Email Marketing

Email: the big picture

Illustration of man and woman holding an email

Email is a wonderful marketing medium. Its ROI is legendary. One might go so far as to say that it’s the best marketing channel. They might even be right – but there’s a better way to look at it.

A component of a larger machine

What’s the best meal in a restaurant you’ve ever had? Compliments to the chef! Of course, the (head) chef isn’t alone in the kitchen. There’s a sous chef. And a saucier. In fact, there’s a whole team’s worth of culinary talent.

We can keep zooming out. The waiter who delivered exceptional service, the interior designer who cultivated the perfect ambience, the couriers who delivered fresh ingredients, and the farmers who produced them. Remove any part of the equation and it all falls apart.

Email marketing is also a part of a bigger picture. The most effective marketing campaigns are those in which multiple channels actively work together. But even when this hasn’t been consciously planned, it’s still happening to some degree. An email engager wasn’t always a subscriber. They arrived via your website or social media or by some other non-email means. That raises a question.

Who gets credit?

Attribution in marketing can be seen through tunnel-vision. It’s a little too easy to give exclusive credit to the most recent link in the chain. The truth of attribution is that it’s often more fuzzy than focused.

Even when a clear click-to-conversion can be tracked from a particular email, who’s to say that a series of emails hasn’t influenced that decision? Maybe there wasn’t even anything particularly tempting about that latest email, but it happened to serve as a convenient conduit to your website.

We haven’t even left the scope of email and this is already becoming blurry. There are broader factors to consider, such as your social media activity, or web content, or external influences like third party reviews or good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. A complex series of events leads up to every conversion. The marketing report may assign success to Wednesday’s email, but it’s worth taking a step back and considering the full story.

Clicks aren’t everything

It goes without saying that clicks are one of the key indicators of an email’s performance. After all, the goal of a marketing email is usually to drive traffic to a landing page. A click therefore seems like the email’s final goal, before Team Website takes the baton.

By that theory, all clicks could be considered equal in value. Except they aren’t. An enthusiastic clicker might be disappointed by the content they’re met with online. Is that a weak landing page’s fault, or a misleading email? Most likely some hard-to-measure ratio of the two.

Are conversions therefore the best way to measure an email’s success? Maybe, but not the only one. A non-clicking opener has potential latent value, as does a non-purchasing clicker. As humans we often think in absolutes, but reality is rarely so black and white. Sales may be the most direct way to gauge an email’s performance, but its real contribution to your brand runs deeper.

The depth of design

Design is another aspect of email that is easy to oversimplify. An email’s design isn’t just its layout and colours. It’s the whole shebang. Copy, imagery, links – they’re all intertwined.

Even the subject line isn’t as isolated or single-purpose as it may appear. Its influence extends beyond the initial open, and perhaps beyond the scope of that one email. Words are a big part of your brand’s personality.

Design considerations like responsive layouts and dark mode and accessibility should not be treated as standalone concepts. It’s far better to make an accessible design… than to make a design accessible.

Back to reality

It’s easy to preach. In the real world and the hubbub of business, there isn’t always the luxury of stopping to think about the big picture. It might even come across as an excuse. Hey, this email had a terrible click rate… but at least it raised awareness!

Nonetheless, it’s worth pausing from time to time to consider how everything fits together. There’s a causal chain. Nothing is random. No two things are truly distinct. These concepts aren’t only relevant to email or marketing or business, but to every aspect of our existence.