Last week, Facebook and Instagram were down for almost a whole day, and it got me thinking about the importance of email marketing.

I have always thought that email marketing was one of the more important (and most under appreciated) digital marketing channels available to businesses. I personally would place it second only to having a website in terms of marketing channels. Unfortunately, most business owners don’t seem to share my belief, and many don’t bother with email marketing. Those that do, often don’t invest a lot of time or resources into growing their email marketing channel – at least not compared to the amount of time and money that they spend growing their social media channels.

The problem with investing all your time and resources into growing a strong social media audience is that you don’t own Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest. Social media platforms are not immortal and you cannot transfer your audiences from one platform to the other. This is a fact that became glaringly obvious for many small businesses during the “great social media outage of 2019”.

Businesses who relied heavily on social media campaigns to generate their sales and income lost a whole day of trading. Businesses who have established strong marketing channels outside of just social media were able to react swiftly, re-allocating their marketing spends to the other channels, reducing the impact that social media had on their overall sales for the day.

Social media platforms are not immortal and you cannot transfer your audiences from one platform to the other.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that investing all your resources into a marketing channel that you don’t own is a really stupid business decision #SorryNotSorry. Which is why I love email marketing – because you might not own MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, but you do own your database, and if something happens to the platform, you can export your database and go set yourself up on a new platform in just a few hours.

If something happens to Facebook or Instagram, you cannot transfer your audience – you lose them completely. Suddenly the thousands of dollars and many many hours that you’ve poured into those building an audience on those platforms is lost.

The Important Benefits of Email Marketing:

The way I see it, there are four major benefits of email marketing that work together to make this marketing channel stronger than social media marketing.

1. You Own Your Database
I touched on this above but it is super important so I’m going to say it again – you own your database. All of the time, money and other resources you pour into growing your database should be considered as an investment in the future of your businesses. The time and money that you pour into Facebook or Instagram is not necessarily a waste – it does serve a purpose, which I will discuss in more detail shortly, but it cannot be thought of as an ‘investment’ the way that building a database is.

2. People Willing Opt-In
When people give you their details to add to your database, they are telling you that they are interested in your products and services, and want to learn more about your brand or business. The people on your database actively want to receive your marketing messages – this is the reason that email marketing generally has one of the highest conversion rates out of all the different marketing channels.

Now I know what some of you are going to say – that people willingly opt in to follow you on Facebook or Instagram. And that is true to an extent, but it isn’t the same – when people follow you on social media, they aren’t giving you anything. They are watching you from afar, and they can leave at any time. When people give you their contact details for email marketing, there is an exchange of trust – they have been watching your brand long enough and are familiar enough with your brand that they feel safe giving you their contact details; they trust that you aren’t going to spam them or send you content that they aren’t interested in.

Someone who signs up to your email database is going to be a lot more familiar with your brand and products than someone who has just started following you on Facebook.

3. You Control the Message
With email marketing, you control 100% of the marketing message. Someone scrolling through Facebook or Instagram for 10 minutes might see over 100 different posts and pieces of content from brands and businesses (many of them your competitors). But when they open one of your emails? Every single message in that email is crafted by your brand, for your brand. You have their undivided attention – you still need captivating and interesting content to retain their attention, but you aren’t competing with all the other marketing noise.

4. There is No Algorithm
It is a well-known fact that social media platforms use algorithms to rank content, and that most of your content will only be seen by a small percentage of your audience (unless you ‘pay to play’). Email inboxes are not ruled by algorithms – they ‘rank’ content chronologically, so the more recent your email, the closer to the top it will be. And provided that you maintain a healthy email marketing set-up (more on that further down), all of your email marketing audience will receive your marketing message in their inbox.

There are a couple of other important benefits to note regarding email marketing – things like the user being able to save or store your emails, forward them to friends etc, as well as the ability for them to view your content when they are ready. With social media content, the post is there and then it is gone – if they don’t feel like reading your latest blog article right now, then they may forget to come back to it or struggle to locate it later. Whereas with email marketing, they can skim your email when you send it, and then come back on their lunch break when they have more time to read the bigger pieces of content or click through to the blog article.

Building a Strong Email Marketing Experience:

This is a big topic which is probably deserving of its own dedicated blog article, so I am just going to touch on some basics here. There are a few things that you should know about email marketing, and more importantly, how email clients work.

Email clients are the program that you access your emails through – for some people that might be directly through the browser window, such as using gmail or Hotmail. For other people that might mean via a program such as Outlook or Thunderbird. Each email client views email content slightly differently and uses different filters to identify junk or spam content. I would recommend reading up on some of the standardised and best practices for email marketing to get a better understanding of what works best across all platforms.

If you have a lot of people in one particular email client marking your emails as spam or sending them straight to their junk folder, then this can effect how other people using the same email client receive your content. For example, if a bunch of people using gmail mark your content as spam then gmail may start filtering your content into the spam folder for everyone – not just those who have marked it as spam.

Therefore, it is in your best interests that people can unsubscribe to your email list quickly and easily – majority of people will try to unsubscribe before they mark you as spam. But if unsubscribing is too difficult, or if they unsubscribe but you keep sending them stuff then they will likely mark you as spam so that they don’t have to see your emails anymore.

This is also why you should NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER buy email marketing databases. A mass un-subscribing or people marking you as spam will reflect badly on your email marketing health and suddenly your emails will start going straight to everyone’s junk folder – even those who legitimately signed up to your database of their own accord.

So Where Does Social Media Fit in Then?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t both with social media at all – it is an important marketing channel. I’m just saying that it can’t be your only marketing channel, or your only way of attracting sales and conversions. If your business couldn’t survive without social media then you have a problem, and need to start identifying additional marketing channels.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are often the first point of contact that a person has with a brand. They start following you in the ‘research’ phase of the buyer cycle, when they are interested in learning about a particular product or service but are not ready to buy yet. The role that social media should play is to turn these interested ‘cool’ audiences into ‘warm’ audiences by educating them on the benefits of the product or service, as well as why your brand is the best choice. Once you have achieved this, you should be looking at how you are going to move them off this very competitive marketing channel and onto a more intimate marketing channel such as your website, blog or email marketing database. Here, you have total control over the marketing message and can continue to feed them information and provide value until they are ready to buy.

As always, if you have any questions about the importance of email marketing, or you’d like to find out how PN Digital can help you grow your business, please get in touch with us or leave us a comment below!