Email is everywhere. There are roughly 4 billion email addresses worldwide, addresses that underpin all other apps, channels and tools on the internet today. An average of more than 293 billion emails were sent each day in 2019, daily traffic that’s expected to grow 4.2% by 2023, according to the Radicati Group, a technology market research firm. In terms of volume and reach, email still crushes most other marketing channels. After all, you need an email address to start using Facebook or Instagram, not the other way around.
Many businesses today overlook email as a marketing tool despite its status as the quiet but humming engine of online audience growth. That’s a mistake. A thorough and continuous email strategy remains essential to connecting your brand with the audience you want to reach. Failing to invest in email means missing out on a channel that allows you to build long-term trust with customers in a direct way.
The key word here is strategy. Not all marketing emails serve the same purpose. Most businesses are familiar with using email to promote sales and offers or to tout new products and services. The rise of e-commerce makes email a crucial customer service tool, allowing businesses to confirm orders, request updated payment methods or send a backorder alert directly to the customer. That said, if all you ever hear from a brand is “buy my stuff,” you’re going to get tired of hearing from them pretty quickly.
A holistic approach includes another arm of email outreach focused on delivering value rather than generating sales or delivering customer service. These emails — coined “relational emails” in marketing because of their relationship-building potential — are aimed at being helpful, informative, educational and even entertaining. What if your marketing emails were a way for customers to engage not only with your brand, but with the topics surrounding it?
If you haven’t spent time thinking about your email marketing strategy in a while, now is the time. Here are a few things to think about to ensure your business is taking full advantage of this proven and growing channel.
Place value on growing trust, not just your reach
If you’re doing email right, it means people have opted into receiving emails from your brand. Don’t underestimate the value of that agreement. It means there is a certain level of trust that person has in what you do and how you do it. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to grow that trust over time. That means you provide a blend of messaging (not just promotions) and that you consistently deliver value to your readers. If customers stay engaged by opening and clicking on your emails (and, of course, not unsubscribing), your trust level keeps going up. This is incredibly important and powerful.
Another point to remember: Your email list belongs to you. You don’t get that level of ownership marketing your brand on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Your social media followers belong to those platforms, not you.
Focus on building one-on-one connections
With email, you control exactly what is delivered to your audience and when it goes to them. No other platform gives you that level of control. With social media, algorithms drive when and where your posts are shown to your followers. Those algorithms are optimized for advertising revenue, not for your benefit.
With email, you control when your messages are sent and exactly what they say. Technology is making one-to-one personalization faster and easier — for example, by using artificial intelligence to learn customer interests and tailor email newsletter content to each of your newsletter subscribers. The future of email marketing is customized and personal.
Build value by adding subscribers
As you build your list of email subscribers, the value of that list grows. More importantly, it accrues to your benefit, not to the benefit of someone (or something) else. Compare that with a social media platform. Having a presence and building a following on social media is crucial, and engaging with followers on any social platform benefits your brand. But know that engagement offers the most benefit to the social platform operator. Want to build lasting value? Focus on gaining and keeping email subscribers who want to interact directly with your brand.
Take privacy concerns seriously
Consumers are increasingly concerned with online privacy, and rightfully so. That has serious implications for the future of online marketing. Marketers currently rely on a technology known as third-party cookies to drive targeted advertising online. These pieces of data essentially cling to your browser and allow one website to track a consumer’s activity across multiple other websites, data that is then used to retarget ads and personalize content.
The technology amounts to virtual stalking and its future is grim. When cookies fade from use, the internet will be a more private place. It will also force many businesses to rethink their marketing strategies. Email will be the place to go for personalized communication.
The bottom line? Don’t underestimate the value of email in your overall marketing strategy. It’s one of the tools your business should be leveraging in order to reach customers, and it is especially good for maintaining relationships. If you do it well and consistently, then people will notice.