Friday, December 27, 2013

The Slow Death of Email and What You Can Do About it

Being in the world of marketing automation for as long as I was, I was a bit jaded and defended email as a marketing tool like it was the be all and end all of marketing. Since moving to another part of B2B marketing and executing different types of email campaigns I now have a completely different perspective.

Email is in fact losing its touch. In this fantastic Slideshare by Gary Vanderchuck "How to Tell Your Story in 2014" he asks "When was the last time you were excited by an email?". I can tell you honestly that I don't remember. Perhaps it was a transactional email I received that told me a shipment had arrived? When was the last time you were excited about getting an email?

Gary goes on to show an image that says "Marketers ruin everything". What he means is that when marketers find a tactic that works, they can run it into the ground. The trick as I see it is to always staying ahead of the pack by using advanced marketing methods. I'm not alone in my thinking.
When was the last time you were excited to open an email?

The Evolution of the Modern Marketer: Email Tips From the Pros 

If you ever want to take a peak into the minds of the B2B marketers that are at the cutting edge of everything, head over to This discussion "Declining email response rates?" is a fantastic example as these top marketers are discussing their own email campaigns and what they have found to be successful. These are the new breed of marketers - the modern marketers. They of course live outside of Topliners but Topliners is one of the only public forums that you'll find them. Listen closely to what a few of these marketers are saying about email:

 Kristin Connell: IMO, I think it's too generalized of a statement to say that the "biggest pain point for digital marketers is declining email response rates." I think it's merely a symptom of the larger issue to digital marketers - to Eytan's researched response - in that it's becoming much more complex and doesn't just require better tools, but better, more "modern" skill sets.

Jennifer Gonzalez: I think declining response rates correlate to people trying to build their lists through less than ideal methods. For example, if you purchase lists to build up your database, your response rates will decline because you are emailing people who are not interested in your message.

lkincke:  I think it's a matter of perspective, it may feel (as a digital marketer) like response rates are the pain point but the truth behind having an engaged, responsive audience is having engaging content.  If your response rates are declining and all other factors surrounding your audience, deliverability, etc remain the same then the clear problem is in the content.  Being on the consulting/agency side the last few years I feel very strongly that the average marketer is reluctant to admit when their content might be the problem. It's much easier to claim it's an industry-wide trend than to attempt to optimize something you put together, no one wants to admit that maybe their baby is ugly. 

Dave Liloia: I think that there are two worlds at work here though. The first is made up of people like us who understand the space, know what is possible and work REALLY REALLY hard to be better every day. The other world is made up of people who still use a word that starts with B and ends with LAST and think that's an ok way of doing business.

Good data + good content + good process = good campaigns

Kurt Weisenberger: For LifeSize, since we've further segmented our database specifically by verticals for our nurture programs we've seen increased response rates. We also create very timely content on a monthly cadence for our primary prospects - and customers.

There are a bunch of good ideas here and they revolve around the following marketing concepts: segmentation, personalization, data and content. The tools are an instrument for success - they make it easier but it's more the mindset that makes these marketers have higher email response rates then the tools they use. However, is it enough?

Is it enough? Will These Best Practices Save Email? NO!

It's great that you have some advanced marketers that are creating a better, more engaging experience for their email recipients. Here's  the big question: even with employing these best practices, will email response continue to decline due to the overuse of this channel? Time will tell. These advanced marketers have proven that you can still be successful with email but it takes effort and commitment. It also takes knowledge. You need to know your customers - what they want, what their challenges are and what they would be interested in. I don't think it will be enough and Gary agrees with me.

Gary Vanderchuck summarizes this into the simple concept of "storytelling". Marketers need to communicate what the story of their organization is (its value proposition). To get the attention of potential buyers, marketers need to engage with their audience. Social media is a great channel to use for this purpose but it can't be used as a "blasting platform". You need to really engage your audiences.

While Gary focuses his story on driving marketers to use social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as tools to tell your story, there is definitely more that can be done. Your story is being written outside of channels that you control and directly interact with.

Storytelling 2.0

While I agree with Gary that storytelling will win the day as it is the best way to convey a message, it goes well beyond the mainstream areas of social media. Marketers should be ensuring that their story is a positive one on online review sites such as Yelp, Linkedin, Quora and Google. Marketers should be leveraging their best customers - their advocates - to help spread this story. It should not just fall on the company to be the storytellers. Your customers and other influencers can assist here. Would you be more included to open or respond to an email that came from a company or from a friend or colleague of yours?

Email as we know it toady is definitely on the decline. You can use advanced methods to maintain a very good response rate but if you don't continue to evolve your marketing techniques, your efforts will be limited and will diminish with time. Best of luck to you.

Chad H.

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