Email Marketing: Are Newsletters the New Junk Mail?

Previously it was direct mail, fliers and letters addressed to "Resident" that left recipients cringing, now it's the constant stream of "last chance," "OPEN NOW!" and "offer expires soon" that have subscribers dreading the majority of email correspondence received. Yet many marketers and businesses believe that the newsletter is an essential, if not primary, component to the marketing mix. Without it, how else will they share their information or reach potential and profitable customers?

This week I breakdown why I believe newsletters need a revamp and what brands can do to engage their fans instead.

email-marketing-junk-mail

The New Direct Mail

It wasn’t until the 1990s that business-to-consumer email marketing campaigns rose in popularity (source). As the average consumer became accustomed to email as a communication medium, businesses and big brands decided that the newsletter could be an advantageous way to boost sales by engaging customer’s participation. What started as simple ways to pitch a sale ultimately ended in a bombardment of useless and often mass-produced content that bypassed basic relationship-building fundamentals.

Email Marketing Myths

  • Funnels improve sales.
  • People won't buy from you until they've heard from you X number of times, so keep those emails coming even if the content isn't useful or interesting...it's better to show up in their inbox regularly.
  • Once you've carved out a coveted spot in someone's inbox, you now have their "permission". Use it! Sell, sell, sell.
  • Some people (most) won't open your emails, but they also won't unsubscribe. So, put their pain point right in the subject line so you can trick them into opening your message
I’ve been told that content (regardless of quality) needs to go out every single week and that this ‘trains’ your list to see you as providing value so when you send a sales email they feel the need to reciprocate your “giving” with a purchase.
— Anonymous, Small Business Marketing Entrepreneur & Coach

While services such as MailChimp claim they send over 400 million emails per day (source), one has to wonder how many of those emails are opened and interacted with. Search for ‘email marketing and persuasion tactics’ on Google and you’ll be given a long list of the top tricks used to psychologically persuade consumers to engage in sales pitches and email content. With a lack of personalization and trust-building, along with overt self-promotion, is the newsletter dead?

Not quite, according to many. While some agree that the newsletter is an archaic and outdated form of communication in the age of smartphone applications and social media popularity, others believe it can take a backseat but still be an integral aspect to a marketing campaign if done correctly (see here). When used as a companion to other marketing tactics, newsletters can redeem their ways and find meaning in the inbox once again. But first there must be a story to tell.

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The Rise Of Reciprocity And Urgency

The two primary persuasion principles used in email marketing today are reciprocity and urgency.

RECIPROCITY

It seems most, if not all, marketers believe that by giving something away (no matter the quality of content), they can then use your email to pitch you everything in their catalogue. Instead of taking the time to get to know your need and desires, they bypass personalization and go straight for the profits.

This is both outdated and disrespectful.

URGENCY

FIRE!

Did I get your attention? Marketers sure hope so. Emails with subjects such as:

  • Last Chance!
  • Don’t Miss Out!
  • I’m sorry you missed out!
  • I guess you don’t want your free ____
  • Cart Closing!
  • Did you see this?

I like to call this newsletter clickbait because...it is. This sense of urgency, like you are missing out on the most AMAZING offer in the world, is a tactic used by brands big and small to get you to open their emails and hopefully buy. Truth is, most often than not it’s actually causing more unsubscribes. But with no better way to do it, brands feel they have no choice but to do what’s always been done.

Until now.

5 Ways To Revamp Your Email Marketing Strategy

If you value quality content and having more intimate conversations with people who come in contact with your brand, you’re in luck! There IS a better way to do email marketing and I can promise your sales - and subscribers - will thank you.

1 | Make Blogging Your #1 Priority

The trending term would be ‘content marketing’ but we all know it’s the simple act of blogging that drives traffic and builds authority. Where most brands go wrong is using their email marketing to push sales instead of connecting. So while a subscriber may have joined a newsletter in the hopes of becoming part of their favorite brand’s core story, they instead were bombarded with discounts and sales pitches that lead them to unsubscribe.

2 | Always Start with the Story

Weaving your brand story into everything you do means taking a long hard look at your newsletter and evaluating what it communicates to the subscriber. Is it sleazy? Aggressive? Do you talk more than you listen? Once you see yourself from the other side you can better incorporate your brand’s core story into your email marketing strategy.

One of the best ways to do this is to discover your brand archetype, the personality that best resonates with your brand and potential customers. Each brand builds a personality based on the 12 Jungian archetypes central to personality development. By tapping into your brand’s core personality, you better speak to your customers’ wants, desires and needs.

3 | Don’t Be Afraid To Do Things Differently

So what if your competitors send out discounts every few days? Who cares that your industry thinks newsletter are the ONLY way to communicate what you offer? At the end of the day how you do business - from your newsletter to customer service - is all about YOU. Yes, you! Because it’s your brand, not anyone else’s. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and take the path less walked in order to build a brand you can be proud of.

4 | Stop Selling, Get Social

More specifically I’m talking about pitching programs, services and hard selling through your newsletter and instead spending time creating conversation, dialogue and feedback with your subscribers. One of the best ways to do this would be through social media. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, you have the opportunity to personally connect with the people who are into whatever it is you offer. Use this!

5 | Take a Timeout

There are other ways to reach customers and build a brand. What could you do with all that spare time?

  • Reach out to a new customer with a personal email
  • Build your social media presence
  • Write or record a new piece of content for your website
  • Build your authority on other platforms by submitting material to industry publications
  • Start a podcast
  • Start a YouTube channel
  • Revamp your website
  • Define your brand’s values and mission 
  • Work with your brand’s archetype to tell better stories

Do you believe there's a better way to do newsletters? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.