The Top 5 Email Marketing Practices That Withstand The Test of Time

Ten years have passed since the dawn of the 21st century, when Internet users were bracing for the Y2K meltdown. Since then, our relationship with the Web has gone from a hobby to a way of life. Email marketing, too, has evolved from a nice-to-have add-on, to an essential way of doing business for millions of companies. Here's a look back at the top five best practices that have emerged over the past decade, ones that may very well endure into the next.

1) Email marketing is the glue that binds successful online marketing campaigns. Before the 21st century, email marketing was still considered risky and unproven in terms of generating results. Within the past 10 years, email has not only replaced direct marketing, but it is now a top revenue generator for many companies.  Even with the meteoric rise of social media, email remains at the heart of all online applications and will remain there for the foreseeable future. Email should be the hub of any online marketing strategy for the best chance at success. 



2) "Spray and pray" doesn't work. It's hard to believe that this mass email approach is still employed by marketers, but it is alive and well. Not only is this approach not strategic, but it is often rejected by ISPs. Relevance is critical to email marketing success. Marketers must respect the opt-in process and create timely, personalized communications that entice the recipient to not only open the message, but act on it, too. 

3) Get your emails to the inbox. In the old days (or, the late '90s) when email marketing was still in its infancy, many marketers were so focused on pushing their emails out, they gave little thought about whether they were actually received. Ten years later, it is clear that email deliverability is one of the most important aspects of email marketing.  After all, a recipient cannot read and act upon your email message if they never received it in the first place. How can businesses ensure their emails are delivered? It starts with a solid online reputation. Businesses with great online reputations ensure that every message they send is welcomed by the recipient and are respectful of their email preferences.

4) Viral content is still king. In 1999, an email that was forwarded to friends and co-workers was considered viral. Social media has taken the concept of viral to the next level, thanks to content-sharing sites like YouTube, Facebook and Linkedin.  In spite of this evolution,  email forwards from  friends, co-workers and even the aforementioned social media sites are still a very effective way to market your business in the 21st century. Therefore it is important to make your content engaging and shareable.

5) Measure the results, not the indicators. In the late 1990s, when marketers began shifting from direct mail marketing, the measurability of email was what made it so appealing:  the number of opens, click-throughs and bouncebacks were often the measure of a campaign's success.  With the growth of technology and real-time analytics over the past decade, email marketers have unprecedented insight into whether a campaign converted recipients into customers.  So while open rates and click-throughs are great indicators of how your email was received, and whether it engaged your recipients, the businessresults of the campaign are most important in the ultimate evaluation.

How do you think email marketing will evolve over the next ten years? Share your thoughts on the Email Insider blog.

2 comments about "The Top 5 Email Marketing Practices That Withstand The Test of Time".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Bill Kaplan from FreshAddress, Inc., August 24, 2010 at 12:48 a.m.

    Nice overview, Cathi. Let me add two more best practices sophisticated marketers have adopted to maximize the ROI of their email marketing programs:

    1) ECOA (Email Change of Address): With annual email address churn rates in the 30% range coupled with the significant cost of acquiring new subscribers, updating one's bouncing and inactive email addresses with the current, preferred email addresses of your customers is essential to maintaining and growing your house file. Just like the USPS's NCOA process became a standard practice for direct marketers as that industry matured, regular ECOA processing has emerged to fill a similar need as the email industry has matured.

    2) Email Hygiene: With the vast majority of deliverability issues stemming from problems with the underlying list, marketers have learned that keeping their email files up-to-date is even more important than cleaning their postal file. A few wrong postal records will cost you $10 whereas a few problematic email addresses could shut down your entire email program.

    It's amazing how far email marketing has progressed in the past ten years. Let's hope the next decade brings even greater solutions to solve the still vexing problem of spam.

  2. Neil Capel from Sailthru, August 24, 2010 at 11:16 p.m.

    Email marketing will no doubt evolve in many unpredictable ways, but there are a couple of trends that are quickly gathering momentum. First among these regards content relevancy and what is voguishly referred to as Behavioural Targeting. Still dominated by a dependency on traditional demographic information (gender, income, zip code) and aggregate data collected over a period of time, the variety and depth of interests for any one user is very narrowly described. End users are eventually put into one of x "buckets". Over the next few years the industry will move toward a highly predictive model based on the perception and relative ranking of a theoretically limitless number of variables based on the SINGLE user. In this model a user's online persona is defined by their actual behavior rather than some dissociated metric like zip code, and the definition of that persona shifts with changing behaviour.

    The bredth and depth of interest perception could read like an Orwellian nightmare, but part two of this prediction is putting these tools in the hands of the user. Interest perception will be coupled to a set of controls that allows each of us to manage the bandwidth of knowledge which marketers may use to target emails. These will include time of day, geolocation, frequency of send and the depth of the subject basket considered relevant. When driven by interest perception the future of email marketing features finely honed emails highly relevant content delivered at a convenient time for each user. And because the impact of each email will be maximal the frequency of sends will be minimal.

Next story loading loading..