by Cathi Mason
Ten years have passed since the dawn of the 21st century, when Internet users were bracing for the Y2K meltdown. Since then, our relationship with the Web has gone from a hobby to a way of life. Email marketing, too, has evolved from a nice-to-have add-on, to an essential way of doing business for millions of companies. Here’s a look back at the top five best practices that have emerged over the past decade, ones that may very well endure into the next.
1) Email marketing is the glue that binds successful online marketing campaigns. Before the 21st century, email marketing was still considered risky and unproven in terms of generating results. Within the past 10 years, email has not only replaced direct marketing, but it is now a top revenue generator for many companies. Even with the meteoric rise of social media, email remains at the heart of all online applications and will remain there for the foreseeable future. Email should be the hub of any online marketing strategy for the best chance at success.
2) “Spray and pray” doesn’t work. It’s hard to believe that this mass email approach is still employed by marketers, but it is alive and well. Not only is this approach not strategic, but it is often rejected by ISPs. Relevance is critical to email marketing success. Marketers must respect the opt-in process and create timely, personalized communications that entice the recipient to not only open the message, but act on it, too.
3) Get your emails to the inbox. In the old days (or, the late ’90s) when email marketing was still in its infancy, many marketers were so focused on pushing their emails out, they gave little thought about whether they were actually received. Ten years later, it is clear that email deliverability is one of the most important aspects of email marketing. After all, a recipient cannot read and act upon your email message if they never received it in the first place. How can businesses ensure their emails are delivered? It starts with a solid online reputation. Businesses with great online reputations ensure that every message they send is welcomed by the recipient and are respectful of their email preferences.
4) Viral content is still king. In 1999, an email that was forwarded to friends and co-workers was considered viral. Social media has taken the concept of viral to the next level, thanks to content-sharing sites like YouTube, Facebook and Linkedin. In spite of this evolution, email forwards from friends, co-workers and even the aforementioned social media sites are still a very effective way to market your business in the 21st century. Therefore it is important to make your content engaging and shareable.
5) Measure the results, not the indicators. In the late 1990s, when marketers began shifting from direct mail marketing, the measurability of email was what made it so appealing: the number of opens, click-throughs and bouncebacks were often the measure of a campaign’s success. With the growth of technology and real-time analytics over the past decade, email marketers have unprecedented insight into whether a campaign converted recipients into customers. So while open rates and click-throughs are great indicators of how your email was received, and whether it engaged your recipients, the business results of the campaign are most important in the ultimate evaluation.