Why email is an effective marketing tool in 2017 + tips for doing it well

Posted by Knight Stivender on Feb 10, 2017 1:34:43 PM
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When it comes to expert advice, I have taken my colleague Jennifer Stone's on matters ranging from how to complete a Whole30 to where to book a weekend cabin getaway to how to build an effective email campaign. I am guessing that since you've landed here on our Alcott Marketing blog, you're most interested in that last one, but please do let us know if you need nutrition or state park tips. :)

When it comes to email as a marketing tool, a good bit has been debated about its effectiveness as Google and Microsoft continue to fine tune ways of filtering marketing messages from the rest of our email, and programs like Unroll Me help us unsubscribe from those newsletters we thought at one time might be helpful, entertaining, or offer great deals.

Nonetheless, as Jennifer and national research firms can attest, email is now more than ever an effective way for businesses to reach and communicate with your customers.

Why? There are three primary reasons.

  1. We're glued to our phones, where our email accounts from work and home are synced and constantly flowing.

  2. Companies have gotten smarter about creating triggered emails, which arrive in a person's inbox based on a specific action they take rather than the company's internal marketing or sales agenda. The former feels natural to the recipient. The latter feels arbitrary and is more likely to come across as spammy.

  3. Better content and design. The emails themselves are more engaging and worth our attention.

Want to improve upon your organization's success with email marketing?

Here are some pro tips from my favorite pro. Thanks to Jennifer for this Q&A about email, being left-brained, and her awesome dog, Duke.

Q: Is there a good rule of thumb when it comes to how often companies should send out email newsletters? How much is too much? How much is not enough?

A: It depends on the quantity and quality of your content. I would say no more than weekly unless you are a news site, but weekly is probably too much if you're scrounging for valuable information. If you feel like you're padding, cut it back to every two weeks. I wouldn't do it less than monthly because they'll forget about you. I might argue for just sending whenever you have something to say because most people probably aren't sitting there noticing, "Hm, I haven't gotten my newsletter from so and so this week." So - in other words - have an editorial calendar to keep yourselves on track internally, but remember to think from the perspective of the audience who is actually reading your information.

Q: What are some good newsletters you've seen recently?

A: This breaks the rule, but Skimm is good. It's daily because it's news, and isn't selling information about their brand or company. And some newsletters, like the Whole30 newsletter that I get - it's biweekly, or when they have an organized Whole30 happening during a particular month, they'll send it more often to provide support for the people going through the program. So it's good because they'll respond to the demand or need. 

Q: What is your favorite email service provider?

A: It's hard to say I have a favorite because I end up getting comfortable with the one I use the most. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. There's no perfect one. Everyone has their favorites, and everyone complains about something with all of them. (For a side-by-side comparison of ESPs functionality, click here.)

Q: Automated emails - which include emails that are triggered responses to a customer's actions on a company's website or an ad, etc. - have very high open and click-through rates. What is the right balance between automated triggers and organic sends? Is there such a thing?

A: I do think you should tread carefully with anything automated. It's easy to forget about and it can get out of date pretty easily. I've seen that happen. I've seen lead-nurture campaigns get old and out of sync with brand updates, for example. 

Q: As someone who has attempted on her own to set up automation, I've gotten frustrated and begged for help from professionals like you. Tell me why you're so good at this stuff, Jenn. What were you like in school?

A: Math was definitely my best subject and I took everything they offered. I majored in Finance and worked for a bank. I enjoy solving problems and work that is straight-forward. It just makes sense to me. It's exactly what it says it is. Same with cooking. I follow recipes. I'm good at figuring out the process for things and what the process should be if there isn't one. Like my boyfriend's business - I've pulled it all together for him, set up employment insurance, got the employment ID number, built the website, all this stuff. It's pulling things together from a lot of different places, but it makes sense.  

Q: You have two daughters - Sara, 14, and Abby, 12. Are they left-brained like you?

A: Sara is, yes. Sara and I share a love of a good spreadsheet and to-do list. Abby's best classes are math and science, too, but she's more free spirited, more laid back.

Q: Beyond raising your two girls, which of course is a big job!, what sorts of things do you like to do outside of work?

A: I've been volunteering at the Davidson County Animal Control Center for about six months. It's the pound and has a negative reputation even though they do really amazing things. Every animal that's not too sick or isn't aggressive to humans gets adopted. They've increased their public relations outreach and worked with a lot of rescue groups. 

Q: Tell me about your own dog, Duke. 

A: He's the best dog ever! He doesn't need training, specifically, but we are going to send him to a trainer. We want him to be next level. We want him to be able to do tricks and cool things, like put his toys away.