The rush to tap into social networks to find new customers has people talking, hearts pounding and heads spinning. For businesses that want to reach younger consumers, finding the right online marketing mix can seem even more urgent and daunting.
A few misconceptions are floating around suggesting that e-mail marketing is being replaced by social media or becoming less effective. Let me tell you in the strongest terms: This is not the case. Business owners often ask us, "Is e-mail marketing still relevant?" The answer is, "Yes, now more than ever." Here are three reasons why e-mail marketing remains the most powerful tool in your relationship-building toolbox.
First Misconception: The Inbox is Irrelevant
It's true that consumers are getting more e-mail now than ever before. That's exactly why permission-based e-mail marketing is so valuable in reaching customers overwhelmed by inbox overload. Consumers are pickier about which e-mail communications are worthy of their time and attention. So when someone signs up for your mailing list, they're giving you a vote of confidence that your e-mail content is valuable to them.
As business owner's we engage with businesses that connect with us. And we read their e-mail, we're just more selective. I'll read the class schedule that my yoga studio e-mails me and the e-mail newsletter case study from my favorite charity. But the HR firm I haven't done business with in 10 years--I'm not going to read their e-mails because I don't care anymore. Tertiary relationships will drop off and readers will opt-out. That's not a bad thing for business or e-mail marketers.
E-mail marketing allows you to build a solid mailing list that reflects quality over quantity. It empowers you to reach your most faithful and valuable customers and build stronger relationships with them over time. That powerful, relationship-building aspect of e-mail marketing hasn't changed. If anything, it's gotten stronger.
Second Misconception: Social Media has Replaced E-mail Marketing
Social networks are a great way to make casual connections with potential new customers. But these networks lack the direct communication of e-mail. So even if I post on Twitter or Facebook, my audience may or may not notice.
A stream of information is cascading through on social networks. If your audience isn't wading in the stream when the message comes through, they may never see it. And chances are your audience won't go back and engage with the message the way they would with an e-mail that's waiting in their inbox. Also, while you're trying to communicate on social networks, so is everyone else. In other words, there's no guarantee your business message on social networking websites will hit your audience directly the way it does with e-mail marketing.
When someone opens your e-mail, you have their undivided attention, albeit for a brief moment. There's no undivided attention in the social networking world. There are just too many voices and distractions. But social networks are great places to tell people about your e-mail newsletter and invite them to subscribe to your mailing list.
A recent MarketingSherpa survey showed that 97 percent of marketers believe that social media will complement other tactics such as e-mail--not replace them. The convergence of e-mail marketing with social media marketing is opening up exciting new opportunities. Use social media to connect your business or organization with new fans and followers, then use e-mail marketing to turn those casual connections into meaningful customer relationships.
Third Misconception: Young People Don't Use E-mail
Some critics say that the 18- to 24-year-old doesn't respond to traditional e-mails from businesses. But a study by the Participatory Marketing Network (PMN) challenges e-mail marketers to rethink how they reach the under-30 demographic. The study suggests that Generation Y would participate in mutually beneficial business-to-consumer relationships and wants more control over how they organize and manage commercial e-mails.
Once these young people hit the workforce, the importance of e-mail becomes apparent. My son, a recent college graduate, started out using Instant Messenger (IM), later he started texting his friends. But once he reached the workforce, e-mail became an important method of communication. Why? Because, e-mail is how his office communicates.
That's why the inbox--whether it belongs to a 40-something executive or a 23-year-old in her first real job--is such an important part of B2B and B2C communications. It's our challenge as e-mail marketers to adapt to rapidly developing technologies and to stay in touch with what our target audience needs and expects from us.
E-mail marketing has not only withstood the test of time, it has proven its value over and over again as a marketing tool that adapts to and enhances new technologies and strategies. E-mail marketing is as relevant and effective today as it was in its infancy. When someone clicks on your e-mail, they are in your world, even if for a moment. In internet time, that moment is golden.
Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.