Articles for Webmasters     The Pros and Cons of Email Marketing (opinion 1)

By Brian Willett

Each and every day, the trend becomes more and more evident - the world is moving online, and any business that doesn't lead the charge is going to be left behind.  Recent Nielsen reports have shown a significant increase in the amount of time Americans are spending online, meaning that traditional forms of marketing may be going largely unnoticed.  And it's not just at home that your potential customers are accessing the internet - the popularity of web browsing on mobile phones is exploding, thanks to a rapidly expanding market of smart phones and PDAs.

Knowing where your customers are is just half the battle, however.  The internet is a limitless expanse, and trying to pinpoint precise areas of interest and commonly accessed websites across your entire customer base would be a nightmare.  Luckily, there is one place you know every single one of your users will end up at least once, but usually many, times each day. That destination is their email inbox.

Adopting an email marketing campaign is easier said than done though, and there are many concerns that need to be addressed.  Here are a few positives and negatives of email marketing campaigns any potential marketer should be aware of.


Cost - The internet is rewriting a lot of traditional business rules, and cost structure is near the top of the list.  Email marketing is tremendously less expensive than any other type of campaign.  With email marketing, there are no printing costs, no web-hosting costs, no payments for advertisement placing and no paying for airtime.  Instead of printing thousands of coupons or a multi-page newsletter, copies can be sent to subscribers free of charge.  In addition, there are no delivery charges or postage to be paid - the price of email marketing can't be beat. The only real cost involved here is the price of copywriters, but that's an unavoidable cost in any medium.

Reach - If there's one thing that every marketer wants more of, it's potential customers.  And while traditionally businesses have focused on local markets, gradually expanding their efforts as their circles of influence increased, this is no longer the case.  Email marketing allows you to transcend vast distances because you don't have to physically be where your customers are, you simply have to deliver a message.  An email newsletter can reach across the world, guaranteeing more impressions than even a billboard looking over Times Square.  Essentially, the internet brings all of your potential customers to you, so you don't need to worry about going out to find them; email marketing allows a local business to become a global one in the blink of an eye.

Speed - Time is money, and the more you save, the better it is for the bottom line.  Even the simplest of ad campaigns in traditional media operates over a long timespan - television or radio airtime must be secured, messages must be recorded, posters need to be printed up, newsletters need to be delivered.  With email marketing, all that needs to be done is design and editing, because delivery is instantaneous.  Sales can begin and end on the minute if you desire, because messages arrive mere moments after they are sent.  And if any errors are discovered after emails are sent, they can be corrected just as quickly; no need to call off the presses or spend more time and money printing up corrections or retractions.


Impersonality - Though traditional marketing may seem outdated, there is one advantage it does have - intimacy.  Even if a television pitchman is speaking to an audience of thousands, the sight of a human face and the sound of a soothing voice can make a message seem incredibly personal.  With an email, however, it's not quite the same.  Reading a message isn't the same as being spoken to, and consumers are aware that promotional emails are sent to massive lists of subscribers.  Using individual customer information to provide a personalized greeting is an option, but sometimes that can feel forced to readers.

Cutting Through the Clutter - Due to the large number of advantages associated with email marketing, campaigns are run by countless companies.  This means that the typical consumer's inbox is filled with messages each day, which can be quite overwhelming.  If a consumer has a number of messages and is in a hurry, he may simply delete all of them instead of trying to pick out the good and the bad.  Worse, your campaign emails might be mistaken for spam or malicious emails, meaning that they will be deleted before your customers even see them.  And once many email clients identify one of your messages as spam, the rest are automatically classified as the same and eliminated upon receipt.

Populating Your List - All of the advantages and assertions of effectiveness in email marketing campaigns hinge on one very large assumption - that you'll have a customer base to contact.  However, this doesn't just happen overnight.  Collecting email addresses from consumers can be a difficult, time consuming task; doing so without appearing intrusive is harder still.  There are also consumers who either don't use email very much or prefer not to give out their addresses, which means an email campaign wouldn't be able to reach them.  And identifying potential consumers that have never visited your physical location can be next to impossible, unless you have a well-publicized and easy to use website featuring an option to sign up for company emails.  Because of these difficulties, merely populating a list for your campaign may cost more than a traditional campaign would have.

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