The worst thing you can do to a good bar is to make it popular. Once everyone goes there, it isn’t worth going there anymore.
Email advertising and online surveys used to be good bars. When email first commercialized, it was a great and inexpensive tool for lead generation, prospect follow-up and brand reinforcement. But as emails popularity exploded, so did the number of marketers who abused the process. Today people dread reading their morning email – it has become a disappointment filled chore. Email open rates have been dropping. This has caused some marketers to get smarter and create better and more targeted emails.
Lousy marketers just find bigger lists and thus annoy more people, which will continue to drive down open rates.
Something related is occurring to surveys. Once online survey tools became cheap and easy to use, every man, woman and hermaphrodite with an email account started receiving survey invitations … hourly. The result is that participation rates, which were typically low before the Survey Lounge became popular, have dropped to rates less than 0.1% of invitations. People have started to auto-reflexively ignore emailed survey invitations unless the subject line is well targeted and offers some reward. A recently conducted survey went to a very tightly targeted audience with a combination of incentives (personal and charity donations) and managed a 0.2% response rate, which these days is better than average.
Anything that becomes frequent creates fatigue. Sending too many emails to one prospect, without adding new value at each step, will cause your email address to be added to a spam filter black list. Sending to people uninterested in your offering will only speed the process. To make email marketing effective again, you need to take a few logical steps:
Make it count: Emails must be meaningful, from the subject line through the last message and calls-to-action. Refine, refine, refine until it is right.
Target precisely: It is always a temptation to cast a wide net, but that has become ineffective and can land your email server on a black-hole list. Buy good lists with great hygiene and segment them relentlessly. Treat your house list the same way.
Eliminate barriers after contact: I have started abandoning pages that require registration for simple “Five ways to …” type articles. I’m not alone. Reduce friction everywhere, and raise barriers only after some form of commitment from the recipient has been made.
Keep trying alternatives and shift budget accordingly: Email is only one tool. If it is becoming less effective for you, then be bold and shift budget to places where you will get better results.