Email Marketing is Dead — Again!

Can you believe everything you read?

Is email marketing dead? (Photo by Agata Kaczówka on Unsplash)

It seems like every year around this time, experts start saying that email is worthless in this age of social media. Every year it’s the same thing. I don’t know if they are trying to get views by being contrary to everyone else, because, if you look at the numbers, email marketing is still very much alive.

  • Email marketing trends to expect in 2019MarketingLand.com
  • Is Email Marketing Dead? Let’s Check the Stats on That — OptinMonster.com
    “…email marketing statistics that show that, far from being dead, email marketing is an essential tool for attracting and retaining customers.”
  • Email Marketing is Not Dead. Here’s WhyGary Vaynerchuk
    “…I don’t think anything is ever dead. Some things aren’t as valuable as they used to be. But the ironic thing is that I actually think email is a VERY strong platform at the moment. We all need to market in the year we live in. So right now, email is a killer app. Now, are open rates at eighty percent like I had in 1997? Absolutely not. But is it relevant? 100%. And I’ll give you some email marketing tips now. It just comes down to the same old game that I preach in social, which is: are you delivering quality content?”

When I started this article, I wanted to take the stand that, yes, email marketing was dying. I wanted to believe that in 2019, all you needed to connect to your audience was social media.

Why?

What Am I Thinking?

I just started a new blog and am in the process of setting up ConvertKit as my email service. As I was doing it, I was thinking about how I wanted my blog to be different (I was also trying to get out of paying $30 a month). I was also thinking about how I need to start collecting email addresses on Medium.

Every part of me was screaming, “Ugh, I want to be different! I hate opt-ins and popups. I hate bribing people with garbage so they will sign up for my list. I hate it almost as much as I hate Google ads!”

I had my statement all planned out. I was going to make a stand against ads and popups. I was going to announce that I would never ask for an email address, because dammit, I am different! It would be my manifesto against dirty marketing strategies!

But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that a major part of any successful marketing strategy is collecting the email addresses of your audience. I have been building blogs long enough to know that an email list is gold and always will be.

Social media is fickle. I remember when Facebook started charging creators to access the fan base they had built. Instead of being able to send out a post and getting it read by all your fans like before, now you have to pay for the “privilege.”

When you bet on social media, you will lose. They are big businesses, and will always make decisions based on their own interests. At least when you’ve built an email list, you have unfettered access to your fans.

Maybe one day, email will go away. Who knows? But you have to market for what is working right now, and right now, email works!

A Little Survey

I knew I would have to collect email addresses, but I could change the way I collected them.

I had questions, so I sent them out to the writers on Medium Mastery, one of the Medium-themed Facebook groups I belong to. I got a few responses back, and here is what they said.

Question 1: How many marketing emails have you received in the last week?

Personally, I’ve received over 30. Kori D. Miller said she received too many to count. Stefani Vader says she gets about 35 a week. A 100 or more for Jim Woods.

Question 2: How many emails have you opened and read?

I never open them if I know who they are from. Many times, if I get too many from one person, I will unsubscribe. Junie Rutkevich doesn’t open any, and Greg Prince says deleting them is like a video game. Linda Laino opens a few.

Question 3: Have you ever bought anything that was advertised in a marketing email?

I never have. I almost bought a $2000 blogging course once but decided against it. Shweta Mishra says she would buy if it’s something she wanted and got a good deal.

Question 4: Do you feel, as a writer, you should collect your audiences’ emails?

This question got the most interesting responses. Part of it was because I answered that I thought email marketing was dead. The response was overwhelmingly positive in favor of collecting email addresses.

Shannon Ashley said:

“I recently began an email list, and I send out a weekly newsletter, but I am not selling anything. It’s a way to potentially stay in contact with readers if Medium were to go under. And, if I were to write a book, I’d have a list of potential readers. I’m still new with the emails, but I figure those who open and click on the links in my newsletter are some of my biggest fans.”

Shaunta Grimes said:

“I don’t think that email marketing is dead, but it’s definitely changing. Only about 20 percent of my list opens my emails — I think a lot because of the people who do what the first commenter here said they do. Give an email to get my free thing that they don’t actually use beyond just getting my free thing. They aren’t interested in hearing from me.

And you know? That’s okay. Twenty percent open rate and maybe 3 percent click through rate means that my Medium posts have a good 300 views from readers who are dedicated to me. If someone just wants my freebie — that’s okay. I sort of wish they’d take it and leave my list, so I don’t have to pay for them, but whatever.”

On the other side of the argument, Jessica Archuleta says she thinks social media is better, and Elle Fredine hates sales email of any kind but enjoys email newsletters like Shannon Ashley’s.

What I Learned

What I learned is that I was right; email marketing is important. I was also right that the way we gather and use the email addresses needs to change.

I hate popups, so I won’t use them on my blog — even exit popups, which are a little less annoying. I am going to rely on inline opt-in forms and content upgrades. I will use things like checklists and workbooks as freebies to help gather email addresses. On Medium, I am going to offer a weekly newsletter.

I used ConvertKit on my blog and Upscribe to collect emails on Medium. They didn’t have a free option, but I think it’s only $10 a month for Upscribe (CovertKit for my blog was about $30 a month). It was very easy. It didn’t take me more than 10 minutes to set it up for Medium. My blog took a bit longer but was still easy.

This is what the opt-in on my blog looks like:

My opt-in (image by author)

If I go about this the right way, I can still collect email addresses and not feel dirty for doing it at the end of the day.

Let Me Ask You

How many of you like pop-ups? I hate them. I hate them especially when they don’t give you an obvious way to close them out.

Do you like being bribed for your email address? How about if I just told you I wanted you to sign up for my list and give stuff away for free? Are any of you like me and feel gross with the bribery thing?

What do you think I can do to collect email addresses and still feel good about myself?

How do I get past the fact that people don’t want to open marketing emails? I am planning on not sending “marketing” emails. I am going to provide content and extreme value, and if I have a product I think could help people, I will offer it in a classy way (I think that’s still marketing, stupid!)

No high-pressure. I hate that.

I can’t kid myself that everyone will open my email. But if even a small percentage of them do, it will still be worthwhile. I need to always behave in a stand-up manner. I can’t let myself get to the point that so many do on the web where they would sell their soul for a sale or click.

I don’t want to do that.

I know that email marketing is here to stay. It is very far from dying. I need to collect emails and market to my audience in a way where I still have principles. I want to feel good about everything I’ve done at the end of the day.

But, I still want to make a living doing what we all love — writing!

Don’t we all want that?

This story was not curated. If you write and publish on Medium, you know what that means — a quick death. If not, it just means that it won’t be promoted to other readers on Medium.

But it doesn’t always have to be like this, and this is where I add value to your life. It works like this:

We all write free content for Medium. They don’t pay for it. The money we pay to be members is more than enough to pay the writers who are making money. In return for us writing millions of words of free content and paying the writers who engage with the readers (us again), Medium forbids us from adding any more than a simple text link to the bottom of posts to promote ourselves.

If you do everything right, you get curated.

I have no problem with that. I’ve been with Medium for over a year-and-a-half, and I absolutely fricking love that they gave me a platform to earn and share my writing. I tell everyone I know to join Medium and start writing.

But, if I don’t get curated, my stories die. I don’t earn. The only traffic I get comes in is from Google, and if the people they are sending are not Medium subscribers, I don’t get paid.

But Medium benefits greatly. Every time we bring eyeballs onto the platform, Medium gains authority and in turn, members. They also get income from writers paying them for exposure by featuring them in publications and other places on Medium, even if they aren’t members. It’s a great business model.

I thank Medium for giving me the platform, and I respect them, especially when they curate me and my stories live on.

So Medium, I love you, and if you curate me, I will follow the rules and only put a small text link to my newsletter at the bottom.

But, if I am not curated, I am going to use my work to promote myself and my brand.

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Introverted essayist and creator- I am doing it my way and it might take a bit longer. Don't wait up!

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