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Is Email Marketing SPAM?

Is Email Marketing SPAM?

None of us are strangers to spam:  those relentless advertising messages that show up, in bulk, in our inbox, junk box, and spam folder.  They are seemingly immune to filters and blacklists; and they come at all hours of the day and night – making the concept of “inbox zero” an impossible dream.  

So, if we all hate spam, is there still a place for email marketing within our digital marketing strategies?

First, let’s ask ourselves – what is spam and how did it get so out of control?  At its most rudimentary form, spam is really just digital “junk mail”.  Through traditional, physical postal mail, we all still receive postcards, flyers – even letters delivered in handwriting-style fonts that make us believe that we’ve actually received a customized letter.  While the majority of these pieces end up in the trash, the ones that we keep are quite special.  For starters, we valued them enough, at first glance, not to place them in the trash pile.  We sat them aside for potentially safe-keeping a reason.  So, what exactly was that reason that has saved them (at least for the time being) from the landfill?  Simple!  We see a potential value – and we saw it quickly enough to recognize it.  It was the speed in consideration that saved those special, few pieces which we reserved for further inspection.  Maybe we immediately recognized the brand as one that we frequent.  Maybe the headline instantly caught our attention as something of interest.  Maybe there was an offer or opportunity that was so obvious, and so noteworthy that we wanted a second look.  When our interests are immediately piqued, we are receptive to the messages that are coming our way – even when we’re otherwise bombarded with messages, claims, and offers.  

Marketing emails are in the exact same category as these direct, “junk mail”, marketing pieces that we find in our mailboxes.  A major difference, however, is the sheer volume of it all.  Direct, postal mail has limitations that emailed messages eat for breakfast.  Emails are delivered around the clock, every day of the week, through every holiday – and come in droves.  Spam, as it relates to email, is defined very simply as “unsolicited bulk email”.  The word “unsolicited” is the key.  When we reexamine why we hold on to those certain marketing mail pieces that reach us by “snail mail” while throwing out others of seemingly the same nature, we realize that we’ve hung onto those select few pieces because, in many cases, we recognize the brand.  It’s a company with we do business, or a product that we frequently purchase.  So, while we may not have blatantly “asked” for those messages to come our way, we did express an interest at some point, as a consumer.  Other times, we don’t necessarily recognize the brand, but we relate to the message.  The offer or opportunity speaks to us at a place and time that are appropriate for our needs.  While these messages are no less “salesy” than the next, we regard them in higher esteem – at least long enough to spare them from being tossed out within minutes of visiting the mailbox.

Marketing to your consumers through email needs to strike that same resonance with your audience – only it must do so even faster, even more overtly, and even more directly than traditionally-mailed advertisements.  In 2018, statistics show that spam makes up more than 53% of all emails received, which sees the average person receiving up to 100 spam emails per day.  It’s an enormous feat to try and break through such intense (and annoying) clutter.

So, is email marketing still relevant in today’s spam-laden society?  Absolutely!  The trick, however, is using it correctly.

Here are some of the biggest mistakes that marketers make when using email to market their businesses or distribute advertising messages:

Relying on Email Marketing as a Main Component of Digital Marketing.  In the grand scheme of everything that goes into a successful digital marketing strategy, email marketing should be completely supplemental – working to reinforce ad messages (within the same campaign) rather than trying to serve on any foundational level.

Sending Repeated, Multiple Emails with Mixed Messages.  “Big savings happening now”; “Our new inventory has just arrived”; “Come register to win prizes”.  These subject lines send an untargeted, hodgepodge of messages without any direct connection to the recipient.  They simply look, and read, like emails sent just for the sake of sending emails.  Unless your goal is to have your recipients hit the “unsubscribe” link by the masses, this is a recipe for disaster.

Haphazard Scheduling.  In any form of advertising, consistency is a critical component.  Don’t bombard your contacts with message after message for one full week and then ignore them completely for six months.  Plan and maintain a consistent schedule for your email marketing so that you can provide your contacts with information in intervals that are appropriate for your audience, your campaign goals, and your own unique style of communication.  If you’re planning a special event, it may make sense to send an email reminder once a day, leading up to the event – but if this one event is the first (and possibly last) time that your contacts are hearing from you via email, the messages are less impactful.  Your recipients should have an opportunity to get to know you as a reliable distributor of information and promotions that matter to them.  If you only reach out once every blue moon, you’re not allowing your communication to establish any footing.  That said, this does not negate the point above and should not be seen as a license to oversaturate your recipients with message after message, for messaging sake.

Smart email marketing is one that plays a small, but still important, role in an overall digital marketing strategy.  It reaffirms messages that are being shared on social media and website landing pages.  It provides access for quick Calls to Actions (CTAs).  It helps work towards top of mind awareness and catches recipients at times and places when they may be receptive to your message – ready to act immediately on your offer.

Here are a few tips for a successful email marketing strategy:
  • Understand Your Goals:  Not every email within an email marketing campaign needs to be “promotional”.  Emails that inform, educate and inspire your recipients hold value that can lead to more open rates for all of your messages within your campaign, establishing your credibility and positioning you as a reliable source of quality messages.
  • Speak to Your Audience.  Send messages that matter to your specific audience.  Refrain from generic or unclear messages.  Quickly let your contacts know that you understand them, their interests, their concerns (and no, personalizing the recipient’s name in the body of your email isn’t nearly personal enough).  Remember, you can (and should) create sub-lists, dividing your overall contact list by location, interests, previous shopping habits, and other specific characteristics to help you deliver what matters most to the right groups within your overall contacts.
  • Use a Professional Email Marketing Service. I wish that this one could go without saying.  However, I still run into situations where I hear of someone who is using their personal email client (think Outlook) to send their marketing messages.  Yikes!  Not only can this practice get your IP address blacklisted with your Internet Service Provider (ISP), it’s also illegal!  Please be sure to use a service like Constant Contact, Benchmark Email, or our favorite, MailChimp.
  • Get Their Attention – and Get it Fast.  As we discussed earlier, you’ve no time to waste.  Your recipients will have their finger on the delete key faster than you can say “Big savings this week”.  Your subject lines need to be specific, targeted, clear, and exceptionally noteworthy.  Refrain from using generic buzz words.  If you’re featuring “big savings”, tell them how much and on what.  Which makes you a bit more apt to learn more from an email sent by your all-time favorite taco joint:  “$0.10 Cent Tacos Today Only” or “Save on our menu pricing”?  If you’re a taco lover and you want a great deal, it’s a no brainer.  If you know your audience, you know they love tacos – so if you’ve got a deal that could matter to them, let them know about it – and do it immediately, in the subject line.  The details will fit in the body in your email nicely.
  • Design Matters. Like ALL aspects of your marketing, if your email messages look terrible, you’re immediately sending a poor reflection of your business or organization.  Stay true to your branding.  Incorporate images, videos, polls, cartoons, inspirational quotes, or other attention-grabbing elements that support both your brand and your message…and do so in a way that is easy-to-read, organized, simple, and well-designed.

While email marketing has a lot of challenges, it’s not outdated.  It’s a great way to reach your audience and support your digital marketing strategy; but use it wisely.  The recycle bin is a lonely, sad place for your big promotions to live.

Not sure how to incorporate email marketing into your strategy?  Curious as to how you can improve your open rates?  Contact us for a free, no-obligation proposal to assist you with your digital marketing strategies, including email marketing.

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