5 Email Marketing Myths Debunked

Back in 1978, Gary Thuerk sent the first mass email to about 400 people. He used the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network because the Internet as we know it didn’t exist yet. That email was about products made by Digital Equipment Corp and it resulted in $13 million of sales. Thus, email marketing was born.

Email marketing predates social media by about 25 years, and, in a business easily seduced by the new, email marketing seems to have lost its glamour. Indeed, there is a misperception that it doesn’t work anymore. People think it is too old. It’s tired. It’s not social enough.

Let’s set the record straight.

Myth 1: Email marketing is not effective anymore.

Reality: Email marketing might actually be one of the most effective tools out there. And it seems to be becoming even more effective in an increasingly mobile society.

According to an article by Aaron Beashel, an email is 6 times more likely to get a click-through than a tweet. An email is 5 times more likely to be seen than a Facebook post. Beashel writes that email drives “more conversions than other marketing channels, including search and social.”

An article from the Campaign Monitor explains that for every dollar spent on email marketing, the average company sees a return of investment of $38. It also suggests that email is 40 times better than Facebook or Twitter for acquiring new customers.

Not only is email marketing effective, it seems like people prefer it: 72 percent of people prefer to receive promotional content through email. In comparison, only 17 percent prefer receiving promotional content via social media.

“Consumers prefer email marketing because they are in control and they trust brands to respect their preferences,” said Bryan Wade, Salesforce Marketing Cloud SVP and Chief Product Officer, in a Q&A. “And they’re in control of email because marketers have rightfully given them that control, allowing customers to manage preferences and unsubscribes.”

These days more and more emails are opened and read on mobile devices, so emails that are optimized for mobile might just be the best of the most effective marketing tool in your toolkit.

Myth 2: People don’t open emails.

Reality: People open their emails more often than they do other things online. MailChimp runs analytics on huge numbers of email campaigns. The most successful email campaigns have open rates of up to 89 percent. If you don’t see numbers like that for your emails, don’t worry too much. Most industries see average open rates of between 20 and 30 percent.  

You need to give people a reason to open your emails. A good subject line is the most effective way to entice your readers.

MailChimp ran tests to see what subject lines were most opened. They found that the most opened emails had subject lines that were straightforward. They weren’t salesy or flashy. “Heck, some people might even say they’re boring,” according to MailChimp staff.

The least likely emails to be opened? Those had subject lines that “read like headlines from advertisements you’d see in the Sunday paper.”

MailChimp’s advice for writing the best email subject lines? “This might sound dead-simple, but here you have it: Your subject line should (drum roll please) describe the subject of your email. Yep, that’s it.”

Myth 3: You can’t design emails.

Reality: You really can design emails. You already do. It’s challenging because people open their emails using different programs and different devices. But there are certainly a few best practices to follow.

Be mindful of your text treatment. Your font size should be big enough to be read on a phone, but not so big that it would be ridiculous on a computer screen. Think about contrast and use appropriate white space.

A little design trick for emails is including a call to action button instead of a text link. This can increase conversion rates by as much as 28 percent.

Up to 60 percent of people will be reading your email on a smart phone, and in the years to come that number will only grow.

“The number one trend I see in the email marketing space right now is redesigning an email completely to improve click-through rates on a mobile device,” according to Wade.

Creating a mobile-first design for your emails requires that you really focus on your content. What is your key message? What action are you trying to get people to take? Whatever it is, it has to come first so that it is visible when the email is opened.

Put something that will quickly engage at the top of your email. A great sentence. An animated gif. A beautiful image that communicates your message.

Check out this email from charity: water and how well it uses images:

Myth 4: Emails aren’t interactive.

Reality: Emails can include a whole host of interactive elements. You can insert an animated gif or other moving images. You can link to all sorts of things. You can drive people to video. You can invite people to take action, sign a petition, make a donation or buy a product.

Indeed, there is something you can do in email marketing that is much more difficult to do in other media: personalization. It isn’t often you can use someone’s name in marketing, but in an email you can use someone’s name and other data about them. Birthday? Check. Interests? Sure. Age and gender? Yup. Depending on the information you have about the people you are emailing, you can tailor your email in any number of ways.

Just like the way people like it when you use their name in conversation, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. A personalized email feels more like an interaction that a receiving a broadcast.

Myth 5: Emails aren’t great for measurement and analytics.

Reality: Marketers really focus on measurement. It makes sense: we need to know what is working and what isn’t. Email offers a whole load of information about how your audience is receiving your message. Not only can you can see who opens your email and who clicks through it, with newer software, you can get that information in real time. When a reader clicks on your email and goes to your website, you can track their entire user experience.

Using the analytics to measure the success of an email campaign allows you to create better email campaigns in the future. Hubspot has a helpful article about what kinds of information that is most important to gather about an email campaign.

Hint: Open rate isn’t as important as return on investment. Click-through rate isn’t as important as the rate at which you grow your email list.