Why Email Is Still One of the Most Effective Marketing Tools Around

With so many social platforms to choose from, many people overlook email as a valuable marketing tool. Nothing could be further from the truth.
December 22, 2014

You’ve probably heard the saying “The money is in the list.” While the line's been overused and is a gross simplification, the overall message rings true: If you don’t have an email list, you’re only hoping that your online marketing is going to work.

When social media first started to hit it big, pundits opined that email was dead and we'd all be using social networks to communicate. Well, it’s nearly 2015, and email is still chugging along. In fact, Americans are reading more marketing emails than ever before.

What's the takeaway here? You should be focusing on email marketing in a big way. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a restaurant or a shoe store, it should be one key part of your marketing strategy.

Following are five strategies that will help you get the most out of your email efforts.

Build an Engaged List

If your goal is simply to build a list of email addresses, you're wasting your time. That's because a better wording for the infamous "money list" line would be “The money is in the highly targeted and engaged list.” An email list is nothing unless it’s full of engaged readers who want to open and read everything you’ve ever written.

I have a friend who pulls in massive amounts of subscribers every day to his email list. Unfortunately, it’s through in-your-face tactics, which make his new subscribers unsubscribe as soon as his second email hits their inboxes. 

Contrast that to a very tiny list I run. The engagement is incredibly high for the industry it’s in (around two to three times the industry average), and the people on the list want to open every single email. Consequently, it’s a very profitable email list.

It’s not the size of your list that matters—it’s how engaged the list is that counts.

Be Deliberate

Don’t treat email like it’s a flier you hastily tacked to a telephone pole. Instead, take the time to consider the message and edit it thoroughly, just as you would a blog post or sales page. Be sure to use best practices, check for links and preview how the subject line will look when it's sent. Be deliberate in the emails you choose to send and who you send them to. Remember, email is one of the most powerful mediums you can use to acquire sales, but you have to use it correctly.

Don't automate anything when it comes to email (“email” and “automation” don’t even belong in the same sentence). If you’re using an RSS-to-email feature that automatically emails your latest post to subscribers, kill it immediately. The RSS-to-email feature hardly ever works the way it should, often sending poorly designed emails to your list without any oversight from you. 

Cull the Herd

By today's standards, email is an antiquated technology that has a few "gotchas." One of those gotchas is how you treat the people on your list, especially those who don’t open your emails.

You see, Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Gmail, Yahoo! and others do goofy things. Because they’ve been inundated with spam throughout the years, they’ve developed some intricate ways to determine how “good” your email list is. On the surface, they’ll rate how many inbox bounces you’ve gotten, how many emails you’ve had marked as spam, and so on.

If you don’t earn a good rating, the emails you send might not even hit your subscribers’ inbox at all; instead, they'll go sit in your spam folder. Because of this, your goal should be to have an engaged list, one that has a good percentage of emails that get opened and read.

Many marketers suggest that it’s good practice to “cull the herd,” so to speak. They’ll take the people who haven’t opened an email in a set amount of time—say, two months, give or take—and put them on an entirely different list with an entirely different provider. This way, the ISPs won’t count those unengaged subscribers negatively toward the health of your list, and your primary emails will land in inboxes and not junk folders.

Start Segmenting

The overarching goal of any marketing campaign is to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. Part of the difficulty in email is knowing how to get your message in front of the right people.

As your email marketing becomes more effective, you’ll want to start to send specific messages to specific people on your list. For instance, let’s say you own a camping store and you know I just bought a pair of men’s hiking boots. So you’d segment me into two groups: "Men" and "Hiking." Now you can send me deals and products that pertain more to my interests.

Email providers are starting to do this more and more. Mailchimp, for example, has a feature called “Goals” that allows you to segment members based on triggers (such as what they click, which emails they open, etc.). It's a very powerful tool.

Don’t Overthink It

Ah, the paralysis of analysis—we all get it from time to time, especially when it comes to our businesses. There are so many options to choose from, so many decisions to make and so little information available that we sometimes put off making critical decisions.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to just start small, without overthinking it. Some of the most impactful email lists have no design whatsoever, and this is intentional: There are fewer design elements to distract readers, which means they're going to spend more time actually reading what the email says.

When it comes to email marketing, the best thing you can do is to try some things and learn from your results. Do that, and you'll see an improvement in your outreach.


For more tips on how to connect with customers through great emails, access this exclusive video course, Rethink Your Emails to Customers.


Read more articles on marketing.

Photo: Getty Images