publisher’s website, a broadcaster. “What does a platform like Facebook do if you don’t visit them often enough?”, asked Quist. “Well, they send you mail. Facebook is actually the biggest emailer there is, they send about 6% of all mails in the world.”

Email marketing is your cheapest marketing tactic

Compared to many other marketing tactics you can use, email marketing is by far the cheapest one. “Fifteen years ago, I worked for a broadcaster who insisted that we kept sending mails to people who hadn’t opened mail in six to twelve months. I wanted to prove them wrong and tried to find a cheaper way to acquire between 20 and 30 thousand visits to the website than through mailing activities. Sadly, I didn’t, there is no cheaper way.”

Email marketing is measurable - take the right metrics

The great thing about email marketing is you can measure it. The bad thing is we often take the wrong metrics. “I’m always suspicious of rates,” said Quist. “You can manipulate rates anyway you want. Search companies or media companies don’t sell you open rates, they sell you reach and frequency. The paradox in email marketing is that if you reduce your frequency, your open rates for each individual mail will go up. But on a yearly basis, your total number of opens will go down. On the other hand, if you increase the frequency, your open rates per mail will go down. But your annual total number of opens will go up and so will your revenue.” And wouldn’t we all rather say ‘I made a million more revenue’ than ‘My open rates went up.”

Email marketing has positive side effects

When looking at the results of email marketing, there’s more than just open rates and clicks. Quist reminded me of two interesting side effects. First: if you send a mailing to a big enough list, the volume of search for your business will go up and the people clicking on a paid link of your organisation will go up. And the number of people ‘spontaneously’ visiting your website goes up. Second: even when people delete your mail, they have seen and retained your name. “You can’t ignore mail without processing it, mentally. We all know subliminal marketing is forbidden. But deciding between opening an email or putting it in the junk folder is done in the subliminal part of our brain. So even if people are not visibly engaging with your mail, they are still engaging.”

Email marketing doesn’t require huge budgets. For a marketer it’s more interesting and rewarding to be in charge of an advertising budget, or a catalogue business. If you’re in for prestige, those are the domains you want to work in. But if you’re more interested in contributing to the business and bringing in extra revenue, then think again about turning down a job in email marketing.

Interested in listening to my entire conversation with Dela Quist? You will find the podcast here. And while you are there, don’t forget to subscribe to the ‘Dear Marketing Automation’ podcast.