Scan the marketing press, and, seemingly, all that marketers care about is social media. If that sounds like your marketing department (or, worse, you), it’s time to get your priorities straight.
Don’t get me wrong: having a killer social media content plan and well-planned social media calendar are important for increasing brand awareness, especially among the younger generations. But when it comes to turning leads into customers, actually making sales, and engaging directly with those that spend money on your products and services, email marketing is still king.
The truth is that email marketing ROI is higher than any other form of advertising – including social media. In this article, we’ll look at why and how you can make the most of this slightly counter-intuitive fact.
Here’s the first and most obvious reason why email marketing remains more effective than social media outreach campaigns. More people use email than any other form of online communication. As a result, it still represents the gold standard when it comes to digital messaging and still has a far larger reach than social media.
Take a quick look at the statistics on email usage, and you’ll see what I mean. Facebook – the largest social media platform – has around 2.5 billion users, many of whom are not active. In contrast, in 2019, global email users amounted to 3.9 billion users. This figure is expected to grow to 4.3 billion users by 2023. That’s half of the world’s population.
It’s unlikely, of course, that your email marketing list contains half the world’s population. But you should also recognize that the people who have signed up to receive emails are much more valuable to you than your social media followers because, in most cases, they have already expressed an interest in your products. Simply put, your email list represents a higher number of potential customers.
2. The Personal Touch
A second reason why email marketing generates more sales (and makes more money) than social media outreach is that most people regard emails as more personal and more relatable than a Facebook post.
In other words, one of the four harsh realities of social media is that most of your followers have been ignoring the content you post there for years. This is especially true when it comes to Millenials and Gen Z, who have developed extremely sophisticated filters driven by the necessity of prioritizing the tsunami of content rushing towards them every day.
By contrast, most people spend a significant amount of time going through their email inbox, even if they only clear it out once a month. Instead of ignoring the content they find there, they assess the relevance of each message. This makes email more likely to receive direct attention, if only for a few seconds, than social media.
Though the use of ever more sophisticated screening software is on the rise as people seek to limit the amount of spam they receive, research shows that if you stick to the point, they will recognize the value of your emails and not be annoyed.
3. Better Content
Here’s a third major advantage of using email marketing over social media campaigns, albeit one that is often forgotten. Most organizations can produce “better” email content than their corresponding efforts at making Youtube videos go viral.
Producing high-quality, professional videos or the next viral music video takes a lot of time, money, expertise, and luck. If you are blessed with all three of these things, go ahead and base your strategy on social media. If – like the majority of organizations – these factors are in short supply, focus on what you can do well.
For most firms, that means going back to basics with a fresh look at email marketing. Because emails are quick and easy to create (especially if you use an automated system, which I’ll come back to below), you can easily experiment with different strategies.
So don’t overthink it. Brainstorm ideas based on what you think your audience wants to see and needs more information on. Plan out your campaigns and be sure to incorporate promotions or product features.
In other words, email can act as a great “leveler” for smaller firms looking to get the most out of their digital marketing budgets. Because even the smallest firm can easily produce emails that are as technologically sophisticated as Google’s, the gap between your own firm and a major corporate competitor can be narrowed. This is a key reason why, for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42.
4. The Traditional Ways
Here’s another way of looking at the same point. While social media marketing has been the major success story of the past decade, it’s ROI has not yet reached that of email marketing. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that it never will because the ROI of social media content is actually decreasing as more brands pile into the space and try to attract attention.
For that reason (as well as the others on this list), firms that had in place an effective email marketing strategy before the rise of social media have continued to see its value. The latest statistics show that as many as 87 percent of successful marketers use email marketing to disseminate their content.
This makes email the third most popular distribution channel, just behind social media at 91 percent and the company website or blog at 89 percent, but by far the most effective in securing new customers.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the ROI. For every marketing dollar you spend, the most return comes from your email marketing efforts. And as your business grows, you’ll have to spread your marketing dollars across other channels, and knowing up front that email marketing is the most effective will help you allocate those dollars wisely.
5. Simplicity and Technology
Finally, let’s deal with a common misconception about email marketing. This is that the metrics, KPIs, and analytics you can obtain via social media outreach are far more detailed – and therefore more valuable – than those you can get via email marketing systems.
To some degree, this is true. Even a basic trial of Google AdWords allows you to access an impressive (and potentially confusing) cache of data on who interacts with your ads, when, and where. However, for most organizations, this data is worse than useless because it can lead you to focus on metrics rather than what matters when it comes to advertising: connecting with your customers.
In other words, most popular email automation systems provide more than enough data on how your digital marketing is performing while also getting out of the way and letting you produce great copy. This is the reason why 81 percent of SMBs still rely on email as their primary customer acquisition channel, and 80 percent for retention, and why emails with personalized subject lines generate 50 percent higher open rates.
If you are looking to improve the ROI on your digital marketing, take a holistic view. Clicks on social media content might be gratifying, but they are not orders. A laser-like focus on generating orders, revenue, and profit will always be more effective than being blinded by the number of Insta followers you have.
Of course, and despite all the points I’ve made above, social media remains an important part of every organization’s digital marketing campaigns. Social media is great – the only danger is focusing entirely on Facebook and forgetting that you already have a fast, cheap, and effective way of messaging your customers directly.
For this reason, it’s worth investigating some of the resources we’ve made available on how to use email in conjunction with other forms of marketing. For instance, it’s possible to deploy email to boost your social media followers, or even to take the opposite approach and use social media in your email marketing.
Whichever approach you take, though, remember this. Email remains the gold standard when it comes to customer communications. Ignore it at your own peril.
Brian Skewes is a technologist into deconstruction. Over two decades of self-employment, he has accumulated a wealth of inadvertent real-world lessons related to building, running, and preserving a small company.