This increased visibility is a double-edged sword, however. As C-level executives take more interest in the channel, they are also asking questions and making recommendations that often fly in the face of best practices so many email marketing program owners have worked hard to develop and implement over the years.
As email marketing advocates, we have the opportunity to leverage increased interest in the channel into improvements in the overall standing and importance of email within our organizations. But we won't be effective unless we educate C-level executives and our partners in other marketing channels on best practices, while at the same time dispelling some common myths.
Below are three of the most frequently held misconceptions about email that many C-level executives and marketers in other channels continue to believe today.
1. You can increase revenue by increasing frequency with little or no negative consequences. This may be the biggest myth of all. While increasing the number of mailings may result in short-term revenue gains, many program managers are finding out the hard way that sustained increases in frequency result in a number of negative consequences, including:
- Lower long-term revenue as recipients become less engaged
- Higher cost of list maintenance and subscriber acquisition as unsubs increase
- Deliverablity issues as a result of higher spam complaints
- And worst of all, damage to brand equity
In "View from the Inbox 2008," a report jointly produced by Merkle and Harris Interactive, 32% of consumers said they stopped doing business with at least one company as a result of poor email practices.
2. Good email creative isn't different from direct mail or banner ads. While there are certain universal marketing tactics that can be applied equally to email, print and television channels, consumers engage with email in very specific and measurable ways. It's possible that taking a print flyer and sending it out as an image-heavy email message may be better than not sending a message at all, but truly effective email creative takes into account factors that make the channel unique. Understanding the limitations of email and the inbox environment like preview panes, disabled images and the nuances of various email readers such as Outlook 2007, is critical to successful messaging.
3. It only takes an hour to prepare and send an email campaign - AKA "how hard can it be?" Yes, and the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are real. From a marketing perspective, one of the most attractive things about the email channel is the ability to react quickly to shifting marketing goals and turn around campaigns in a short amount of time. And while I have seen truly miraculous turnaround times, effective email campaigns still require strategic and tactical planning, copywriting, designing and coding. Writing effective copy, designing for the inbox environment and coding with an understanding of the many email readers out there are all tasks requiring a high degree of skill and specialized knowledge that only comes with experience. Theoretically you can prep and send a message to your subscribers in under an hour, but odds are it won't be worth the cost of sending the mailing.
In summary, this is an exciting time for email. As marketers, we've been talking about relevance for years -- and now we have the opportunity to increase our own channel's relevance within our organizations. That being said, we certainly have our work cut out for us both in educating executives and eradicating myths about the channel.
Please share your successes and failures in educating your C-level executives with other readers. We're all in this together. Good luck!