Email Marketing – Is the future bright or is the end in sight?

Since the meteoric take-up of opt-in email as a viable marketing communications tool during the 1990s, there are those who have consistently predicted its eventual demise. Fast forward a decade or so and email marketing remains a principal weapon of choice for many marketers tasked with trumpeting out their messaging for businesses of all sizes and in all industry sectors.

In fact, such in the stubborn resistance that email marketing continues to display, that independent research company Forrester Research has recently released a report that predicts email marketing spend will rocket to around $2 billion in the US by 2014. This roughly represents a jaw-dropping 11 percent compound annual growth rate. And this despite the current economic situation which itself may be acting as a catalyst for increased investment in email marketing rather than as a barrier.

The great survivor

There are a number of very compelling reasons why email marketing has sustained its position of prominence as a valuable marketing channel.

Cost: Email marketing is virtually unrivaled for highly desirable per recipient costs that can be attributed mainly to no print, no postage and no mailing logistics expenses.
Time to Market: An email campaign can be completed and, if necessary, tweaked in just a few hours compared to a traditional direct mail campaign which often takes days or even weeks.
Response Rate: Typically, the response rate for opt-in email marketing is many times greater than its natural competitor direct mail. It also allows you to adjust aspects of your campaign according to the results.
Measurable Results: Email campaigns are highly trackable compared to other marketing channels and deliver near real-time statistics for accurate reporting and analysis.
Willing Influencers: While a recipient may not always act on a value proposition, there’s always a possibility that they might share the information with others. They are doing the marketers’ job for them at no cost or effort to the originator.
Are those clouds on the horizon?

The march of technology is as unrelenting as it is fast paced so it’s inevitable that email marketing continues to face up to its fair share of suitors vying for a share of the lucrative online marketing space.
The ‘new kids on the block’, the assortment of easily accessible and mostly free social media tools have certainly made a huge impact, but rather than directly challenge email marketing as a mass marketing methodology, they can actually serve to fuel the use of email.

At first glance, popular social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn appear to threaten email because of its ‘closed’ structure which limits communication to just its members. In fact, email is actually highly integrated into social networking and while social media is changing the way we communicate, it’s not completely replacing the way we send information.

There’s life in the ‘old dog’ yet.

The e-marketing tail is still wagging as strongly as ever but a few cautionary words are needed at this point. The biggest threat to the continued success of email marketing could come from within – in other words, email marketers must take care not to ‘love it to death’.

As the amount of personal and commercial email sent out globally has increased dramatically over recent years, there are now signs that this trend cannot continue without some kind of price to be paid.

Yet few marketers seem to be slowing down the frequency or reducing the volume of their e-messaging. This suggests that some thought needs to be urgently applied to creating a more streamlined approach to direct communication online unless this long-established and highly effective medium is sacrificed on the altar of excess.

The law of diminishing returns

The spend on ad-sponsored newsletters is set to double over the next five years as traditional print publishers combat falling circulation and reduced advertising revenue. Forrester Research also predicts that within this time frame, “consumers will be deluged with more than 9,000 email marketing messages annually.” That’s an average of a couple of dozen every single day of the week! It seems likely that there will be many email recipients tapping their delete key with increasing regularity and with mounting irritation.

This effect has serious potential for email marketing to being a descent into the void of disenfranchised audiences who embrace email with all the enthusiasm of a farmer sighting a swarm of crop eating pests. For email marketers to successfully sidestep the all-powerful spam filters only to fall at the final hurdle would be lamentable.

It’s common practice for businesses to use in-house resources for their email marketing. Predictably, this meets with varying levels of success so it’s worth considering engaging the services of a reputable email marketing specialist to maximize marketing spend and achieve a solid return on investment.