The Four Ghosts Still Haunting Email Marketing

In recent years, email has experienced quite an evolution — a seismic shift, made possible by innovation and astute strategies. Even with this shift, I still hear certain ideas that are quite archaic. Here are four “ghosts” that still haunt email marketing today.

1. “Let’s just send an email.” Any email marketer feels the pain when hearing this statement cross the lips of anyone in his/her company.

There’s still a great misconception that email is easy to send. The truth is, the only thing easy about sending an email is the means of delivery.

Right before hitting send, the marketing team spends significant time and energy drafting content, designing, coding, and QA’ing. The culmination of efforts that goes into creating one email is substantial. Unfortunately, it’s often over-looked and under-valued. I can hear email marketers everywhere agreeing with me on this one.  

So next time someone says, “Let’s just send an email,” tell them that the only easy thing about sending email is the delivery itself—assuming you’ve kept your deliverability in check. As such, marketers plan emails that will be sent to clients / prospects, a few weeks, and even months in advance.



2. Time of day. In the mid-2000s, there was a major obsession with time of day. Everyone wanted to know the best time to send an email. There are email marketers today that still ask this question -- and I cringe when I hear it. 

The answer is, “whenever your customer wants to read it.”

Since we now know that mobile created a world where people check email multiple times per day and triage emails they want to come back to, the time of send is much less important than it used to be. What’s more important is providing value through personalized and 1:1 content that your customers are willing to hold onto and engage with when the time is right for them.

3. Benchmarks. Yes, benchmarks do have a place for email marketers, who need to understand varying rates by industry as a very high level baseline. Beyond that, benchmarking is like comparing your own unique self to someone else, as a basis for evaluating your own worth.

Each email program is inherently different, with unique metrics that really can’t and shouldn’t be compared to other programs. What I typically advise is that brands benchmark their own program and come up with the expected hypothesis through each new initiative or program enhancement. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to others!

4. Blasting away. Believe it or not, I still frequently hear the word “blast” to describe sending commercial email. Email is a workhorse of retaining and engaging customers in a meaningful way, so why would we “blast” recipients? It’s such a harsh verb and should not be used to describe email sends.

Anyone sending to his or her entire email list is sending a “blast,” which is a huge no-no. Savvy email marketers understand that segmented and personalized sends win the race for their customers’ attention.

There’s so many new opportunities in email marketing today that we shouldn’t be held back by these old and tired ways of thinking. Do you know of any other “ghosts” that are still haunting email marketing? Please let me know in the comments below.

4 comments about "The Four Ghosts Still Haunting Email Marketing".
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  1. Mandy Parisi from Webroot, October 22, 2015 at 11:27 a.m.

    Cute post. I cringe when I hear marketers say 'set it and forget it" when it relates to automated and triggered programs. No! Set it, monitor it, report on it, test it....

  2. April Mullen from SparkPost replied, October 22, 2015 at 12:30 p.m.

    Thanks, Mandy! I totally agree on the automated and triggered programs.  I often say "Set it and optimize it."

  3. Greg Alvarez from iMeil, October 22, 2015 at 6:25 p.m.

    Just two things about your article:

    1) "Emailing" is a word used mostly by "spamming trending people" and it's most used than "blast". Just think about it and try to remember who mentioned "emailing" (still living in the past glory days of direct marketing before legislation/litigation came to put a top on their "abusive" practices).

    2) On the point 4) you mention that "sending to his or her entire email list"... have you considered there are several "industries" and that Email Marketing is not just a channel to sell something? (in the essence of offering a product that a person paid for and get to use/consume) I use to sent to "my entire email list" educational articles in the areas of marketing. V. gr., teaching them how to, actually, create marketing plans or what is a strategy and what is a tactic, covering a lot of industries... from government to local retailers... so, based on your assumption, should I send these messages only to "people in the agency industry" or "marketing execs from government entities"? The only segmentation (message sent separately) I use is the one for those registered users receiving HTML, ASP, PHP, CSS and more website development topics... but insted, they all receive the same message (an educational one, not a "buy this program or this soft or that app").

  4. April Mullen from SparkPost replied, October 23, 2015 at 4:01 p.m.

    Thanks for the comment, Greg! I've also heard of spammy practices as you have in your first point. 

    On your second point, there really is no reason to send a one-size-fits-all message to all of your recipients in most cases. (There are some exceptions, albeit very few.)  Even if a communication is like a newsletter and contains educational content, there are still ways to segment and target content to people by industry, interest, geography or whatever is relevant to your audience. You should test segmenting your content by audience and see what kind of lift you get.  Best of luck!

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