When Not to Use Email Marketing

There are some situations – more than you would think – when email marketing just doesn’t work. In these instances, creating smarter content, tightening your list selection and improving your message delivery may result in some benefit, but in the end you will still be disappointed with the results. Carrying on with your efforts would be like throwing good money and time after bad – a total waste of effort.

Some may like to discover these moments for themselves. There’s nothing like the rush of excitement about finding something new in your marketing, even though this new find may resemble a black hole of wasted effort. However, others might be interested in a few pointers on what not to point their email marketing engine at. For you, here are my thoughts.

Starting a conversation.

Not only is it illegal to email market to people who don’t already know you, it’s also a plain waste of effort. Yes, you may be able to convince yourself that because they are customers you can ‘claim’ a business relationship, so what you send is legally fine, but it’s still a bad start. Membership organisations can get away with it – their members are usually very keen to find our more. However, businesses need to look for an opt-in first; any subsequent email marketing is then expected, wanted and usually acted upon.

When you want to make an impact.

While a direct mail pack will hang around a prospect’s desk, an email equivalent will disappear in their Inbox as more messages pile on top. Email is so much easier to ignore, file and, unfortunately, delete than its hard paper alternative. Think of the attention email receives as a burning match compared with a lit candle for paper. So, if you want to send an annual update to your top customers to re-cement their relationship with you, then think printed, bound and expensive rather than email, short and cheap.

When your message needs time to consider.

This follows on from the last point. There’s only so much you can cover in the minute of attention your email message captures. Video will give you 3-5 minutes (that is if the first 30 seconds are good enough to keep them watching more). Direct mail may get you above 5 minutes. Pick and choose between all the available media options to find one that best suits your message.

When you want people to part with their time or money.

I’m probably going to get into trouble with this one, so first let me clarify what I’m stating. Using email – on its own – to convince people to part with their time or money is very, very hard. For instance, if you send out a message promoting a course and requesting all those who want to attend to reply with their details you will struggle to make it pay. Now, if the message introduced the need and motivated those who want to meet this need to click onto a web page to read the full argument of why the course is the best solution for them, then your chances of success will improve.

When the message has to get through.

Email is not a 100% reliable communication channel. So, if some legal requirement means that you have to confirm that everyone got your message, then you’d best cover your bases by using additional options such as direct mail and even telemarketing. Spam filters, corporate firewalls and the internet just ‘loosing stuff’ all sit between you, your email dispatch tool and your subscriber. There’s no way anyone can guarantee that all the emails you send will arrive.

These five scenarios cover the most common misuses of email. If you can, try to avoid using email in cases that are similar to these and you will save yourself valuable time and money. It really all boils down to the snippets of attention email provides and the permission you need before sending it. Ensure you consider these before designing your next campaign and you will be a few steps closer to having a success on your hands.