Is email marketing still effective?

By Citizen Affiliate | Email Marketing

Oct 05
email open

You might be wondering if email marketing is still effective. Some people say that email marketing is dead. I don’t agree! It’s just changed, that’s all. So let’s find the answer to the question: is email marketing still effective?

Why email marketing is so powerful

Email marketing has been a hugely powerful and effective marketing strategy for a very long time. That is because you can send emails to all of your contacts, whenever you want, for free!

It’s basically unlimited free advertising to everyone on your list. And you can send them pretty much anything.

You can send them links to your products, links to other people’s products, links to your articles or videos to get more traffic and shares, or whatever you want.

Note that I said pretty much anything. For example, I learnt (the hard way) that Mailchimp really doesn’t like you sending affiliate links – they shut down my account! If you want to know more, read my story about why I switched from Mailchimp to GetResponse.

Most people estimate that on average, an email list will earn them $1 per person per month. So if you have a list of 1000 people, that’s $1000 a month, just by sending emails! (It’s actually more complicated than that – I went into a bit more detail in this article about whether the money is really in the list).

Why people still use email

Email is pretty old and daggy. Entire social platforms have risen and fallen multiple times since email was created. Yet people still use it. Why is that?

I think it’s simple: so much important official communication happens over email. I get emails from my doctor, my dentist, my accountant, my boss, and my mum. Those people aren’t my Facebook friends, and they’re certainly not Snapchatting me anytime soon.

Email is old and daggy but it works and it isn’t going away. So marketers will continue to use it because if you have a good autoresponder, you can send boatloads of emails for effectively nothing.

How email marketing got abused

Of course, when a good thing comes along, it often gets abused. In addition to actual spammers (the Nigerian prince looking for somewhere to stash his millions or the endless Canadian online pharmacies), some marketers really became sort of spammers.

They abused the trust they had with their email audiences.


email open

email open rates are declining

They emailed people once per hour instead of once per day. They emailed all sorts of random offers from the depths of the internet, instead of being selective. People started zoning out and unsubscribing.


Another big changer was when Gmail (the most popular email platform in the world) introduced their famous three sections: Primary, Social and Promotions. The Promotions tab isn’t quite as bad as being relegated to the Spam folder, but not by much. A lot of people check in there quickly and infrequently and ignore a lot of what they see in there. Outlook has something similar (a “Focus” tab and an “Other” tab).

These changes have resulted in continually declining open and click rates. Some even have open rates in the 10% or single digit figure range (and click rates obviously a lot lower than that).

How to do Email marketing properly

So email marketing needs to be done properly and carefully. You can’t spam people, you can’t send them 20 emails a day, and you can’t send them crappy or irrelevant offers which you wouldn’t even glance at yourself.

It’s been said over and over again, but it’s true. You need to add value. You need to be a trusted advisor. You need to help people.

Sometimes that help is in the form of promoting a great offer, sometimes it is in the form of just helping.

A lot of people starting out actually make the mistake of not emailing enough, like only once a week or two. Emailing every day or two is fine. But not much more than that. Treat people with respect, just as you would want to be treated.

If you do that and provide value, and put some time into writing creative and engaging emails (not just “OMG CHECK OUT THIS OFFER IT IS GREAT”), then you will build a proper relationship.

And you’ll find that email marketing can work well for you, even in today’s tough climate.

How to set up email marketing correctly

In addition to writing good emails and sending them appropriately, there are also some technical things to get right. To maximise your email deliverability. I wrote in a lot more detail about them here, but basically:

  • Use a good autoresponder
  • Avoid spam trap words and phrases
  • Clean your list regularly.

And of course, don’t forget to A/B test your emails and subject lines! This is important for improving deliverability and value. GetResponse lets you do A/B testing easily, which is awesome.

Alternatives to email marketing

There are a number of interesting alternatives to email marketing that are emerging.

Messenger bots

Some people find they have higher open rates and engagement rates with Facebook Messenger bots. Open rates of 70 or 80% are often reported for Messenger bots, which is much higher than email. Open rates for email vary widely from industry to industry and list to list, but open rates of 10 – 30% are common (anything about 30% is considered extremely high).

Facebook is almost as pervasive as email so the potential audience there is very large.

Messenger bots also offer a disruptive user experience: most smartphones and desktop clients open popups or push notifications by default for a new Facebook messenger message, even if from a bot. Which is good in that people are more likely to pay attention to the message, but can be bad in that you will be blocked quickly if you send too many messages (or low-value messages).

They are also not very friendly and are not really “bots”: they possess barely the most rudimentary of artificial intelligence (i.e. can respond to a “yes” or “no”, and that’s about it).

Push notifications

Another way of getting messages to people is via browser push notifications. These have been around for a fair few years now, but marketers have only really started taking advantage of these recently.

Basically, if you can get people to your website or landing page, you can install some code there that shows a little browser popup that asks them if they want to subscribe for push notifications for that website.

Then, you can send push notifications to all the people who signed up (these work on a desktop computer or a smartphone). And they get a little popup or alert with your message, that links to whatever page you want to send them to.

These are pretty new but gathering momentum and people are getting good results from them.

Obviously, there is a lot less scope for writing longer and more engaging content than you would in an email. Each notification only supports a sentence or two with a link. But open rates are sky high (it’s pretty impossible to not notice them) and clickthrough rates are much higher than email.

I have yet to try these but they are on my list of things to look into. Do you have experience with these? Let me know in the comments how they have worked for you!

The future of email marketing

I don’t think messenger bots or push notifications are killing off email. I think they are instead a complementary strategy.

Some people like emails. They like getting a longer, more personalized message from someone. Other people just don’t have the time for reading emails or are getting too much spam. So messenger bots or push notifications could work better for those people.

I think smart marketers will be constantly adding new technology and techniques to the mix, trying out new things, and adjusting what tactics they use based on different audiences and market segments. So email is still definitely relevant in 2018 – there are just some other kids on the block that are worthy of attention too.