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Is Email Marketing becoming less effective?

In this podcast, Sameer, Bala, and Giri discuss the best email marketing methods to reach out to your audience.

Is the medium of email dead or dying?

Is there anything business owners can do to maximize engagement and ROI from the emails they send out?

What are the best practices that we’ve tried and that you can easily copy?

All this and more…

Transcript – 

Giri – Well, I will start and I’ll say that email is dying. That’s my open challenge and it is.

Bala –  Alright, the topic for today is reaching out to customers – which is the best medium or platform to reach out to them and have an engaging conversation with them. So, to talk on this, we have Sameer Panjwani – CEO of Mondovo, Giri – Customer Success, Mondovo and me Bala, the growth guy over here. So, we all are going to sit and talk on this particular topic. Let’s get started.

Bala – So, Giri, you have seen customer growth to the max and Sameer you have been seeing customers in all kinds of ways since Directory Maximizer and Mondovo. So, who wants to start about what is happening and what is the best way to do it.

Giri – Well, I will start and I will say that email is dying. That’s my open challenge and it is. I have read, seen everything, tried everything online. Everyone says it’s a growing medium, it is, but only for specific niches, not for everybody and I am pretty sure that there are lots of people around the world trying emails who are frustrated at how it’s not bringing back the growth or the ROI that everyone online says it does.

Bala – Oh, we have a different opinion on that but we’ll come back to it. So, Sameer what do you think about this?

Sameer – That was Giri out there so yeah this is Sameer so I also agree, I have lived in business for the last 11 years and we have tried various mediums of communication. When I started out with business 11 years back, I think email was very effective. Every email I sent out, would get a huge amount of open rates. This was back in 2006. There were no conflicting mediums, no conflicting channels were people would go. Now there is Facebook, there is even snapchat, there is Instagram, there is Twitter there are so many channels, there is Youtube and then there is podcast to which you’re listing to right now so I think because of the number of the mediums that people have to consume information, I think emails, as Giri said, is dying a slow death and it is very difficult to capture attention. So, it’s all about attention marketing in the pace setting emails may not be capturing the attention of the user in one minute, it’s super difficult.

Bala – But don’t you think that when you’re talking about email marketing itself industry to industry it’s going to differ – we are in Saas, its really sucking for us, but say, for ecommerce you know we get an email from say Amazon, yeah I am going to look in to all the catalogue okay what is good what is bad.

Giri – That’s my point – See I receive nearly 50 mails a day from which two of them are from Amazon. I open it do I buy it, no, now the same way if you look at our mails on an average our open rates are fairly decent, our click through rates are fairly decent by industry average. Do people actually close the loop and end up buying, no. So as per if you read all the information online I have done everything that they have said try images, clips, make the subject line enticing open rates are good. Do they circle back and buy, no. So, all the information you read online is to basically help people open the mail and click fantastic. Do they end up buying what you want, no. Email works mainly for a shopping site that you tempt them with offers and tempt them with stuff you can buy. For other industries, it’s very very hard. Even if you, like what Sameer is saying, we have sent mails both individualized custom personal mails based on their action which is what everyone says you should do. We have sent mails that are simple with a personal style, we have sent mails with images. We have tried it all, open rates are decent, click through rates are decent. Fine as per industry average but did we get money from that? No.

Bala – Sameer, what do you think what is the problem over here despite doing everything.

Sameer-  Sometime it’s a frustrating experience because we have spent so much time we know. Giri personally has spent hours and hours drafting an email I’ve reviewed that email. I’ve thought that okay that first drafts were rubbish, I told him so, then he edited those mails then he sent out those mails which I thought were wonderful only to see that even though the open rates were high, like some mails of yours gave 40% – 50% which is not bad I thought wow really I gave him a hi-five then I asked him what was the click through, what was the outcome of those mails, absolutely nothing, so I still wonder sometime why do people open it and then not read it or are we doing something wrong so I think that’s something we got to brainstorm and figure out.

Giri – I was reading an article just now before this podcast from a lot of email marketing experts who were predicting 2017. All were saying you will get custom animation; you will get more interactivity in the mail blah blah blah. All that’s fine. That means I will engage with the mail but will I actually close the loop and buy? Maybe not. That means, if you look at it from a higher level, an email has no more effect on a viewer than an ad in a newspaper does. If the ad looks fantastic, I will see it. Will I act on it? Maybe not.

Bala –  But you know why to see, my point here is, like, why to see email as a selling medium we can use that as an engaging medium.

Sameer – So what’s your take on emails Bala?

Bala – Well, I would say, like, you know, try not selling to people at this particular point. We have, say, 40% click through ratio and open rate and other things. In that particular case, better let’s not sell anything. We know that it’s not going to be working. Instead, let’s make it educational and put something.

Giri – We did exactly that. We made a wonderful work flow, sent an email to targeted people who use that particular product so the workflow what have maximum relevance for them. Fantastic open rate, fantastic click through rate but what happened in the end? Did anyone buy? No. Even then people wrote back, this is a fantastic mail, this is exactly what we need to be sending, did he end up buying later? No. That’s my point, it’s frustrating we get the engagement that everyone is after, we get the click through rates everyone’s after, we get the open rates that everyone’s after. But do we get the money that we want? No.

Bala – Yeah, that’s a thing. Sameer wouldn’t you say, like, you know money we didn’t get but the brand name what you want to be kind of taking.

Sameer – I was just thinking about that. I was thinking that okay maybe these emails are serving the purpose in one way or the other, then maybe they are reading the mail, they’re consuming the mail and I am hoping in my mind that our brand image is being enhanced. I am hoping because that’s the only thing I can hope for.

Giri – So, coming to that, if you look at an email as a marketing vehicle without, then why have an ROI attached to it? Like, if you go to any ad agency guy and ask him, can you track the ROI of a newspaper ad, he will laugh at you. No, you cannot. Same here, you cannot track ROI effectively unless you are a shopping site.

Even in this email expert article, they say every mail you send will give back $40 dollars on an average if a user buys something. That’s an ecommerce platform. What about the rest of us who are not on an ecommerce platform? How can I possibly try to educate you, I try to teach you or do something interactive what else but you will buy when you are good and ready since it’s not something that it’s a spur of the moment thing, it’s not something that is cheap then.

Bala – Agreed.  Okay now, say, reaching out to that the customes what we are trying to discuss over here. We know that email we tried is not working but wouldn’t it be crazy if you could choose like some other platform. Wow, one customer signed up where he’s got a twitter account. I send him tweeted/DM’s (Direct Message) like instead of all the things.

Giri – That is what I like it. Now see, the whole point of this discussion was that email is looked at marketing medium or a channel. There are lots of other options that we can do where I can spend the same amount of time and get may be an interaction. Twitter is a fantastic example. Facebook is another example. If he has an Instagram accounts, send him pics or snapchat. I would rather do something where I know he is not because like we all receive a hundred mails a day on an average. I open just 2.

Sameer – I also think that we have to look at all the channels that we have out here. So email is one which we should not ignore. I don’t think it’s completely there but the way we use email is completely I think we need to rethink because people are getting hundreds of mail from every one. Everyone knows email marketing but they don’t know Twitter marketing, they don’t know Youtube marketing, they don’t know Pinterest, they don’t know Instagram.

So I believe our users are exploring various channels and wherever and every channels we can reach out to them, we should. Basically because every audience of ours has their own liking. They have their own liking for a medium. We have seen, like, we are reaching out to customers sometimes through Youtube, now we’re trying Podcasts. So, I think we can reach out in various ways. Some people follow me in Quora and I know they are customers at Mondovo. I believe that I was surprised to see that so maybe that’s my means of being able to reach out to them through answers of questions that they ask out there. I think we have to figure out what’s the best way for email and what’s the best way for each medium.

Giri- I agree.

Bala- Just a crazy idea over here, like, now you know you have this seven day onboarding emails that we sent to everybody who signs up with Mondovo. Imagine, we take that in to a video and we talk to people about it, just in front of the camera like we know we all come and say – Hey this is what we doing and this is what we could possibly do seven days that we are going and things like that.

Giri – How will you send it to them as an email?

Bala – Well, that’s a point as an email we send it.

Giri – I love the idea if you can somehow combine an email id with a re-targeting thing. If you look at most people their same email id is used for Youtube, Facebook, Instagram. No one has multiple IDs for everything. Now, when we capture the leads, we capture the email address. But we don’t use it for any other medium that he is going in. We just use it to send stuff in his inbox. If there was a way, I know this user has logged in to Youtube with that email address, I will then send him that video through Youtube somehow.

Sameer – Does Youtube allow that, I dont think so. Facebook allows right?

Bala –  So we can target that emails.

Giri –  I would love because I know he is going to more involved on social than he will be in an inbox. When you open your inbox, you are automatically in the mood of, oh my god I have to clear up so much of this stuff. You don’t read any of the mails. So, I am saying all the fancy automation, personalization, interactivity why can’t you have it in different mediums. I have seen Youtube videos where you actually interact with the video, with the survey or something they have live on the screen. Why can’t we do that?

Bala – In fact, now there is a notification thing.

Giri – That’s happening, yes.

Bala –  So that’s a video you can literally send a notification saying that hey I am going to post a video and say like another I am going to record a video.

Sameer – Notification goes to whom?

Bala – All the subscribers.

Sameer – How do you know that?

Bala – They have a thing I’ve been following some of the people I get a notification from them just a kind on top right I go and click and nothing comes up, he clearly says that I am going to record it to you if you have any questions just post it to me.

Sameer – This goes to all the subscribers?

Bala – To all the subscribers.

Giri – It makes more sense to me because doing it on those sort of channels, I know the user is spending more time with a free mind. You’re on social with blank slate. You are in an inbox trying to clear up stuff.

Bala – But you know it all comes back to that. It goes in a mass way like you know to everybody but if you want to personalize it to one particular individual that’s going to be a tough job.

Sameer – So I think email is the best medium for personalized communication?

Bala –  At the end it kind of comes to email, okay, what is the best way to reach out to a person? Personally well email.

Giri – Why can’t I send from Facebook message? I have his email address so that means I can find him on social media. Why can’t I send him a personalized message through Facebook?

Sameer – Maybe that’s too spammy.

Giri – Facebook message.

Sameer – I am not sure people are not doing that may be its worth a try. I am not sure.

Giri – Why not?

Sameer – So let’s figure out what will work for emails. Now we all know that people, I am sure it’s not only us. There are many people out there who are not able to figure how to use emails effectively. We’ve tried, we’ve got some success but not the kind of success we would have hoped for basically. So can we hash out a possible solution given the context of the times that we are in basically. We realize that there are multiple mediums, we realize that there are multiple channels multiple people vying for our users’ attention. So how do we really reach out to our users or how do people, businesses in general, reach out to their customers using email because email, there is a way to use it, but is there a way we are not doing it right basically? What do you think Bala?

Bala – Now, before I get in to the answers of it like you know let’s talk about in the last 3 days did you really look into any of the email and did you engage in any of the email that you remember?

Sameer –  I have not checked my mails for last 3 days. But only emails I opened and responded to the conversation, that I was already engaged in. So, any marketing emails that have been sent to me no, I did not really give it a second thought and did not given a second glance also. But yeah I don’t know maybe people are like me maybe like to ignore a lot unless the emails were like from people I know people whose blogs I have subscribed to and I really love their content. So there is Alex from Groove who writes very interesting blogs sharing his journey, so I do open his mail. I skim through but I have not clicked for many of the links that’s the reality of the matter. So they are yeah I have to agree I am one of the user who just doesn’t respond, I am sure there are many like that.

Bala – Okay. You did mention about Quora that you are very famous I mean you answer to all your questions there. Quora has this interesting news feeds that sends to you over an email and pretty interesting one is that.

Sameer – Yes, those are the ones I open.

Bala – Do you open that?

Sameer – Yes good you mention that I do open Quora I trust a brand and I love the fact because I love the content to read there so thats why I open the mails is that, okay can we get some thing out there?

Bala – Exactly lets kind of hold the thought there. Giri the same question to you.

Giri – Because I know somebody should have taken the pain to make this so I have to do take a little bit effort to open most of the mails.

Bala – Wow that’s so nice.

Giri – Let’s be kind to some poor marketer there.

Sameer – But do you act on them?

Giri – No, that’s the other sad thing I do but the thing is

Sameer- But are there certain brands or things that you actually act on but it’s purely because of the brand?

Giri – No, I do so there are brands where I know the mails would look nice. So, based on a pure visual perspective like Campaign Monitor, Inbound.org all of them, the mails are really fairly pleasing to look at and then based on then how it looks and what the content is, I will interact with it. Same problem as you I don’t click on all the links obviously so again the same issue comes back that I have opened the mail, have seen the content and even if it was relevant to me but I have not acted upon because I didn’t want to.

Sameer –  Actually when you mention Inbound.org mails also, when it comes, I do open it to read some interesting question I always know that.

Bala – Good that you mentioned Inbound.org, they ran a survey and they ask a question and you know you can literally go and click and participate in that opinion or poll and what they do in the same email what ever happened in previous day they kind of put the results of that so really interesting and looking forward for that. So, that’s my opinion. What the other people have it?

Giri – If you are a community like Quora or Inbound, it is easier to get interactions from users and engagement because the only thing you are asking the user to do is read. You are not asking him to take an action. Now opinion is if we send I am basically all set and done and I need you to take action that end of it will cost you money. Same thing for shopping sites as well. It is harder for us to get that action because you are so closely guarded with your cash.

Sameer – Can we summarize that if you build a brand around yourself and the brand that people will love and your mails will also be opened with that much more enthusiasm but if your brand, if you have not offered enough value then I think whatever mails we sent is going to be hard.

I think what you do on your site, how you deal with your users matters more because the impression also plays a part. So I get mails like I get discount mails suppose from like Amazon and some of other shopping providers. But I may not open other shopping providers but I will open Amazon because I trust Amazon, I’ve used Amazon. So, I think may be it does play a part in what we do online on our site, there is a huge difference.

Giri – But then see if we like even Inbound.org or Quora they are very well known now which has been nearly 10-15 years of them actually slaving away but even in the beginning, so in our case when we sign up with somebody new, they might look at our site and find it fantastic. They might interact with our customer team, find them very helpful but they are still new to us and they are new to be, what I mean they have not developed the trust yet for me to open your mails blindly in that case what do we do?

Sameer – The question is how do we build trust or how do we build the attention for a person who is not known. Somebody new.

Bala –  Very interesting point you guys put like when you are representing your email as a brand okay we have a different click through. Recently we have this event in our office we did try sending emails to people and we tried Facebook marketing and everything. Nothing worked out so much okay it’s all about filling up 20 seats. Interestingly I got 12 seats filled up by sending emails in Linkedin. Now, in Linkedin you are personal and you know people know it what is that you exactly do, you kind of connect better than that and then whatever you send to them and you have a better response rate to it in that particular thing.

Giri-  We have tried that so what you are talking about is personalization. So in our case all the mails that go out are always written from the first person point of view. It’s in a conversational tone, it is with the persons photograph and it is signed off by the first name.

Sameer – Maybe the personality doesn’t come across or maybe that’s what missing there may be if you don’t represent the brand and the brand you are not resonating with maybe the if you are sending the first person I think you have to show a bit of emotion or you have to show bit of life I think.

Giri – But, If I have not met you?

Sameer- You have not met me but I think the way what I say matters. So, I think we have to connect with the audience relate with the problem they could have in a personal way. Of course now I am thinking aloud out here I am not sure what exactly we could do. But I know that may be if we bring life to an email in terms of bringing up personality and trying to show that we really care for a problem they have really care for why they came to our site and can we help them and so on then I think we show the passion and the caring attitude, I think maybe it might come across. Maybe this is just the thought because we are talking about many brands out here who are starting out and the brands are unknown so can the person behind the brand be the face of the brand till the brand itself becomes the figure?

Giri – In fact, what you said earlier that it’s based on the experience that they see on the site so if they see that a site is perky, humorous or whatever and the person writing to them also has the same sort of personality then it makes sense but in our case I don’t think most people even us included have not given any thought to the personality of the brand. We had this discussion very long back when I joined. So what is the personality of Mondovo but we never really finalised on anything now say we do agree on something and we carry that forward towards the website design towards the tool design towards the customer service and then towards the email as well then they will make sense. Like right now, we have got users who say it’s too complicated and I don’t know what’s going on. In the mail, we are trying to be all friendly, hey, how is it going and the experience they had in the site is not carrying forward. So but we know that this is an issue so we are working on that.

Sameer – I think that’s something we will need to figure out I think that we have to figure out. I wish I had the examples on the top of my head of what we could do but right now I don’t but I think yeah personality builds a brand maybe and the brand will come forth somehow I think.

Bala – I think we have to experiment it. It’s all the experiment game that we need to be playing with.

Giri – I don’t know if any other company doing this except Zapos. Zapos even on their site is very simple to use and very informative and if something is out of stock, they will recommend that you can buy it from some other store not only theirs where you can buy it that carries forward to the customer service also. So that entire customer centric philosophy is the entire personality of the brand. I don’t know anyone else who is doing it like that but we can start. We need to figure out that if Mondovo stands for something brand stands for simplicity stands for affordability and humanism basically. So that is the basically the person who is behind it you put a human face behind it. It’s not autonomous, unfeeling Saas tool. There are people behind it. There are people behind it and they are genuinely caring.

Sameer – So Giri we have experienced not proud to say that but we have lots of experiences of email that don’t work. So quite a few from my experience that we know that can we summarize that what are the kind of emails that really don’t produce the engagement and don’t deliver the click through rates. So what you think if you have to summarize some of your experience. Actually many people out there listing will know if they can resonate what you are saying this is not what we should be doing.

Giri – Okay. So, the common urge is to have the mails that are flashy, look really nice and I am a victim of this myself. I like mails that have images.

Sameer – Which I have totally disagreed with a number of times.

Giri – What I’ve also realize is that although there are lot of do it yourself tools available online to help you create this yourself, don’t. Because chances are it will end up very bad basically. So, the thing is if you are doing an image mail it should look professional as though a designer sat and thought because certain things, the image, font colour, placement all that matters.

If you are not a designer, chances are you will get it wrong and your will mail will look very amateurish. In that case if you can’t hire a designer if you can’t do it just ignore it do a plain text mail. That’s one. If you are doing a plain text mail, there has to be as simple language as you can. Most people try and include jargon which is very easy to do because it’s your industry and you understand the jargon users do not. So there has to be a human element that comes through the mail which we also tried then the third thing is you have to understand that the most inboxes that is sorry, how do I say this Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo none of them have standard format none of them so the mail you make in one would look horrible in the other. So, actually sending one mail takes a lot of time because you have to optimize for each of these platforms and we have spent days doing just that.

Sameer – That’s why I prefer text only mails.

Giri – You will suddenly realize when you open the mail that the CTA is at some far of place and never meant it to be there you have to try. So that is something why we just avoid image mails in general. Then the last would be that there is debate on what day to send an email if you read online everyone says no no send on Tuesday because Monday everyone is working and Friday everyone’s already waiting for the weekend but you have to understand that if you know to send the mail on Tuesday everyone else knows it too. So you will get 1000 mails on Tuesday and nobody reads it. So we have actually tried sending mails on Friday which have worked.

We have sent mails on Monday which have worked. We have sent mails on weekend which have worked. So it actually depends on what kind of topic you are sending if you are sending something that’s educational and requires to be read, we found that it works better towards the weekend because people have more time. If you want them to take action it works better towards the beginning of the week. The next thing is there is no such timing for mail normally people send it after 10.00 AM because by then he is in office, he has checked his inbox etc. You have to understand that again these rules are known by everybody. You will get all the mails at that time too and by 10’O clock I don’t know about you my work is already began so I am not looking at my inbox at that point. I will look at the inbox only during lunch when I have an hour to spare. So that again you can try.

Sameer – What about the subject lines?

Giri – Now coming to that so again we have read everything, seen everything, tried everything. So the people obviously the rule is the people say personalization in subject line that’s not technically a rule but it will be nice if it is there. People say have it short because when you open on a phone it should come below 120 characters or something that’s also here and there. We have tried emojis in the subject line. We have tried gifs in the subject line. We have tried personalized subject line.

Something interesting that we have found is that if there is a star after the last word on the subject line the open rates increase. We also found that if you put free download or free template or something like that after the subject line the open rates increase. So again it is very much like SEO where people are basically just looking for certain things to catch their eye. Now if there was a way to maybe have some sought of slight animation on that, that will be end of it all because everybody would do it. But it’s a nice idea. I like the idea of having it in the inbox.

Bala – Animation in the subject line?

Giri – In the subject line or something, now another part I would say this is like email inbox SEO but there is a subject line there is second subject line then there is your introduction. So most people when they skim the inbox would look at the main subject line and one or two lines of text after that.

Sameer – That’s a very good point yeah.

Giri – So actually if you seeing most of the mails there is main subject line under that there is a quick summary, not a summary, but one line statement of what this mail is about. So even if you don’t open it, you’ll atleast read that part which is what we are hoping that you will open.

Sameer – So that’s a thing which many people don’t think about. I have not thought about that as well. So I know so I think the first line matters more and we should not waste that opportunity.

Giri – Then I can go on but never mind.

Sameer – Bala so if you can just summarize.

Bala – You know just putting up all the points what Giri said flashy images if you have good designer go for it otherwise stick on to HTML good example. Because you know all the images comes from Neil Patel, it’s all the plain HTMLs.

Sameer – I am the huge fan of text only mails. I just hate those shivelry mails.

Bala – No headaches with designer sought of thing, go with HTML for the win, jargons use the right jargons and proceed on right formats make sure that your emails going to be working on but if you are going to be on the HTML, it’s pretty much going to work on any format. Personalities – in those particular things dates try different dates you know the one what industry says don’t go with that because everyone is trying that try the other dates it could work.

Subject lines lots and lots of experiments that you can do with that check the one which is actually working and check it on and proceed on. One thing I want to add is that you know is one of the emails which we get it from buffer team and every time they have this small gif images at the bottom. That’s interesting one I think we should do more of that I really love those gifs. I think we should try some gifs.

Sameer- We have to include pursuit for the office mails also, that’s cool that builds personality exactly.

Bala – Exactly.

Giri – Personality builds the brand we can put that in.

Bala – I think we can include that also. So that’s the kind of point that we want for reaching out to our customers and that’s kind of it. For more information on such topics subscribe to us and watch out even a video of this in Youtube and of course check out our blog at Mondovo.com you will be having more information.  We’ll come back next week with even more interesting topic and much more.

Sameer – Thank you

Giri- Thank you

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