Jeff Keleher

For years, marketers have been told that email marketing’s days were numbered. That email itself is outdated as an engagement, lead generation and prospect nurturing platform, replaced by social media networks and other channels. The rollout of annual industry trends and prognostications wouldn’t be complete without some so-called “expert” predicting the demise of email marketing.

It turns out reports of email marketing’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Email marketing is more vital than ever, giving brands a direct way to segment, engage, nurture and convert leads.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. Email marketing takes precision and dedication to do it justice. Otherwise, your audience will tune you out. Which may explain why some people are so quick to retire it as a marketing strategy: It’s easier to chalk up failed email campaigns on a fundamentally flawed and outdated approach than to recognize execution errors and put in the work needed to succeed.

Is email marketing dead? Absolutely not. It’s essential to successful inbound marketing strategies. If you play to the channel’s strengths (automation, segmentation, direct communication) and meticulously craft every campaign and email to engage your audience, email marketing will deliver enormous ROI.

Why email marketing still matters

There are a lot of different channels jostling for digital marketers’ attention, but don’t sleep on email. You won’t find a touch point better suited for direct engagement, lead nurturing and, ultimately, converting audience members into viable sales prospects.

What’s so great about email marketing? Consider these facts:

People check their email every day

How can you be sure prospects see the messages you send them? Take advantage of the platforms they’re most likely to use. It should come as no surprise that 99% of consumers check their email every day – we all do it, after all. For B2B companies, the figures are even more encouraging: On average, workers spend 28% of the workweek reading or responding to emails.

Compare those numbers with social media use: According to Hootsuite, 45% of the global population is active on social media. That penetration rate is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it can’t come close to touching email.

So if you want to go where you absolutely know your audience is, email’s a no-brainer.

It’s reliable and direct

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are terrific engagement tools, but you can’t be sure that specific users will see your posts and messages – unless you tag them directly, of course.

With curated email lists, you can be relatively certain that your communications reach your target audience – or, at least, land in their inbox. Email clients have become more effective at separating spam messages from legitimate communications, making it less likely that your outreach emails will be redirected to a spam or trash folder.

The global inbox placement rate – that is, the percentage of brand emails that actually land in the intended recipient’s inbox – hovers around 85%. Those are pretty good odds that any marketer should be eager to take.

Email marketing offers massive ROI

After all these years, email marketing still gives you the biggest bang for your buck. On average, marketers can expect their email strategies to generate $42 per $1 they spend. What other channel can promise those kinds of results?

A 2018 Return Path survey found 68% of organizations that saw recent revenue increases viewed email as one of their most important marketing channels driving that success. Overall, 80% of respondents believed their email marketing strategies were effective.

If you’re not seeing those kinds of results from your email marketing efforts, chances are, you’re doing it wrong.

That’s OK, because we’re here to help you overcome whatever obstacles are standing in your way and bring your email marketing strategy back to life.

How to succeed with email marketing

If you take the time to refine your email strategies, your campaigns will produce meaningful results that directly translate to increased sales and revenue.

Follow these steps to start netting better engagement metrics:

1. Target audiences with segmented email lists

A common email marketing misstep is to send the same emails at the same frequency to every contact on your email list. Not all newsletter subscribers are interested in the same information or sit at the same stage in the buyer journey. Email marketing needs to be far more precise to reach your target audience with the right message at the right time. And that means using segmentation.

Breaking down email lists into different prospect categories is a tried-and-true strategy for successful marketers. Segmented emails consistently produce better engagement metrics compared with general email lists. For instance, open rates for segmented campaigns are 14% higher and click-through rates are 101% higher than broad, sweeping outreach strategies.

There are a lot of different ways you can segment your email lists, depending on the nature of your business and the makeup of your target audience. Here are 9 ideas for segmenting your list – choose the categories that make the most sense for your company’s communications:

  • Geographic location.
  • Demographics.
  • Occupation.
  • Position or seniority level.
  • Industry.
  • Past engagement activity.
  • Location in the sales funnel.
  • Purchase history.
  • Amount of time since the last brand interaction.

Segmenting your audience in this way helps to refine and focus your messaging so it actually resonates with the recipient. Whether you’re nurturing leads or reaching out to previous customers, every communication should speak directly to their needs and interests.

2. Personalize your message

Segmentation paves the way for personalization, letting brands tailor emails for each user. Ideally, every aspect should be customized to resonate with the recipient. That includes:

  • Subject line.
  • Preview text.
  • Email body.
  • Call-to-action.
  • Sign-off.

That may sound time-consuming and arduous, but email templates and software can automatically fill in relevant information and tweak specifics according to the user profile.

Trust us, it’s worth the effort to personalize your messaging across all of your email marketing campaigns. Recipients are 26% more likely to open emails that have subject lines tailored specifically for them. Personalized emails are more likely to stand out in someone’s inbox and pique their interest, so take every opportunity to refine communications for every user.

3. Give your audience something of value

Users are quick to tune out any branded emails that don’t speak directly to what matters most to them. In fact, 34% of newsletter subscribers opt out of email lists within the first 30 days. You need to bring value to your target audience, and you need to bring it fast.

That really starts at the point of subscription. Users who opt into email lists do so with the expectation that whatever content or offerings they receive will be worth handing over their contact information. The high newsletter cancellation rate suggests that many brands are not holding up their end of the bargain.

If B2B companies include downloadable assets in their email newsletters, that content should be useful and relevant for the recipient. Consumer brands should share promotions and offers that reflect customers’ past purchases and activity history.

It all comes back to more focused and personalized communication. Make your audience feel like you understand them and establish that emotional connection that will drive a long-term customer relationship.

4. Embrace email marketing automation

Part of the reason email marketing is able to generate such tremendous ROI is that once you get everything up and running, you can sit back and let the marketing machine run itself.

Email marketing automation software can streamline virtually every aspect of a campaign, delivering relevant messages based on user activity. A very basic example would be the welcome email that’s sent out when a new subscriber signs up to receive newsletter emails.

But email automation tools can carry out a wide range of outreach tasks, reminding customers about expiring promotions or abandoned shopping carts and even single-handedly managing drip campaigns. That’s especially helpful for small businesses that simply don’t have the time or personnel to be hands-on with every aspect of their email marketing strategy.

Much less effort is required to stay in touch with leads and previous customers and, if you do it right, your brand will come across as responsive and proactive.

While automation allows for a more hands-off approach to email marketing campaigns, businesses should diligently analyze the results of their email strategies to improve performance whenever possible. Routine testing and assessment will bring execution gaps to light and give you the insight needed to perfect your email marketing approach.

5. Don’t give up on your audience

You can do everything right and still strike out with your target audience. But email marketing – like other forms of marketing – is all about playing the long game. Someone may not be ready to take the next step in the buyer journey today, but that could change in a few months.

Maintain contact and engagement to keep your brand top of mind, adjusting your communications in response to user activity – or, as the case may be, inactivity.

The same approach applies to getting former customers back in the fold. A customer who’s canceled services or walked away from your business isn’t a lost cause. Winback emails have proven to be very effective ways to reach out to former customers. In fact, recipients read 20% of the winback emails sent their way.

So don’t lose hope. There’s always another opportunity to engage your audience and get things back on track.

Look, email marketing’s hard, we won’t deny that. But it’s absolutely worth the effort to get it right. There simply isn’t a better channel for nurturing leads, improving customer retention and generating conversions. If you want to make the most of your marketing dollars, email is the way to go.

So to answer the original question: Is email marketing dead? Not even close. It’s still alive and kicking, and don’t expect that to change anytime soon.