How to cost-effectively market a business today has never been more challenging or confusing. Options range from print advertising to broadcast media, online, direct marketing, PR, events – not to mention the rush to social media marketing.
Unfortunately, and despite what some sales people may tell you, there is no magic marketing bullet. But across the board, from SMEs to global enterprises, research finds that one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics, if implemented correctly, remains email.
According to the Econsultancy Email Census 2012, 70pc of digital marketers see email as the top medium in terms of return on investment. The same number of B2B marketers regard email as either 'critical' or 'very important', according to the 2012 B2B Marketing Magazine Email Benchmarking Report. And only 4pc think it's 'not very important'.
Significantly, 77pc of consumers said they preferred to receive marketing through email. Because of the rise of smartphones, email as a marketing tool is actually becoming more important, not less.
Research conducted in 2013 by Opinion Matters on behalf of GFI Software found that more than three-quarters of respondents (81pc) said they check their work email on weekends, 55pc check email after 11pm and 59pc keep on top of their work email while on vacation.
Email has become the ultimate pervasive communications channel. One in 10 respondents admitted to checking work email at a child's school event, 9pc at a wedding and 6pc at a funeral. An additional 6pc said they logged into their work email while they or their spouse was in labour.
These are important findings for business people and marketers in an era when buyers are more empowered than at any time in history.
Information is abundantly and overwhelmingly available. Buyers are using that easy access to tune out unwanted marketing messages while simultaneously seizing control of their buying processes and their preferred channels of marketing communication.
In this new marketing environment, deployed with even a modicum of intelligence and sensitivity, email marketing can deliver.
Here are four key tips to make sure your email works:
Research shows that it is far more effective to target a small number or even one prospect or customer with a specific message relevant to them than blast a general message to hundreds or thousands. The DMA UK National Client Email Report 2013 found that 76pc of all email marketing revenue came from more advanced practices than generic broadcast email.
Map your content and email campaigns to the buying stage of each prospect. For example, at Marketo we do not send a buyer, who's at an early stage in the process, sales-type material or product features. He or she will opt out and we may lose a future sale if we send overtly promotional information.
Instead, we send them thought leadership and educational materials that will increase their knowledge and help them do their job – plus the occasional fun or entertaining piece of content. This is the essence of the term 'content marketing'. In contrast, a buyer further in the sales cycle will want to know more about products, pricing and customer experience.
Most email marketing platforms, on which your ezine or campaigns are broadcast, for example, will provide statistics on who and how many opened your email, what, if any, stories did they click on, etc.
While these standard metrics are important, you need to be able to drill deeper into behaviour.
This includes where the prospect went on the website (and you did link to your website, right?), the number and frequency of visits and of course the content they viewed and shared.
Most important, did the email campaign lead to revenue? If you can't tie your email activities to the rest of your marketing – website visits, social media interactions and offline activity, you're only getting a small part of the picture.
If you are trying to manage your email campaigns manually you can get lost in detail.
By automating, you can "listen" for specific behaviours and trigger the next most appropriate communication based on that activity, thereby engaging your prospect in a two-way conversation, not just a stream of "buy me" messages. Not to mention the time freed up to spend on developing strategy and being creative.
The mobile phenomenon means that email is more powerful than ever.
The challenge for business and marketers will be to harness the new email strategies and tactics to release the true potential of email – without getting drowned in complexity.
Liz Smyth is EMEA marketing director, Marketo, email@example.com. The company's "Definitive Guide to Engaging Email Marketing" may be downloaded from www.marketo.com