What you will learn
In today’s episode, Gael and Mark discuss the state of email marketing. Is it dead?
Ok, hand’s up, neither of us actually think it’s dead as such but, in our opinion, it’s definitely not growing.
Throughout today’s podcast, we’ll look at what’s causing the email marketing malaise and identify trends that are contributing to it.
We’ll also analyze alternatives to email marketing and highlight where email marketing is still an important tool.
Why isn’t Email Marketing Growing?
There are two major factors contributing to the slowdown of email marketing. These are:
- Marketers find email marketing hard
- Technology is changing the way we use email
Why Do Marketers Find Email Marketing So Difficult?
As part of the AH Pro online course, we do 1-to-1 sit downs with our members. Gael sits down with each member to tell them what he would do if it were his website.
One thing that comes up over again is that people are not even trying to build email lists anymore. A year and a half ago this was different. People were at least trying to build lists but something seems to have changed over the past year.
To get to the bottom of this, we ran a poll on our Facebook group to get some real feedback from the AH Pro community.
The reasons given were as follows:
- I tried and I couldn’t get people to opt-in.
- There are no good products to promote in my niche.
- I use Amazon to monetize, so I can’t monetize through email.
- I don’t feel like enough of an expert to speak directly to people in my niche.
- Email sales language doesn’t feel authentic.
- It’s too much work, on-page sales are easier.
A lot of these arguments boil down to the same thing. Email marketing is a skill that takes time and effort to learn.
A lot of what we do in online marketing is systems based. This allows marketers to pick up a system and replicate it almost exactly. Whether this is link building techniques or ways to increase your following on social media.
Where email marketing differs is that it takes a lot of trial and error to find out what works. It is a skill that needs to be learned and experimented with.
When we started doing email marketing, we used a course called The Machine. It came with templates included.
The mistake that we, and many other internet marketers, made was to copy the templates and use them. We didn’t customize them enough to suit our audience. The situation we then found ourselves in was that the emails did not sound authentic. They sounded as though they had been written by someone else. This was because they had been.
Finding your voice is a huge part of email marketing. This is one of the areas that takes the most trial and error. The way of writing an email is very salesy and this can make many people feel uncomfortable.
What Changes in Technology are Steering People Away from Email?
In the past, one of the main arguments for email was that it allows you to stay in contact with people who had only visited your website once. In fact, it was the only way to do this.
However, now there are lots of ways to do this. Now everyone has a smartphone and this is where they tend to read their emails. This means that email apps are in control of whether your customers are notified of your email. They get to choose whether or not your email should prompt a notification.
This lack of control has led to push notifications being a better tool to get traffic back to your site. Instead of relying upon the Gmail app, for example, to give the user a notification, you have control over the process.
This can be a much more effective way to get mobile traffic to your site.
Along the same lines, on desktop you will find that there is almost a monopoly from the email clients. Most people’s personal email will be with either Gmail, Hotmail or a handful of other similar companies.
These companies are changing the way that they display emails. Google has introduced the promotions tab which is killing open rates.
In fact, the entire way that we use email has changed. Where email used to be a way to communicate personally, it is now very rare to send someone an email in a personal context. Now if you need to communicate with family overseas you can just send them a message on Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger.
This has led to emails being less personal and more promotional or transactional. The main reason many people use their email nowadays is to communicate with brands or to get notifications on purchases, such as flight tickets or deliveries from Amazon.
If you look at my last five personal emails, you can see that they are all from brands, and three of them are unopened.
This changes our relationship with our inbox. We are now quite happy to not check our inbox for a week. When we do finally check our inbox, we are also much happier to mass delete emails without checking them because we know we won’t have missed anything crucial.
Retargeting works great on desktop and this solves the problem that we used to use email to solve – it is the only way to stay in touch with customers. Some could argue that it does an even better job because you automatically opt-in to retargeting simply by visiting the site.
In fact, we now find that we can get more clicks with retargeting than we do with email. There is also more control with retargeting. Mid way through a campaign, you can pause and optimize the ad depending upon the results. This isn’t the case for email. Once it is sent, it’s final.
We are also seeing a rise in messenger bots on Facebook. These also fulfill the promise of staying in touch with visitors. These have high engagement rates at the moment because they are new and FB Messenger is in a place where email was years ago where it is still a place for personal communication. It is likely that these messenger bots will become less effective as more companies begin to use them.
There is also social media in general as a tool to keep in touch with customers although this is more effective when paid, especially on Facebook.
In fact, what we are seeing is that it is often cyclical. Internet marketers ruin everything. We discover a new technique, everyone jumps on the bandwagon and you begin to see a smaller return for more work. At this point of saturation, many people then jump off the bandwagon to move on to the latest tactic. What happens is that the old technique tends to become more effective again.
This may be the case with email, but it feels as though there is too much of fundamental shift in the way that people treat their inboxes for email marketing to come back stronger.
When and Why is Email Still Great?
When you have your own product, email is the best way to promote it.
There is no other channel that can drive as many sales as email in as short a period of time.
When you can set up an email automation sequence, go to bed and then wake up in the morning having made $2k there is no real argument against email working.
Email simply requires hard work to find the right voice for your audience along with a highly targeted email list.
The most important aspect, however, is the level of trust and credibility you have with your audience. If you cannot convey your expertise or if your readers do not value your recommendations then there is no way to be successful with email.
What does that mean for authority sites?
We have always recommended that you begin an authority site with one traffic source and one monetization method.
In the past, we might have suggested that building an email list should be one of your top priorities but, this just isn’t the case anymore. Collecting emails should no longer be your main call to action.
Instead, we would suggest pushing soft opts-ins. Mainly, push notifications on mobile and retargeting for desktop.
You can then use these efforts to push people towards squeeze pages where they can subscribe to your email list. This way you will only get the most engaged people on your email list. At the moment, we feel that email is about the quality of your list rather than the quantity.
As we mentioned earlier, personal email accounts have gravitated to a handful of suppliers. The suppliers, such as Gmail, want to see engagement. By having a small, high-quality email list, you can give them this engagement and not be flagged as spam.
The most important thing to be successful with email is to use all these tools together. Where we have failed with email in the past is when we have taken it in isolation. Using email in conjunction with push notifications and retargeting is what will allow you to get good results.
One of the main arguments for sticking with email (or any secondary traffic source) is that it gives you stability. It may be easier to go with a market penetration strategy where double down with on-page sales but diversification will give you a lot more stability.
Having traffic from various sources and various methods of monetization are what will really increase the value of your site in the long run. You are more likely to make hundred of thousands or even millions of dollars from having a few big websites than you are from having lots of small sites.
If you’re looking for a step by step guide outlining how to set-up an authority site from scratch with a real life case study, check out our online training course – The Authority Site System.