Don’t be fooled by business statistics attempting to demonstrate a mass migration away from email, and toward social media as the dominant platform for marketing messages. It isn’t that the statistics showing massive — and ever growing — numbers of social media users are false entirely. It’s that the context usually suggests that marketers tend to address their target audiences from an ‘either/or’ standpoint. Or it suggests that users rely on one or the other exclusively. And that just simply isn’t true. Social media may excel at a few things, but targeted marketing campaigns aren’t among those. Despite the fact that social media platforms like Facebook number their users in the billions, the number of active email accounts for 2013 — 3.6 Billion — is around triple Facebook’s reported number of users for 2014. What’s more 92 percent of those people consider email to be a valuable communication and collaboration tool, while significant numbers of people who participate in social media, do so only begrudgingly. Many social media users report a general sense of mistrust for those platforms and feel like it’s primarily superficial, and only valuable because of social trends.
Contrast that with the fact that an average office worker receives 80 emails a day, and email marketing messages are the most viewed form of marketing messages on mobile devices, and the relevance of email marketing really comes into focus. What all theses statistics mean is that in spite of all these technological and social shifts, email still retains its title as the heavyweight champion of business communications.
Autobiography of business communications
According to a few linguists and literary theorists, the basic units of meaning in living speech as well as the basic units of meaning in writing are the unstated propositions that are coded into the language — either spoken or on the page — not the words themselves. That is vital to understand because, as a marketer considering a client’s brand identity, target audience, and storyline, it is incredibly important to consider the recipient’s user experience from a propositional standpoint. Carefully considering unstated propositions in advance, or perhaps considering them more analytically once there’s a basic premise for a campaign outlined, or draft of a targeted message on the page, will help inform some of the more minute but significant decisions involved in launching an email marketing campaign.
It may sound daunting but it’s not really that complicated. For example, when 43 percent of recipients click the spam button based on the email’s ‘from’ name or email address it’s because some proposition coded into those first bits of information, that all users interact with said, “Hi I’m spam, and I’d like to introduce you to my friend link bait.” Considering personalized subject lines advances a proposition to users that somewhere, somebody is thinking about their problems, and personally trying to think of ways to solve them. But there is a stunning majority, 70 percent of marketers who don’t know well enough to personalize their emails. Those who do make the shift to personalized emails see a 22.3 percent open-rate increase.
64 percent of people report having either sent or received an email that resulted in unintended anger or confusion. For email marketers who aren’t getting good results, that anger and confusion is most likely their own.
Anatomy of a perfect email
By now it seems fair to assume that pretty much everybody has a basic visual concept of the way the email user experience is laid out. But the top-down hierarchical structure of the old print media paradigm may be so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche that it prevents some of us from understanding digital messaging the way it should be understood. That is, multidimensionally. Yes email is still read from the top down, like any other text. And yes layout, typography, and overall visual rhetoric all imply important propositions of their own. But the anatomy of a perfect email reveals less of a value hierarchy, than a balance of values that offer readers multiple options to determine value for themselves. From personalized subject lines, to navigation bars at the top of the email which should include links back to the senders website, to the rhetorical call to action toward the end of the text, to the trust badges and social media links at the very bottom of the page, which incidentally yield 158 percent higher click through rates, readers are left with several possible actions to take, and several possible conclusions to draw. People like to feel informed and empowered to decide value, and make decisions for themselves. How they reach those decisions all depends on how they read the unstated propositions contained in the messages they read. With that idea in mind, it becomes clear that the most favorable email marketing results come when the unstated propositions match up with the things that the message explicitly states. For the most part, the anatomy of a perfect email advances the proposition to its recipients that the sender has already rated them, their opinion, and their time, as valuable commodities, not just their money.
Check out the infographic on the anatomy of a perfect email for a few guidelines on what to do, and what not to do with email marketing campaigns.