Sales guru, Tyler Garns, Director of Marketing, Infusionsoft, shares his predictions for email marketing in 2012.
As 2011 comes to a close, email marketing steps out of the ring bloodied and bruised, but not beaten. Despite efforts from some camps to claim that email marketing has died and social media has taken over, email continues to be the single most effective marketing medium for the average small business. The ForeSee Results Report on Social Media Marketing (US Edition) reports 64 percent of consumers prefer to receive promotional information for retailers via email instead of social media. In addition, email campaigns continue to convert to sales at a higher rate than social media campaigns alone.
But, the world is ever changing and email is no different. Today’s consumer wants control of the buying process. And in the younger crowds, buyers aren’t using email as much as they used to. So, if email is going to continue to be effective for small businesses, some evolution needs to take place.
Here are my five predictions for how email marketing will evolve in 2012 to meet the demands of small business marketers and consumers alike.
- Email as a first contact will decline further. The CAN SPAM Act of 2003 is actually much more lenient than most people realize. According to the act, it is OK for businesses to purchase lists of “interested” leads and email them as a form of initial contact to drum up business. In most email marketing circles, we now call this SPAM. It’s just not right to email people without explicit permission anymore. With SPAM reporting improving and consumers’ tolerance decreasing, the effectiveness of this kind of marketing is in serious trouble. I believe we’ll begin to see fewer and fewer marketers making initial contact through email and finding creative ways to get permission to email.
- Email as follow up will become even stronger. Email is the perfect medium for following up with interested prospects. It’s fast, it’s inexpensive and can be very personal. Email autoresponders have been given a bad name because some businesses don’t use them right. The result is people get irrelevant messages. As marketers become savvier and understand how to use this technology the right way, email autoresponders will continue to be the method of choice for follow-up.
- Email will become more relevant. The main reason email autoresponders can sometimes leave people with a bad taste in their mouth is because they don’t adapt. Marketing automation technology that has emerged over the last few years allows autoresponders to “intelligently” adapt the message based on the recipient’s behavior (whether they open, click, don’t click, purchase, or other behaviors). In 2012, this technology will become more mainstream. This allows email to be more relevant for the recipient, making it more effective for the sender. It’s a win-win scenario.
- Email will become more social. No doubt, social media is here to stay. It’s a very effective medium to engage with prospects and customers, drive traffic to a website, and build lasting relationships. Facebook has begun the crossover of email and social with the release of their messaging platform. During 2012, you will see the lines between these two mediums blurred even further. At a simple level, email will allow for social connections and social platforms will include messaging platforms (like Facebook) that are basically email with a different wrapper. You’ll also see marketing automation systems integrate with social platforms in order to allow autoresponders to adapt based on cues from social interactions. This gets pretty exciting.
- Email will get more mobile. According to a report released by Experian Marketing Services this year, 52 percent of consumers access email via their smartphones (http://www.cheetahmail.com/knowledge_center/the-2011-mobile-consumer-report/). Many people read email on their mobile devices. That means email needs to continue to be more mobile. No more will the “Having trouble reading this email” link appease readers. Readers will demand that email is legible natively on their mobile devices. We may also see a convergence of MMS (multimedia text messaging) and email in some circles. Another technology that could evolve into the email space is QR codes. In fact, Experian Marketing Services also says that search queries containing “QR” have increased 214 percent since the beginning of 2011. Imagine being able to opt-in to email communications by simply scanning a QR code. Currently this is possible, but most aren’t using this yet. I think we’ll see it become more commonplace in 2012.
The bottom line is that email marketing has a healthy outlook in 2012 as long as marketers use it appropriately. Email technology and email clients have evolved very little over the years. Great opportunity awaits those who can crack the nut on the next version of email. One thing that has plagued email marketers is that most email clients won’t play a video embedded in an email. Flash, HTML5, and other interactive mediums are also lacking support in most email clients. This leaves email as a fairly static medium in an ever-increasingly interactive world. Whoever solves these problems will usher email into the next generation in a healthy way.