The call of marketers over the years has always been, “Build a list!”. Whether that was a customer list of names and street addresses, or an email update list of interested parties, marketing to an audience which has already shown some kind of enthusiasm for your products or services certainly has massive benefits for a business. This is a self-selected group of people who have either already made a purchase, or who have taken the time to add themselves to your business’s database, so they are actively interested in what you do.
Compared to generic mailing lists that can be purchased, lists that are built up over time, and which contain only people who actually care about your business or products, are far easier to market to and will have a much higher conversion rate. Increasingly, online businesses are offering freebies such as discounts, special offers or free eBooks to increase the number of people who subscribe to their mailing list, simply because the benefits of having your own dedicated contacts are so great.
As well as having the advantages of a receptive audience, email marketing is also very cost-effective especially when compared to the costs involved with direct mail campaigns. There is also an immediacy available when marketing via email which is difficult to replicate in more traditional advertising, and which means that companies can be responsive and key in to current events or special circumstances.
And finally, the success of an email marketing campaign can be carefully measured, so you can learn what kinds of offers, subject lines and approaches are the most successful with your particular audience. Analytics are available for every conceivable metric, so you can see directly whether your customers are more likely to click on an offer of free shipping or one of 10% off, or whether they like dramatic, attention-grabbing messages or more descriptive, friendly ones. When you know what works, it is easier to replicate your success.
However, email marketing is not without its problems. We each receive so many emails every day that marketing messages can easily be missed. We can overlook emails without noticing and over-zealous spam catchers can filter messages directly to the spam folder without them ever having even appeared in an already crowded inbox.
Another possible issue facing email marketers is how their carefully crafted message is rendered on different platforms. What may look appealing on their original design can be skewed, shrunk or made unreadable when viewed on a mobile phone browser or certain webmail setups, and the creativity which went into the original can be lost entirely.
Emerging technologies and new communication methods also mean that many people believe that email marketing is losing its power because customers expect to be able to keep in touch with what businesses are doing via their social media channels instead. There is a sense that email marketing is becoming irrelevant as customers follow their favourite companies on Twitter or Facebook, so creating presences on different social networking sites, and keeping them updated and relevant, is more vital than ever.
Staying in tune with what your own customers respond to is the key in deciding how best to market to them. The demographics will play a part in this, but testing at all stages will also inform you of what is successful and what shows minimal results in your own target audience. Understanding what works, and repeating and improving on it, is the best way to maintain a successful marketing approach.