Purpose in Email Marketing

June 15, 2013

I am actually working on writing a guide to email design and best practices called Modern HTML Email. You can learn more here.

There are a lot of different ideas about the true purpose of email marketing. For most, the purpose of an email marketing campaign aligns perfectly with their marketing goals. All emails serve to drive sales or eyeballs on a page. But what if we reconsider the purpose of email marketing? Is there some higher goal that we can aspire to?

I believe there is.

While it’s pragmatic to always keep in mind the need to drive sales - there is a potentially better way to do it with email marketing than straight advertising in your campaigns. I’m not arguing against including ads in campaigns, but what I am arguing for is seeing the purpose of email marketing as building a relationship with your audience.

The best way to build a relationship with your audience is by valuing their time and attention more than your own or your marketing goals. You should always keep in mind that they are so interested in you that they actively reached out to hear more from you by signing up for your list. You should work your ass off to reward them for that. Always strive to provide them with something of value in every email you send - whether it’s a link to an interesting article, a special deal on your latest download, or a killer discount at your brick-and-mortar.

A good example of this done well is pretty much any email from Nathan Barry - app maker and author of some cool books. Whenever you sign up for one of his lists, he gives you something in return - usually a sample chapter from a book or a few tips related to whatever topic that list best addresses. In nearly every email he sends, there is something of value for the recipient - showing that he values your time. While most emails still push some sort of sell, it is always in a way that feels friendly and personal.

What are some ways that you can show subscribers that you value their time? Here are a few ideas:

I’m sure you can think of more ways to augment the purpose of your email marketing beyond just selling stuff. And while I know that not all campaigns and companies can get away with ideas like this, any campaign focused on strengthening your relationship with subscribers is a campaign well-spent. I think that once the purpose of your email campaign is redefined in the terms of building a relationship with someone then you will start to see your long-term marketing goals not only met, but exceeded.

More importantly, you will find that your subscribers can’t wait to hear from you.