For any business – irrespective of whether you are just starting out or are an established organisation, it’s an important step to assess where your marketing activity fits within your overall business strategy – to understand to what extent it is actively supporting your business objectives.
In our experience this commonly falls somewhere between the extremes of not at all, that is it’s functional but somehow isolated from your mainstream business functions – to it’s absolutely essential – it’s a mission critical component of your business operation that’s highly entwined with the DNA of your business. Either way, it’s one of first challenges that as a marketer you’ll need to understand in order to develop a successful marketing strategy.
So let’s start by taking a look at email. One of the most common questions we hear is “is email still relevant?” After all, email marketing is not exactly new, so does it still have a place in the marketing mix, and if so where does it fit.
If you look at the number of active monthly users across the major digital communication channels, that is channels like Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, and Facebook, email is about 3.3 billion active users per month, which is substantially more than every other digital channel combined.
In fact the only larger volume channel is SMS which is about 6.6 billion – not surprising considering pretty much everyone on the planet owns a mobile phone. But email is also highly accessible, especially given the rapid rise in smart capability mobile devices, so on that basis alone it still commands a vital place in your marketing strategy.
Are we sure?
It’s our business so of course we’d say yes, but in a recent eConsultancy survey 68% of marketers rated email as either a good or excellent return on investment. The Digital Marketing Association agrees, calculating the return on investment of email marketing at around 21 times, so on ROI alone there’s definitely a very strong argument for it.
But it’s difficult.
By recent estimates there were 3 times more emails sent in 2013 than there are stars in the Milky Way – that’s around 840 billion emails. So there’s a huge volume of communication going on out there. To make things worse, around 70% of that was officially classified as spam – so not only is there a huge volume of communication, there’s also huge wall of irrelevant, unwanted communication that you need to cut through if your campaigns are to effectively reach and engage your audience.
So regarding those marketing challenges. Where are we?
Adobe did an interesting recent survey of digital marketers to find out where they thought their key marketing challenges were.
Interestingly, 82% felt that effectively reaching their customers was a major challenge but despite the widespread use of digital marketing, email in particular, only 48% considered themselves to be proficient – so 52% still think they have a learning curve to climb.
Only 40% thought that their marketing is actually effective in realising their marketing goals. That leaves a huge amount of unfulfilled potential and opportunity for all of us, and lots of things we can do to improve.
One of the benefits of digital marketing is the ability to accurately measure its effect, so it’s perhaps surprising that 79% of responses still stated that understanding the extent to which their campaigns were really working for them was major challenge. On that note 75% also said their key challenge is actually demonstrating a real return on investment to their board or other business stakeholders.
But we need to look a little wider. It’s not just about marketing. In fact for most businesses it’s not primarily about marketing. There are business challenges too.
For many businesses the most pressing and highly visible challenges are increasing revenue and profits – so these are the sort of baseline metrics that many businesses generally look at. Depending on the nature of your business, your product or service, growing customer base and market share, boosting brand and reputation, and enhancing the customer experience are likely to also be key business challenges.
Compliance and regulatory issues are also increasingly important – one of the reasons why Permission should be an essential part of your digital marketing approach – but there are also some easy steps you can take to stay on the right side of the law.
Understanding the role your marketing plays in your wider business environment will allow you to better align your objectives and activities. It seems an obvious step but in either the everyday excitement of running a small business or as a component part of a more highly structured organisation it’s easy to overlook.