Guest post by Jeff Rohrs, who heads up the Marketing Research & Education Team at ExactTarget. A driving force behind the company’s SUBSCRIBERS RULE! philosophy, Jeff is also co-author of the ExactTarget/CoTweet SUBSCRIBERS, FANS & FOLLOWERS Research Series. He lives in Cleveland and has not, to his knowledge, ever been bitten by a vampire—although he his cursed to roam the earth as a Cleveland Browns fan.
I had an epiphany the other day. After seeing a commercial for “Twilight: Eclipse” while reading a cover story about CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” and waiting for the latest installment of “True Blood” on HBO, it hit me.
Email is a vampire.
Now I don’t mean that in the negative, “suck the life out of you” way. I mean it in a 2010, gothic cool sort-of-way in which vampires are smart, sexy, bankable characters who can’t be killed and are making boatloads of cash for the people who channel them into books, TV shows & movies.
Skeptical of the analogy? Here’s are the three key attributes that email shares with Dracula, Edward Cullen, Bill Compton & The Count on Sesame Street.
1. You Must Invite Email In.
As “True Blood” details in painful repetition in nearly every episode, a vampire can’t come storming into your house. Vampires have class. They must be explicitly invited into your home in order to enter.
So too with email. If you come storming into someone’s inbox without a relationship thanks to some shady append process, you’re going to be bounced out by the “Spam” button and blocked by ISPs. However, if you honor the consumer by asking for permission to send email, you can enter as you please. But be careful—stray too far from what consumers wanted from you in terms of content or frequency, and you’re likely to see your inbox invitation revoked in the form of an unsubscribe. (Shameless Plus – For more insights on what influences email deliverability, check out our Letters to the C-Suite: Getting Serious About Permission & Deliverability).
2. Email, Like Vampires, Makes Boatloads of Money
It seems that if you want a hit book/show/movie today, you just put a vampire with a heart of gold (and abs of steel) in it and you’re golden.
While it’s not that easy with online marketing, for the past two decades, email has been the leading retention marketing tactic, and the channel you can bank on to deliver a predictable revenue stream—provided that you’ve invested in building your own, permission-based list. Why is email such a steady producer? Consumer’s who get it, want it. The mere act of opting-in is an expression of interest in your products and services, so it stands to reason that relevant product or service promotions to this audience would stimulate sales.
Email may not have the hype machine that other channels have these days, but ask any marketer who’s measured by sales—they couldn’t live without it.
3. Email Won’t Die.
Vampires are immortal—provided that they don’t run into someone with a wooden stake and an axe to grind.
As for email, it’s been declared dead by more pundits, journalists, and entrepreneurs than I care to count. A few of my favorite reports of email’s death that were greatly exaggerated:
- July 2004. Seth Godin predicted that RSS would kill email.
- October 2007. Robert Scoble argued that email faced deletion at the hands of Web 2.0 services like Twitter, Pownce & Jaiku.
- March 2009. John Dvorak declared that email was a “carcass on the side of the information highway, rotting away.”
- October 2009. The Wall Street Journal said email’s era had ended thanks to Facebook.
- June 2010. Facebook’s COO said that email was probably going away.
So is email immortal? Well, it’s certainly weathered the wooden stakes of pundits and the introduction of IM, RSS, Skype, MySpace, Facebook & Twitter quite well. In fact, it’s quite telling that every single social network still requires members to sign-up with an email address. That’s hardly the approach of committed email slayers. One might even argue that social media isn’t email’s Van Helsing, but rather it’s Bella or Sookie.
But I digress…
Is it possible that some service be lurking in the shadows with a stake to drive through email’s heart? Yes. However, I think it’s high time that folks stop predicting email’s death and, instead, start focusing on how to optimize their efforts around this steadfast & resilient medium.
After all, when the sun rises, over 58% of people begin their day with email. I guess that means email isn’t just any old vampire, it’s a Daywalker. Like Wesley Snipes in “Blade.” And you have to admit, that’s pretty cool.
(photo by Steve.ie)