With all the talk about what social media and mobile can do for your marketing, you’d think e-mail was about to go the way of the carrier pigeon.
Nevertheless, e-mail is still an opportunity—the biggest opportunity to get your messages into the hands of people who want them. According to a May 2009 study from the Radicati Group, at 1.4 billion users, e-mail is a behemoth when it comes to reach. The same study also projects that by 2013, the number of worldwide e-mail users will grow to 1.9 billion.
E-mail is also the best way to reach a captive reader. Not only has it retained utility in the face of newer technologies, e-mail has adopted many of the dynamic traits that make newer communication platforms so powerful. The following reasons dispel the rumor that e-mail is a less dynamic marketing medium.
• E-mail Can Be Location-Based
Popcorn Palace is a private company based in a small town in Illinois. It ships 27 hand-crafted, micro-batched gourmet flavors to all 50 states, and are among the 100 fastest-growing food and beverage companies.
The company’s e-newsletters have always enjoyed high subscribership, but CEO Timothy Heitmann began to wonder if there was a way to market to these subscribers in a more personal way—even though all he had was an e-mail address.
The answer was patience. Once recipients read the e-newsletter, Heitmann was able to use the tracking feature in his e-mail marketing service to pinpoint which states and towns users were in when they opened the e-mails. With the Super Bowl coming up, Heitmann could reasonably assume whether someone was a Colts or Saints fan based on their locations. He then offered targeted recipients special Super Bowl deals on popcorn packages branded with their favorite teams.
The promotion went over so well—with the sports-minded customers buying much more per order than the norm—Popcorn Palace repeated it for March Madness and is expanding its efforts to include all the sporting events it can manage. How’s that for location- and event-based marketing?
• E-mail Can Offer Real-Time Connections
Ryan O’Neill is a Realtor at RE/MAX Advantage Plus in Minnesota. The strength of O'Neill’s e-mail marketing comes from a live database constantly updated with new leads from a variety of sources.
By connecting its e-mail marketing service to various company databases, RE/MAX can avoid the backlog associated with exporting and importing recipient information or syncing up unsubscribes, bounces and forward-to-friends. And by analyzing who’s opening e-mails or when they’re unsubscribing, RE/MAX can see what’s working, what’s not, and respond to the educational and other informational needs of the market sooner rather than later.
“We’re of course active on Twitter and Facebook,” says O'Neill, “But e-mail remains the surest way of letting real estate investors know when properties become available as they become available. It’s e-mail, but it’s still real-time reach, because most of the folks we reach read their e-mails on their smart phones while they’re out and about.”
• E-mail Can Be Visually Powerful
A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but the right picture can be worth much more. For Los Angeles-based nonprofit Relief International, the right picture portrays need, inspiring empathy and response.
Of course e-mail often has issues with embedded pictures. If it’s not ISP deterrents, it’s strict enterprise anti-spam solutions or overzealous end-user security software that gets in the way.
Some marketers choose to simply do away with embedded images rather than risk a bounceback or a bunch of unsightly red ‘X’ marks in place of images, but for Relief International this was not an option. Most good Samaritans get on a nonprofit’s e-mail list as prior donors. But many of those who respond to the urgent need of one major catastrophe are seldom heard from again. It’s a constant struggle convincing them and others that help is still needed.
Getting the aid through donors via e-mail meant getting the images through, and Relief International was able to do this with an e-mail marketing software solution that allowed them to easily embed the content of HTML e-mail images into their e-communications, ensuring their images were visible to recipients—even on e-mail clients set to keep images hidden.
Note, when not working with an e-mail marketing solution that provides this feature, it’s possible and advisable to design e-mails so that they still look good when images don’t display. The use of tables, alternative (alt) text, and background colors can all save an e-mail’s appearance when images are off.
• E-mail Isn’t Going Away
When questioned how often he checks e-mail, tech enthusiast and founder of Lockergnome Chris Pirillo recently wrote, “I don’t think I actually ever ‘check’ my e-mail. My e-mail program is never closed. I spend more time with my nose buried there than I likely do everywhere else combined.”
That sounds like someone who is willing to engage and ready to act on a dynamic e-mail from your company.
Ajay Goel is CEO of JangoMail, an e-mail marketing company that helps businesses reach customers and prospects in a highly reliable and personalized way. Goel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.