Email marketing is the art and science of communicating a marketing message using email. It involves creating compelling marketing messages, gathering email addresses of prospects, using software to deliver messages to prospects, and tracking the results of email marketing campaigns.
But is it effective? Absolutely! A 2011 study from Ziff-Davis showed that email marketing is the most effective marketing technique used by businesses-with twice the performance of direct mail marketing and five times the return of television advertising!
Forty percent of businesses expect to spend more on email marketing next year. At the same time, Forrester Research shows that people have a better attitude about receiving email marketing communications than they used to. From 2006 to 2010, the percentage of people saying they received "too many" email offers dropped from 77% to less than 50%.
Businesses report that they consider email marketing to be somewhat effective or very effective with respect to the following:
- Building brand awareness
- Supporting offline marketing programs
- Increasing website traffic
- Increasing sales revenue
- Improving customer relations and retention
Experienced marketers report that the shift to mobile delivery of email to smartphones and tablets is the biggest change happening in the industry, so be sure to ask about mobile optimization when signing up with an email marketing service.
Another trend is timed messages or drip campaigns, where messages are automatically sent to subscribers on a scheduled basis.
A major priority for email marketers is better list segmentation-the ability to divide a list by such factors as how recently a purchase was made, how often the customer buys, the average size of a customer's order, and other factors. Be sure to ask your email service provider how your list can be segmented, and how many variables you can track ("custom fields").
Combining list segmentation and drip campaigns results in lifecycle segmentation, where the messages are customized and scheduled based on how recently prospects engaged, and how active their involvement has been. Email marketers using lifecycle segmentation report five times the results of those sending identical messages to everyone on the list.
Social sharing features have extended the reach of email marketing messages, making it easy for people to "like" or share your emails. Almost all email marketing services now include social-sharing features in their monthly packages at no additional cost.