The glory days of outbound marketing are slowly drawing to a close, and are being replaced with a new form of marketing called inbound marketing. Instead of pushing sales pitches at the customer, savvy marketers are now using compelling content to draw customers toward them. Experts argue the latter is more effective and less intrusive.
Caught up in the middle is the fate of email as a marketing tool. When drawing up a comparison between outbound and inbound marketing, email is often lumped into the mass communication, spam category of outbound marketing. For the following reasons, this is a flawed conclusion I would urge CMOs to reconsider:
1. Just like social media, email is an “opt-in” channel
If a person wants to access your tweets on Twitter, they follow you. If a person would like to read your LinkedIn updates, they connect with you. If a person would like to view your Facebook posts, they Friend you. Similarly, if a person wants to receive email newsletters or updates, they subscribe to your channel.
The difference between social platforms and email is that you can send an email without receiving prior permission, and this is why email communication has been tainted. The solution, however, is not to kill email; it is to apply an opt-in strategy to your email marketing program.
2. Every channel is a mass communication channel
Each one of the channels mentioned above is a one-to-many communication platform. You can argue that Twitter enables mass messaging, and the same goes with Facebook and LinkedIn. All have content streams that have to be monitored and checked for information, just like you have to check your email inbox.
In this regard, email is no different than the channels that support inbound marketing.
3. Spam isn’t where you think it is
Here’s the Wikipedia definition of spamming:
Electronic spamming is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages (spam), especially advertising, indiscriminately.
With promoted updates now being introduced across all social platforms, you are going to receive unsolicited messages – spam, some might call it – amidst new inbound marketing content.
But here’s the rub: people with well-managed inboxes will receive less spam, because they have a number of services preventing spam from entering their inbox. For them, spam is blocked at the Internet Service Provider, blocked by their company firewall, or sent directly to the junk mail folder on their computer.
4. If you ask permission, you will enjoy more success
If you provide an email subscription service that enables prospects and clients to provide optional information – such as their company, job title, seniority level, country, desired communication frequency and other interests – you will be able to give customers what they want and when they want.
People crave information, if it is relevant, useful and well-timed. By collecting and respecting personal preferences, your organisation builds credibility, trust and confidence.
The important thing is not to abuse this channel.
5. Email is still the preferred channel
Progressive marketers are moving to inbound marketing models because they work well, but many of your clients and prospects are not moving as quickly.
We have conducted research with existing clients and prospects, most of whom were senior managers and executives within our target market. We were surprised to find that over 90% of these individuals still preferred a personalised, weekly email. They favoured a short, skimmable introduction to the content we were introducing, with a link to download or read more.
Abuse has given email a bad name, but – managed correctly – email is still a viable and often-preferred marketing channel.
Let’s not forget that every single social and blogging platform still uses email to contact their respective users to bring them back to their platforms.
David Graham is the Digital Engagement Leader at Deloitte Africa. He focuses on B2B digital marketing, relationship marketing and content marketing. You can email him at email@example.com
Image: 28 Dreams/Flickr