Email marketing is a waste of almost everyone’s time. You spend a considerable part of your day handling email marketing messages. You either read them and then ignore them, or delete them or file them – but whatever you do, several hours of your working week are spent handling email messages you don’t need or want.
Email marketing is also a waste of time for the senders. On average, only around 25% of people open email marketing messages; that, of course means, that three out of every four recipients ignore what the senders are saying. Worse still, only around 5% of people actually click on any of the links in the emails. This means that the people sending out email marketing messages are wasting 95% of their efforts.
Yet, creative teams work for days on “getting the campaign right”, there are endless meetings between the agencies and the clients and yet come the day of sending everyone knows that those hours and hours spent working on the project are mostly worthless.
In spite of this, recent research shows that spending on email marketing is going to rise by 11% reaching a staggering $2bn by 2014. And by that time, each and every one of us will be on the receiving end of 9,000 marketing emails a year. It seems that the “thinking” that email strategists have is “if we don’t get enough people to open or click through, then the answer must be to send more emails”. Mmmm.
The email numbers game
Email marketing agencies will tell you that part of the success is the “numbers game”. Tesco, for instance, probably doesn’t really mind that much that 95% of people don’t click through on emails. When you are sending out, say, 10m emails at a time a 5% click through rate is a healthy half a million people. But if they were only sending out 1,000 emails, 50 customers wouldn’t even pay for the creative work. So, there is some logic in the “send more to get more” theory.
Email marketing agencies will also tell you that part of the success is the “targeting game”. Making sure your emails reach their precise targets is going to get you more business than sending out blanket messages in the hope that someone will read them. But here’s the problem – your targets are always moving. Even if you are precisely focused on people who are interested in, say, video production, their requirements and interests about video production change from day to day. One day they are interested in how to improve the lighting in their videos, the next day they are concerned about minimising video sizes for web sites. If you send out an email about web based video on the day they are thinking about lighting, you won’t connect.
You cannot connect with your readers
That’s the real issue with email marketing. At the time you send out the emails, no matter how well targeted they are, you don’t know if the message will truly connect because you don’t know what’s in your audience’s mind. So perhaps we need a new way of thinking about email marketing. Instead of sending messages, perhaps we should be receiving them. Rather than sending messages to our clients and potential clients, maybe they should be sending messages to us.
That way, we would know precisely what was on their mind and could respond with a highly targeted message that is much more likely to connect and will have a higher click through rate. It means, instead of wasting our time on planning email marketing campaigns that are going to be 95% wasted, we could spend our time organising a variety of methods in which customers and potential customers could ask us questions, get our support, connect with us. At the moment, many businesses focus on sending material TO their potential clients, rather than receiving stuff FROM them.
In spite of the fact that email marketing achieves higher conversion rates than web marketing, the time has come to stop talking to our customers and start listening. That way we’ll know what’s on their mind, rather than guessing – and that can only lead to even higher conversion rates.