Is eMail Dead?

eMails need to be responsive, or at least mobile-aware.

eMails need to be responsive, or at least mobile-aware.

Is eMail (marketing) dead? The resounding answer from a group of digital marketing experts at the recent Digital Marketing Summit in Denver was no. It’s a hot topic now with social media and numerous communication apps seemingly taking over the way we share messages with friends, family and prospects. We are inundated with different ways to communicate, and the fear has been that marketers have crowded the inbox in a way that has made this particular channel lose its effectiveness.


However, there is data to point to the fact that eMail marketing is very much alive and that it is a key step along the buying journey.

In a presentation by Christopher Lester, vice president of sales at Emma eMail Marketing, I learned that:
• 94 percent of people say they go online to check eMail
• eMail is the No. 1 activity on the web
• A vast majority of people are reading eMail from a mobile device (80.8 percent of them according to HubSpot)

Other fun facts from Lester: the color yellow gives readers anxiety; the color blue gives them a sense of security. Use colors beyond your style guide that complement each other and make messages stand out.

Michael Barber of Barber and Hewitt shared a quote from an integrated design expert (Don Norman):

“eMail is the office memo turned cancerous, extended to home and everyday life.”
At first glance, it doesn’t seem too promising for marketers hoping to get a piece of the eMail pie, but Barber went on to say, “The inbox is the number one used product on the planet.”

Let’s think about this for a minute. Here is an opportunity to market our brands, share our content and sell our products, but 78 percent of eMail is considered spam. Yet, experts in the field of digital marketing tell us that eMail marketing is critical to our success. What they are saying is when done well, an eMail marketing strategy can help you stand above the rest and helps you engage with your target market along the customer journey.

So how do we do it well? There are a lot of things to keep in mind, but below are six that I think are some of the most important.

6 Ways To Make Your eMails Stand Out

1. Subject lines should be 32 to 36 characters max. This means you have 36 characters (that includes spaces) to tell readers what they can expect from your eMail. This is not the place to flex your poetic muscle — there is nothing wrong with creativity but it has to tell your reader what they are opening. If you somehow trick them this time around and don’t live up to your promise, you can be sure your eMail will be deleted next time it lands in their inbox. Or worse — they may decide to flag you as spam.

2. Pre-header text is that little line below the subject that most eMail clients support, and it is another opportunity to tell readers what they will get from opening your eMail. Gmail shows 100 characters; the iPhone displays about 140, so make every letter count. Comb your eMail down to a Tweet and use that here to garner interest and build trust by telling readers what they will read before they open the eMail. Definitely don’t waste this space with “Can’t view this eMail? Click here.” It is antiquated and a waste of some very valuable real estate.

3. Make your eMails responsive, or at least mobile-aware. An increasing number of people are checking their eMail from a mobile device before they even step one foot out of bed. If your eMail can’t be viewed or navigated easily on mobile, it is getting deleted before it even had a chance.
• Use single column layouts
• Take advantage of the beautiful imagery in our industry and let photos do the talking for you
• Keep font size no smaller than 14 pixels
• Keep buttons at or larger than 46 x 46 pixels

4. It’s pretty easy in our industry to come up with great images for your eMail campaigns. Use an image to catch attention. It has been shown that when people open your eMails on a mobile device, images are so much more effective. People, babies and expansive spaces (field of flowers anyone?) have been shown to garner the most interest. Lester also talked about our three-second gut reaction to anything, a beautiful image will help your eMail pass that test.

5. Include calls to action in every single eMail. Make sure your eMail does something more than just look pretty. Send them to a corresponding landing page on your site, link to your app or promote a blog entry. Give readers an opportunity to interact with your brand in some way that creates value. In other words, have a call to action — not six to seven, but one to two — in your eMail that entices them to take the next step. Use buttons (not “click here” text — mobile readers don’t “click” anything, they tap) for these calls to action. Again, 46×46 pixels is the sweet spot for these (Apple did the research on this, so let’s take their word for it).

6. Send your eMails at the right time to the right audience. Not every message is right for your entire database. Use segmenting techniques to know who is interested in what and send messages that are targeted to them, based on their preferences. Also, test sending campaigns at different times of the day and week and see which times get the best response from your audience. According to HubSpot, 6 a.m. has the highest click-through rate of any hour and most unsubscriptions come in on Tuesdays. However, you need to do independent tests since all markets are different.

eMail is one of the best ways that we have as marketers to communicate to our customers and prospects. It’s personal; they have trusted us with their eMail address. Let’s commit to respecting that trust with valuable eMails that our customers look forward to receiving.