In this article virtualROI conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis for email marketing.
The biggest strength of best practise email marketing is simply that it works and that there are so many different ways/metrics that can be used to prove its effectiveness. It is its cost-effective nature and ability to deliver a tangible ROI that has led to the industry continuing to experience strong growth.
The quick implementation speed of email marketing combined with the ability to measure campaigns with established metrics (such as open rates, click-through rates) results in the ability to produce and measure campaigns almost immediately.
B2B contacts in the UK (although there are many nuances within other countries) are open to receiving corporate email messages as it is an established form of contact. As a result email can often be seen as a less intrusive form when compared with other media, such as social or mobile SMS marketing.
Best practice rules and guidelines for B2B email marketing are firmly in place and the use of data is governed. There are a plethora of different resources available online or from organisations such as the DMA and the IDM where companies can obtain information on email marketing from how-to-guides to the more formal regulations and guidelines on data use.
B2B email and its use as a marketing tool combined with its known benefits results in Senior Management buy-in being relatively easy to obtain.
The majority of email platforms have powerful integration capabilities with other systems. Links between email broadcasting, CMS systems and other systems enable data exchanges from multiple sources. This intelligence helps marketers to create highly relevant and personalised campaigns.
Due to email being seen as a highly cost-effective and tactical tool, it is sometimes the case that email may not receive as much budget as other forms of marketing, due to the perception that it is ‘cheap’ in comparison. However, investment needs to be made in order to avoid badly-executed campaigns which can damage brand.
Unlike other marketing channels such as social media or search, email is not backed by a particular brand (such as Google or Facebook), which means it does not feature in the media as much as other channels causing the potential for it to receive less attention than other marketing channels.
Spam is an on-going problem and increasingly, email providers are introducing technology to filter the inbox, meaning badly executed campaigns that do not adhere to best practise guidelines and techniques that are not as relevant and that embrace the ‘spray and pray’ mentality are likely to have less visibility.
Although companies are becoming more familiar with best practice and implementing this within email campaigns there is still a significant number of companies that hold back due to a lack of training, understanding and strategy.
The perception that email is easy and long-established may prevent some marketers from dedicating enough time to the discipline to make it work.
Testing and deliverability are still problems for email marketers. According to the 2013 Email Industry Census, almost a third of respondents (31%) carry out regular testing for email marketing, while 27% infrequently carry out testing and 15% don’t test at all.
Although social media is not competing with email (but is complementing it) the results of the census indicate that marketers need to work harder to integrate the two channels.
Email and social media are used as two separate channels by 45% of marketers, according to the Email Census 2013.
The quality of email data (or lack of it) remains a major barrier to effective email marketing, as highlighted by the 2013 Email Census. Half of the respondents to the survey (50%) reported this to be a problem.
Email as a marketing channel is still on the whole currently under-utilised. A significant proportion of companies are still not taking a strategic approach to email through better targeting, personalisation and improving relevance.
The increase in volume of additional data and insight can be integrated into email to help optimise campaigns. Using this data increases the effectiveness of email campaigns by making them relevant whilst allowing for better targeting and analysis.
The increase in the use of all forms of mobile devices provides email marketers with the ability to reach the customer wherever they are.
Email marketing no longer operates in its own silo, but is an essential and fundamental part of any marketing strategy and is even more effective when it is used in conjunction with other marketing channels, including mobile and social media.
Marketing automation is a key opportunity, as research indicates an increasing number of marketers are using automated campaigns and embracing much more complex ‘marketing automation platforms’.
Behaviour based trigger email marketing is still an area where there is a lot of opportunity to fine tune email marketing techniques and is currently underutilised in the B2B environment.
As email is highly cost-effective some companies may not see a need to invest additional budget into the channel to deliver even better results. This budget restriction may threaten the future growth of the email marketing industry.
The growth of mobile represents both an opportunity and a challenge as if marketers are slow to adopt best practices and optimise their campaigns for different devices they may not be read.
Lack of skills and understanding may threaten to jeopardise the future of the industry.
Lack of testing is holding back marketers.
To combat the changing email inbox marketers will need to take a strategic approach to email, focusing on engagement providing messaging that is highly relevant.
Privacy and B2B email regulations could also be seen as a significant threat to the industry. To combat this, an in depth understanding of guidelines for best practise email marketing and the regulations that surround the industry is required.