Is Email Sexy?

Jet-lag and insomnia can do strange things to anyone suffering their effects. A recent bout with both left me awake and pondering what I’m sure many email strategists must at one time or another ask themselves. Is email sexy?

This may sound like a random and somewhat nonsensical thought, but I assure you it wasn’t. I’ve been invited to speak at the Sexy Email Conference in Amsterdam in December, hosted by the EMMA-nl (Email Marketing Association Netherlands). As a result, the sexiness of email is very much on my mind.

And while it might be hard to believe that an email strategist can have an unbiased view of this topic (after all, it’s my job to love email and all of the benefits it can bring for marketers and subscribers), I can definitely see both sides of the argument. Below are my thoughts, but I’d love to hear yours:

3 Reasons Why Email Is Not Sexy

It’s Old. And before I get a load of flak for this, I don’t mean old in terms of age, but in terms of the fact that it’s no longer the shiny new toy in a marketer’s tool kit. Email was the hot new technology that was going to change the face of direct marketing… in 1993. In many ways, it did. In other ways, it didn’t. As a result, people are always predicting its demise. Which brings me to my second point…

It’s Often Rumoured to Be Dead. Kind of like David Hasselhoff (not sexy) and Sinbad (ditto). Because email has been around the block a few times, there’s always a newer, arguably sexier, technology that’s competing to take it down. That used to be RSS. Now it’s social media. To quote “Hardbodies,” a terribly cheesy 1980s movie that may be inappropriate for some audiences but very relevant for this blog posting, marketers are always on the lookout for the “bigger and better deal.” The horse may change, but the carrot of driving more revenue quickly, cheaply and easily has not.

It Looks the Same. While there are many more ways to optimize an email for delivery and response now than there were 10 years ago, subscribers still interact with email in the same way. You open it and you click on it. Email templates have a header and a subject line and a footer. Yes, there are certainly more ways to make email an interactive experience (e.g., social sharing, video) but the experience is fundamentally the same. It’s kind of like having the same haircut and wearing the same style of clothes you wore in 1993. Grunge anyone? Scrunchies? Not very sexy.

3 Reasons Why Email Is Sexy

It’s a Classic. Email is kind of like Marilyn Monroe, Bridget Bardot, Steve McQueen or James Dean. Bear with me here. They were the sex symbols of their time and are continually being rediscovered by new generations of fans. There’s a reason why – they had “it”. When it comes to direct marketing, email has the only “it” that matters to marketers: it works. No channel consistently delivers higher ROI. It’s inexpensive, it’s instant, it’s customizable and it drives revenue.

Email Creates a Dialog. A one-way conversation is never sexy. A dialog that elicits a response definitely is. Email enables marketers to create a dialog with their subscribers, customers and prospects. Marketers can send content, information and offers based on subscribers’ individual preferences, behaviours, activities and purchases. Subscribers can click and instantly interact with the email message and the brand by posting product reviews, testimonials, sharing offers with their networks or rating a marketer’s content. Interactivity is nothing if not sexy.

It’s Complementary. Two is always sexier than one, and email is often at its best when combined with other direct marketing channels like postal, social media and search. Smart (and sexy) marketers know that integrating email and other channels can often boost the performance of both channels for a variety of marketing initiatives. Want to promote a new product event? Send an email announcement with a teaser to look out for a brochure in the mail. Want to grow your fan base? Send an email encouraging your subscribers to become fans and followers. Launching a contest? Announce it through email and then create a forum for contestants to submit their entries on your Facebook page. Email is likely to complement whatever marketing initiative you choose to undertake. It’s versatile, flexible, measurable and it inevitably makes you look good.

If you’re planning to be in Amsterdam on December 2nd, register and stop by the Sexy Email Conference. If the meantime, post a comment below and tell me what you think is (or isn’t) sexy about email.

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