You, a decent email guru, are on a party and someone asks you: “And what do you do for a living?“. Boom. “Email Marketing?! Oh so you are one of those …“. Know that? Well, if so, you surely wouldn’t be alone. Even worse, when you start stuttering and can’t explain it more exactly. Because you never really thought it to the end; you just did it. At least you thought so …
The point is, doing email marketing is much more than just sending out email advertisements to customers. This is often misunderstood by online marketing folks. It’s also more than newsletter marketing. Although both terms are often used synonymously. In fact, the newsletter is just one tool in our email marketing set. Other forms may include ad hoc mailings, email series, transactional emails, or other triggered emails, which all have to be aligned to each other.
If you search within the literature for a proper email marketing definition, you won’t find much more than …
Email marketing is direct marketing per email
While this is surely true, it nevertheless doesn’t take into account any specific characteristics or goals of email respectively email marketing. Moreover, it’s far too abstract anyway.
Defining email marketing
Here is my attempt to define email marketing. I highlighted some key aspects:
Email marketing means to send out electronic mail (1) systematically with the primary purpose of (2) affecting (3) (potential) customers and other target groups continuously in order to maximize their (4.1) value over the (4.2) relationship lifecycle. It also aims for (5) measurable responses, which then are prepared for future actions using databases.
Five key aspects of this definition in a nutshell:
- (1) “systematically“:
We are dealing with a planned process. Email marketers align e.g. their strategy for list building, for content generation, their schedule and the rule set for campaign automation. Whereas email advertisers don’t necessarily do this.
- (2) “affecting“:
Email aims for influencing …
- what people know about the company or specific products or services,
- their attitude towards those companies, products or services,
- and, in the end, people’s behavior (decisions);
- (3) “… other target groups“:
Although email marketing usually focusses around prospects and customers, it might also target for other stakeholders like …
- the staff (employee branding via internal newsletters),
- the media (press distribution),
- your affiliates or bloggers (partner/blogger relations);
- (4) “lifetime value” & “customer lifecycle“:
The customer lifecycle …
prospects → new customers → existing customers → inactives → former customers
… should be the overall messaging framework for email marketers. With it naturally comes the long term horizon (= relationship), not only the short term view (= immediate transactions) – that’s another difference between -marketers and -advertisers;
- (5) “measurable“:
The results of former campaigns always deliver new insights that have to serve as a basis for optimizing the next campaigns. This closes the loop (“closed loop marketing“).
What do you think – is this a valid definition for email marketing or is there something missing? Plus: How can we translate this little thingy into something that let’s us stand out at the next cocktail party?