OPINION: The case for email in a difficult marketing climate

Rob Harlow

Rob Harlow, Chief Innovation Officer at Outbase

When the going gets tough, marketers always seem to be in the firing line.

Experience has taught us time and time again that cutting back too hard on marketing during the hard times inevitably leads to trouble in the future, but marketing activities are still often high on the list when cost-cutting is on the agenda.

With all that’s happening in the economy at the moment, it’s not surprising that budgets are under scrutiny. Inflation, energy and other living costs are all on the rise – and a recession is looming on the horizon.

Recent turmoil has shaken the financial services market. Businesses across the country are facing a period of uncertainty, which is likely to result in a general tightening of the purse strings. Marketers, particularly in smaller firms, will need to think about where their priorities lie and how they can get the most out of their shrinking budgets.

With a plethora of new technology and channels to choose from today, it may come as a surprise to some that email marketing is proving to be the most efficient tool for businesses during difficult times.

Email has often been relegated to the sidelines, but the reality is that this channel is still by far the most effective way to reach your business to business (B2B) customers.

In May 2022, we spoke to 500 marketers and business professionals and found that almost three quarters of marketers (71.4%) had seen increases in engagement from email marketing over the past two years. What’s more, 71% of B2B buyers said that email is their preferred method of being contacted.

In the era of TikTok and the metaverse, email prospecting may not seem like the most exciting tactic for marketers. However, it’s certainly one of the most effective. It contains all the core elements needed to create a steady stream of new clients – finding the right people, crafting the right messages and delivering these directly to the decision makers that matter – at a fraction of the cost of an omnichannel campaign. These are the fundamentals that will help to safeguard your future business and get the most out of your marketing budget, especially when times get tough.

Beware of the D-word

There are, however, some pitfalls to look out for. Our research has shown that, in the past 12-24 months, many email databases have become outdated. Dubbed “database decay”, this issue has been exacerbated by the large amount of job movement that has resulted from the pandemic and the subsequent “great resignation”.

As a result, marketers are experiencing unusually high bounce rates. In fact, almost 70% reported increased bounces for email marketing campaigns during the past 12-24 months, and there’s also still room for improvement when it comes to engagement – an essential ingredient for a successful email marketing.

So, how can you ensure that your email marketing campaigns live up to their utmost potential?

1. Your data is your bedrock.

When it comes to your database, small is beautiful. Clean your data regularly and add human expertise to your technology to achieve optimum results. Size is of little importance until you are confident of quality so delete any data that isn’t working. Inaccurate data is useless, so don’t be afraid to ditch the entire database and start afresh.

2. Tailor your messages.

Irrelevant emails are a sure way of triggering unsubscribes, and if your database is large there’s no way a single email will hit the mark. Use your CRM to segment your potential customers – time invested in personalisation is always well spent.

3. Mind your language.

As Coco Chanel famously said: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”. The same applies to your email prospecting campaign. Skip the marketing speak and use writing that is simple and easy to read, regardless of the audience. Then read the email again (there’s always jargon to cut!)

4. Ask just one thing.

A single, immediate call to action (CTA) is vital. Including more than one will reduce engagement.

5. Review and evaluate your strategy.

Measure everything you can. Did your last message really hit the mark? Has your click rate had an effect on the sales pipeline? Should you be looking for new data?

As businesses across the country head into a climate where every penny needs to make a difference, savvy marketers are focusing on the technology and channels that yield the best return on investment.

As the data clearly shows, email marketing is still one of the most efficient channels for small firms, and investment in getting it right is vital. By arming yourself with the right data, crafting a strong message, and focusing on the channels that deliver the best results, at the lowest cost, you can ensure you stand out against the competition.

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