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It may seem surprising, but email marketing had been around for almost 40 years. You might think of it as old-school digital marketing, but there are plenty of reasons it remains a popular tool for all kinds of businesses. Digital marketing can definitely fall into the ‘flavor of the month’ cycle, where marketers become enamored of the latest digital communication tool and shift their focus from current methods of reaching their audiences.

Over the last decade, social media and the many platforms that fall under that category have become the bright shiny object that many marketers chase as a new way to connect with customers and prospects. While social media can be a valuable tool in a marketers toolbox, it’s important to remember that each marketing channel has its own set of advantages (and disadvantages).

Email marketing allows businesses to reach customers easily and spread information quickly without tying up resources on a constant basis.  Compare this with social media, where monitoring numerous different networks and platforms in real-time looking for posts from customers and then responding to them can become an extremely time-consuming task. One of emails great advantages is that a message is sent and then the marketer can largely move on to other initiatives, knowing that responses will come in from the email campaign. This isn’t to say that email campaigns don’t need close supervision and evaluation, but that most of the time is spent up front, planning and executing the campaign and then evaluating results to optimize the next campaign. As a part of a comprehensive marketing strategy, it’s important for a business to understand major benefits of email as a marketing tool and how to capitalize on them.

Results and ROI
According to a variety of studies, in a wide number of use cases, email marketing provides a higher return on investment than a channel like social media, with less effort. Despite the proliferation of social networks, email is still more widely recognized and used by consumers and businesses alike. One reason for this is that while users may access their email using a variety of different platforms (Gmail, Outlook, etc.), it’s all still the same email. While marketers may optimize aspects of their email messages for different email service providers, the differences are fairly minimal. Social media platforms are much the opposite. Each one is inherently different, requiring different strategies, creative, content, and tracking. Long term, successful marketing isn’t all about flash, it’s about performance, conversion rates and sales.  Email gives the company direct contact with the consumer that isn’t guaranteed with platforms like Facebook or Twitter, and provides a static message that the consumer can come back to as often as they like.

Tangible
Despite being digital, email provides a more tangible component for consumers to view. Feeds on social networking sites are constantly changing, updated with new information from a variety of sources.  From a consumer’s friends to the other companies trying to reach them with their social marketing initiatives. Social media posts have a very transitory nature. They are very much ‘in the moment’ and then gone – replaced by the next message. Email sits in a user’s inbox until it is read or removed. But in either case, it requires an action by the recipient. Emails can be referenced multiple times and even forwarded to other friends. It is also something that the consumer can go back to several days later, looking up an older email because they suddenly decided that they do want to take advantage of that sale. Email is still capable to delivering a timely message (24-hour sale), but has the benefit of sticking around for as long as the consumer might want to access it.

Purpose
The social media industry was formed as a way for people to keep in contact with friends and acquaintances, and for many consumers it is still a tool specifically for that purpose. Social media marketing is relatively new, as marketers will also look for new ways to engage with their audiences.  As such, many people actively ignore the marketing messages that filter through their Facebook or Twitter feeds. But email is an understood, accepted form of marketing that consumers are not only comfortable with, but expect, allowing for more professional reach.

39 years after the first mass marketing email was sent, email marketing remains a highly valuable way for companies to reach customers and increase sales. While newer channels like social, video, display, search, etc. have arrived over the years, it is important to remember the the best marketing campaigns are the ones the drive the strongest performance and ROI, regardless of how flashy or novel they may be.

By: Tom Wozniak, Executive Director of Marketing