My dad can barely use his iPhone. Yes, he went to Princeton for two of his three degrees, but when it comes to knowing things like what emojis are, let alone how to use them, he’s pretty much hopeless. However, I have to give him props. Several years ago, my luddite father declared “Facebook will replace email.” I, knowing his ineptitude in the matter, quickly scoffed at his idea – he was simply trying to blame those “young whippersnappers” for disrupting his arcane inbox flow.
So it’s with great chagrin that I had to text him yesterday these fateful words: “I’m publicly admitting that I’m wrong and you’re right,” to which he responded: “Okay.”
You see, as of right now, I’m breaking up with email. And to be honest, it’s not me, it’s email. But ultimately, because of necessity, I still must maintain squatter’s rights.
Let me explain.
Email as we know it was essentially created in 1971, when you could send messages to another server using the user@host functionality. 1971 was also the year that Apollo 14 landed on the moon, and Evel Knievel set a world record for jumping 19 cars. Thanks, Wikipedia. The name “email” hit popularity in 1993, when it started to be adopted as a communication standard across business. And I got my first email address in the late ‘90s, where I started in this world of electronic communication.
And then we destroyed it.
That’s right – we must have all slept through the first few classes of Econ 101 when they talked about the Tragedy of the Commons, because marketers just started to blast out emails with little regard. What the heck; if you could get opens and clicks, who cares! Just send, send, send.
This poor choice by marketers collectively has produced a never-ending cycle of automation and personalization, followed by algorithms that can detect automation, which leads to further personalization and more algorithms, and so on. Every time we personalize, we get a fleeting moment of better results, which is followed by spam detection systems figuring out how that personalization works and filtering out the automation.
But overall we hear it – email open rates are declining. Absolute value of clicks are decreasing. And this isn’t just because you put the wrong subject line on your email, we’re hearing these complaints from top brands with high levels of loyalty. We just have to face the fact that our emails are ending up in the “Promotions” side of the Gmail inbox.
What’s worse is that we refuse to adapt. Email is now a 20-year-old channel (really older than that, if you count ARPANET). Yet, we’re still using it as one as the main B2B marketing channels. I think people are just saying “We just need to email more people,” but this is wrong – because this will only compound our problem. And don’t think for a second that I’m only talking about list-buyers and spam-blasters; I might even hypothesize that even the strictest of double opt-ins produce their own set of problems in cooking your channel – which we’ll talk about in a later post.
When I think of the problem with email opening rates, it feels like overall the quality of marketing emails I am seeing are getting better, but their open rates are still dropping. So, improving the quality isn’t going to fix the problem. It’s that people are now more distracted with more communication mediums.
We now live in a world now where we divide our time amongst many digital places. We’re receiving information and communicating constantly through different apps and social networks that we’re paying less attention to any single channel, including email. Given the pace of the rise of communication channels, it’s actually impressive that email has survived this long. But the trend is that email engagement and effectiveness will continue to decline. It’s now time for marketers to adapt and invest in other channels.
And this is why I have to maintain squatter’s rights. Yes, I’ll still have to use email to an extent – to communicate at work, set up meetings, and send out campaigns. But I can’t be exclusive anymore. I have to use the plethora of user data that is offered to us on a silver platter. Data like social, mobile, web visits, blog comments, ad views, etc. I want to see email as an equally important channel – just like the rest of these channels of communication. It shouldn’t be the sole form of communication, but one that relies on others for data to influence, inform, and enhance the email channel.
But hold on – I’ve got to sign my dad up for twitter.
Nate Strong is a Strategic Accounts Manager at Socedo and runs Socedo University, our education program focused on Lead Generation, Demand Generation and Marketing Excellence. As a consultant to our customers, Nate has wide exposure to many different B2B Marketing strategies across industries.