Email is content marketing%27s superhero

Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter.

Whoa, whoa, whoa…who said what in the what, now?

McKinsey & Co, that’s who, in an article published this week based on its own US research.

When I read it, I found the statistic surprising, but I immediately realised why. Personally, I’ve been so excited by the possibilities of connecting with potential clients, partners and suppliers via social media, and strategising about doing the same thing for our existing clients, that I’d forgotten how powerful email communication can be.

Like my small daughter who, after the novelty of her Christmas presents had worn off, realised that her faithful stash of felt pens and colouring books give her the most pleasure, us content marketers need to remember that traditional forms of marketing still pack a punch.

Landing page launchpads

A stat highlighted in the McKinsey article bears this out: customised landing pages that send the user directly to the item or offer featured in the email can increase conversion rates by more than 25%.

But, any campaign should take into account that things have moved on since email marketing’s inception in the early 2000s. According the research:

  • Nearly 45% of all marketing emails are opened on a mobile device
  • 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% will visit a competitor’s site instead

The old days of assuming that an email will be read on a PC are over. It needs to optimised for different platforms and a customised landing page is a must. Also, why not consider different forms of content? Research carried out in the UK by The Relevancy Group last summer (July 2013) highlighted a growing trend for video content in email marketing campaigns. A quarter of the marketing executives surveyed had used video and got results: those using it were generating 40% higher monthly revenue than those who did not and 55% said that using video had increased click-through rates.

Segment your email lists

But some of the old, received wisdom about email marketing still rings true. In our last blog, Common examples of antisocial behaviour by digital marketers, our Jonathan quite rightly pointed out that just because you have a million people on your subscriber list it doesn’t mean you have to email them all at the same time – segmentation is your best friend. The best emails feel personal. McKinsey reports that the American homewares retailer Williams-Sonoma experienced a ‘tenfold improvement on response rates’ by targeting their emails based on individuals’ shopping habits.

If I look at my own personal email account, I’d say that communications from brands make up 80 per cent of it – and the stuff that gets opened is something that hits home, such as the monthly updates I used to get from the parenting site Bounty telling me what my six-month old, seven-month old – you get the idea – daughter would most likely be up to that month. The ploy was a stroke of marketing genius; I knew what she was up to, but most parents are total bores about their children and new parents in particular will hoover up information gladly. That one email subject line ‘your baby’ and I’ve clicked through to a whole world of special offers and opportunities to shop.

My email is now mostly void of messages from people I actually know – I chat with friends now via social media. And that’s something to perhaps remember – McKinsey’s iConsumer survey from 2012 reported a 20% decline in email usage between 2008 and 2012 as people migrated to other means of online communication. It states that: “Investments in these new channels are absolutely necessary for marketers to make increasingly sophisticated use of social networks and other channels to engage with consumers and convert interest to sales.”

So it seems we are on the cusp of this brave new world of social media marketing we’ve all been promised. But until we get there, let’s not ignore our old toys.

Email marketing is as important a part of your content marketing strategy as it has ever been.