Email marketing has been around for a long time. In fact, the first email marketing campaign went out in the seventies—years before Mark Zuckerberg was even born!
And, a lot’s changed in the last forty years.
A lot of conventional marketing channels like direct mail, billboards and radio spots aren’t even on the radar for most businesses. We live in a rapidly changing, digital world and—like many older forms of marketing—email marketing seems to fallen out of favor.
In fact, less than half of businesses use email marketing automation tools, which means that less than half of businesses are meaningfully committed to email marketing. It just isn’t that popular these days.
But is that the right move? Should companies be more focused on email marketing? More specifically, should your business be more focused on email marketing? What does the data actually say?
In this article, we’re going to look at the facts about email marketing try and answer all of those questions. I can’t tell you for sure whether or not your business should invest in email marketing, but by the end of this post, you should be well equipped to answer that question yourself.
Why Email Marketing Should Work
On the surface, there are a lot of reasons why email marketing should work. As a marketing channel, it just makes sense.
People love to throw around the stat that Facebook has 1.56 billion daily active users, but that stat pales in comparison to email’s 4.073 billion users. And, since 99% of users check their email once or more a day, that means emails active daily user count is upwards of 2.5x higher than Facebook’s.
With 26% of the people on Earth are 14 or under, roughly 2/3rds of Earth’s potential email user base is actively checking their email every single day.
Your target market might use Facebook. They might use Google. They might use Baidu. They might use WhatsApp or Instagram or Pinterest or SnapChat or TikTok or whatever hot new app comes next…but no matter who they are or where they live, they’re checking their email every day.
- 69% of people check their email while watching television
- 14% of people report that they check email while driving
- 6% check it during formal events such as weddings or graduations
- 34% check while walking
- 32% look at their email while eating dinner
- 18% check their email in the middle of conversations
- 32% check during their work commute
- 54% check their email while in bed
- 43% look at their email while on the toilet
But here’s the real kicker. Not only does email marketing have great market penetration, people actually want to receive marketing via email.
As great as Facebook is, 73% of millennials would rather get marketing content in their email inbox. A mere 28% use Facebook to search for deals on their favorite products and brands, while 56% join email marketing lists to get access to those same sorts of promotions.
So, given its colossal reach and the fact that people prefer to be marketed to in their inbox, why do so many people think that email marketing is dead?
Why Email Marketing Doesn’t Work
While email marketing certainly has a ton of potential, there are a variety of reasons why many marketers believe that it no longer works.
The problem isn’t necessarily that email marketing is bad, it’s that it’s oversaturated.
This coming year, it’s currently estimated that 306.4 billion emails will be sent every day. Divide that by 4.073 billion users and your average user is getting 75 emails a day.
Now, the question is, how many of those emails are actually relevant? To answer that, let’s take a look at some findings from a study run by Radicati on office workers.
In this study, Radicati found that the average office worker received 126 emails every day. Spam blockers typically filtered out 30 of those emails, leaving the subjects in their study with 96 emails to process every single day.
To provide a real-world equivalent, can you imagine how hard it would be to sort through 96 pieces of physical mail every single day? People simply don’t have enough time, attention or energy to read through that many emails every day.
So, is it any wonder that 75% of US consumers think email marketing is annoying?
But wait, we just said that most people prefer to get marketing content in their inbox. How can 3/4ths of people find email marketing annoying, but 72% subscribe to 4 or more brand email lists?
Clearly, there are some unmet expectations here. People want to be marketed to via email, but they don’t like the emails they’re getting. Is it any wonder that companies think that email marketing doesn’t work?
At this point, we’ve uncovered a real conundrum. Email marketing should work, but it doesn’t…or, at least, it doesn’t work the way that many businesses want it to.
The fact of the matter is, people don’t like most marketing. Businesses love Facebook Ads, but the average clickthrough rates for Facebook Ads are actually pretty terrible. Paid search ads are better, but that’s only because 57.5% of people don’t realize that text ads are ads. Of the 42.5% of people who recognize them as ads, 41% actively avoid clicking on them.
From the numbers, it’s pretty clear that people don’t really want to be marketed to. If they’re going to get marketing content, they want it to be the kind of content they want…when and where they want it. Which, if you think about it, is probably why people prefer to get marketing content in their inbox.
So why then, does email marketing have such a bad reputation? It seems like it should be the most effective marketing channel out there.
Well, as it turns out, it is…if you do it right.
On average, a well-designed email marketing strategy produces $38 for every $1 you invest. You’re 6 times likelier to get a click from an email than a Tweet. And, a solid email strategy 40 times more efficient at producing new customers than marketing on Facebook.
The problem with email marketing isn’t that people don’t respond to email marketing anymore, or even that people get too many marketing emails. It’s the actual email marketing strategies that businesses are using to get customers.
Companies either believe that email marketing doesn’t work, so they don’t even try…or they don’t invest enough time and money to get it working right. As a result, their subscribers hate getting emails from them and unsubscribe.
Should You Be Doing Email Marketing?
This brings us to our final question: should your business be doing email marketing? To answer that question, let me ask one of my own: can you invest the time and effort necessary to get a solid email marketing strategy up and running?
If the answer is “no”—either because you’re unwilling or unable—then no, you shouldn’t bother with email marketing right now. There are more than enough unwanted marketing emails out there, your customers don’t need more from you.
There are lots of ways to create effective, interesting and compelling marketing emails, but they all take work. For example, 81% of consumers respond well to targeted email content, but less than 40% of ecommerce sites actually send out this type of email.
Why? It takes a lot of work to set up email automation and create targeted emails. When you don’t put in the effort, you don’t get the results.
If, however, the answer is “yes”, then you should absolutely try your hand at email marketing. It may take some time and experimentation to figure out the right strategy and approach, but most of the time, the results will be solid—if not far better than anything you get from any other marketing channel.
After all, who’s more likely to buy? Someone who’s seen your ads online and is vaguely familiar with your business…or someone who likes your business so much that they’ve actually asked you to send them marketing content? As long as you invest the time and effort it takes to figure out how to send them emails that they actually want, your email marketing will almost always produce better results.
While there’s a big temptation to chase after shinier, newer marketing channels, the fact of the matter is, email can be an incredibly effective marketing channel—if you do it right.
The biggest problems with email are that it’s voluntary and competitive, which means that if you aren’t investing time into figuring out the right email marketing strategy, you’ll be frustrated with your results.
But, if you put in the effort, the data is clear: email marketing will almost certainly be one of your most effective marketing channels. The only question is, are you willing to do what it takes to succeed at email marketing?