I've had a lot of questions recently from small business owners and marketing directors from companies that are not enterprise-level brands. Many of them are related to the reality that email is changing and they don't want to be left behind. Or more importantly, their customers are changing in the way they interact with the business they buy from. They don't have the luxury of a big team or even smart, specialized agencies that live and breathe the nuances of email and digital marketing.
I have pulled together some of the most common and important questions that need to be addressed to ensure this vital part of our economy continues to use the right channels to deliver the right messages and keep their business profitable and thriving. Maybe our presidential candidates will even work this into their campaign rhetoric on how to jumpstart our economy?
What is the real current state of email, especially when many peers and colleagues say they are moving to social media?
Email marketing and social media are both dynamic weapons in the digital marketing arsenal. Email and social media are both unique in their benefits and the tandem certainly share the power to engage customers and prospects for most businesses (see my recent column "Why Email Is Like Madonna and Facebook Is Lady Gaga"). Too much of the conversation these days is focused on which one is better and what is social media's impact on email marketing, but the reality of the situation suggests a different approach.
Email marketing's return on investment (ROI) in 2011 was $40.56 (according to the Direct Marketing Association), which is far superior than most other marketing platforms. Social media, while generating much buzz and interest in the broader business community, falls short right now in terms of measurement, according to the big business executives. For example, General Motors pulled its advertising budget from Facebook, as it failed to see an impact on sales. Email's bread and butter is driving revenue in a targeted and measurable fashion.
How do I make them work together with limited resources?
The other part of the conversation is how complementary email marketing and social media are when planned and executed correctly. Email can often drive engagement on social media and social media, while not done nearly enough, can help drive the more profitable email program as well. Chick-fil-A (a client of my company) is a great example of a business that is integrating its email and social media efforts and letting its customers decide the way they want to interact with the brand while offering compelling opportunities to do so across multiple channels.
Too often companies operate all digital marketing efforts (not just email and social) in silos rather than focused on how the customer may view and interact with the brand. That is where things can hurt you and impede your customer's experience rather than help it.
So the bottom line is that they both are two of the most dynamic and powerful ways to communicate with customers and prospects and can accomplish different things. I think if you ask any digital marketer the question of "You have one bullet left in the gun and need to drive revenue, what digital tool do you use?" you would find overwhelmingly the answer to be "email marketing." Of course, each company should be using multiple coordinated efforts to offer the best user experience with a specific business goal in mind.
In my next column I will focus on some real methods that can help the small- and medium-sized business to better leverage email when it comes to growing their database, how often they should send emails, and five essential tips that any sized business must be aware of when it comes to this powerful messaging channel.
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Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.
Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.
Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.
He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.
Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of EmailStatCenter.com and SocialStatCenter.com, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.
Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.