Email Blows Social Media Out the Door — Any More Questions?

Surely you have seen or read a story about the recent McKinsey study that cited email’s dominance over its cooler, younger cousins Facebook and Twitter. Most pieces on the study said (erroneously) that email marketing was 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter. The consultancy actually is saying email is nearly 40 times better than Facebook and Twitter at acquiring customers. This is in reality even more impressive in my opinion, as new customer acquisition has been somewhat of an Achilles’ heel for email marketing (assuming you are the type who understands renting a list is a Hail Mary not a strategic plan).

Email’s bread and butter have been and always will be customer retention and monetization. Email is incredible at keeping your brand and products/services in front of prospects and customers and building loyalty and growing revenue over the long term. The fact that email crushes social is pretty impressive.

Considering the combined market cap (as of February 3 pre-market open) of the two social behemoths was more than $188 billion, does that mean email marketing is a trillion-dollar juggernaut? Well, maybe or maybe not, but I digress. It isn’t a surprise to see search outpacing email and social, but just like in McKinsey’s study, that is not the real news here.

customer-acquisition1The actual study, in typical fashion of any story addressing email marketing (well, not this one I am writing), begins with an almost passive-aggressive pat on the back: “Why marketers should keep sending you e-mails.” Do your best to not let the use of the hyphen impact your evaluation of the report. Nothing else is really news except that it is coming from the respected high-end consultancy that so many Fortune 500 brands use to guide them. So that is a big part of why this is a telling win for the email industry and one that is needed to be used to continue to drive momentum and make some noise.

So has social drowned in its own hype or is this more a realistic market situation where what makes companies money will always reign supreme? I don’t know, but it is apparent that the wind has been knocked out of social’s sails as it relates to acquiring customers and driving measurable business impact. I think social is certainly here to stay in terms of building deeper customer relationships and engaging in dialog (it’s a fancy way to say customer service) with customers in a public forum.

We know mobile is likely driving half of your opens these days and this is the golden flag that email marketers should be holding high on their white horse of permission. Email has become so sticky and more indispensable than ever. We use email more than making phone calls on our smartphones and brands can reach us with their special offers and VIP content anytime and anywhere.

smartphonechartHeck, they are even spending more than during the old way of checking email on their desktop, which of course has generated significant return on investment (ROI) over the past decade. A new Yesmail study shows revenues per click on mobile marketing emails exceeded those on desktop, at $7.14 vs. $3.26. That’s real money folks, and another game-changer since many of us viewed mobile email 12 months ago as a great extension of your brand into the subscriber’s palm but not necessarily a huge conversion and sales machine. But it is.

If you are wondering what to keep your eye on for email big picture trends and where to focus in 2014, you can read my last article, “5 Must-Do New Year’s Resolutions for Email Marketers” but here are some other big trends that I spoke about and/or heard at the recent Email Evolution conference.

  • Customer and subscriber acquisition is a big opportunity (and hopefully this McKinsey study further supports that). Try out the many new tools, vendors, and tactics to move your list from the stalemate that plagues so many email marketers.
  • Creative is the new secret sauce in email. Sure, we love our big data, cloud computing targeted and segmented campaigns, but as the Email Experience Council’s Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year Award winner Zack Notes of UncommonGoods noted in his acceptance speech, so much of the credit for successful email marketing should go to the creative team. They are the bridge to the subscriber and the back of the house. Good emails almost always have good creative (my big exception is President Obama’s re-election email efforts, but that is a different story).
  • Automation isn’t a luxury item any more — it’s a present must-have and required for a well-rounded email program. Whether it is a true marketing automation program or triggered emails, any ambitious brand worth its digital salt should have a killer welcome series, re-engagement campaigns, abandoned cart emails (the list can go on and on). Don’t wait. Your chief financial officer (CFO) will thank you later.
  • M&A, fundraising, and IPOs have been the norm for the email marketing industry over the past five years. With the two big dogs ExactTarget and Responsys gobbled up, the waiting game (or is it dating game?) for the top remaining software-as-a-service (SaaS) independents may not last through the end of Q1. Look for at least one or two big acquisitions and a possible IPO filing sooner rather than later. Fred Tabsharani of Port 25 outlines the playing field here. Lastly, you have fast-growing email-focused vendors, agencies, and software companies that could make for nice bait for companies (I wrote about “The Fastest Growing and Most Valuable Email Marketing Companies“) looking to get into this space — one that if you buy into the McKinsey study is only going to get more dollars to chase new customers. 

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