Digital Transformation

Plan E, not Plan B: Why email marketing shouldn’t play second fiddle to social media

By Andrew Boulton |

June 11, 2013 | 5 min read

There are two subjects on which I am a positive bore. The first is the unappreciated genius that is Jaws 3D. The second is quality content.

Working in marketing you cannot help but encounter, pretty much on a daily basis, claims that email is dead as a viable marketing platform, crushed under the enormity of social media.

I can’t help but disagree. The rise of social media does not necessarily signal the demise of email. What is does unquestionably mean is that email marketing must get smarter.

At the heart of this, as in any form of digital marketing or communications, is the quality of content. Asking people to subscribe is nowhere near good enough. We must be compelling them to subscribe with reasons that appeal directly and imaginatively to their interests.

Naturally what we send must be wanted, which requires relevant content and some very specific targeting. But this behaviour is surely worth the effort when you consider how ineffectual an email will be, regardless of its content or composition, if it arrives in the inbox of someone wholly unreceptive to that particular message.

Email offers an immediacy and intimacy that still makes it an impactful means of contacting your consumer. It also offers a way to deliver such messages in a timely way, a much undervalued commodity given that there is not really such a thing as guaranteeing an opportune Tweet or Facebook post.

Email affords you a degree of control that social media simply cannot guarantee and it is not unlikely that your most compelling of social media posts will go entirely unnoticed by even a devoted audience.

The list of benefits to email marketing is extensive. It’s a highly personal medium. It affords massive traffic. It allows you to gather invaluable behaviour insights and analyse behaviour. It’s got a bit in it where a massive shark breaks into an underwater theme park. (Not the last one.)

But again, these qualities mean precisely nothing if the content is anything less excellent. Asos are an exceptional example of quality email content, showcasing their products with a highly relevant editorial tone and style that offers value and stimulates interest beyond the items they are displaying.

Asos also help to illustrate that, providing your content is strong, frequency is not necessarily a disincentive to an audience. Some studies have demonstrated that unsubscribe rates don’t actually go down in relation to increased email frequency. But, of course, if the email frequency is merely delivering repetitive and uninspiring content then I have no doubt that subscriptions will plummet.

All the evidence seems to point rather compellingly to the fact that the so-called death of email marketing is a discussion of poor practice rather than a flaw in the medium.

Social media is an entirely wonderful and revolutionary model of reaching your audience. But it is not the glorious universal solution to all marketing challenges as many will have us believe. Social media and email can perform very distinct, but equally valuable, functions and the greatest chance of success is in building a communication model that allows the two to support and enhance each other.

And seeing as i‘ve wasted all my monotony on the importance of good content, it appears I have no room left to champion the virtues of Jaws 3D. I assure you though, it’s ace.

Follow Andrew Boulton on Twitter @Boultini

Andrew Boulton is a copywriter at the Together Agency. He likes Jaws 3D. A lot.

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