If you Google the term inbound marketing you’ll discover there are a multitude of different inbound techniques, including SEO, blogging, posting in social media and uploading videos to YouTube.
Inbound Is Good, Outbound Is Bad, Right?
Another technique which is widely promoted is email. But email is not inbound marketing in any way, shape or form. I think the reason that email is regarded, by so many marketeers, as an inbound technique is the simply fact that, quite wrongly, inbound marketing is regarded as good, and outbound marketing bad. So if you are one of the thousands of businesses across the world who make a living from email marketing, it’s understandable that you would want to consider that you are doing good marketing rather than bad.
The truth is, all email marketing is outbound in nature. Think about it. Inbound marketing is all about creating compelling content in your area of expertise such that anybody searching for answers finds it, and in so doing finds you and your company. It’s about the consumer being in control. It’s about the search terms the consumer uses. It’s about the 3rd party recommendations which the consumer receives. It’s about the trusted reviews which the consumer reads. With inbound marketing the consumer is in control all of the time. They decide when they want to search for something. They decide when they want to read something. They decide when to seek advice on something.
Email Is A Form Of Interruption Marketing
Email marketing is a form of interruption marketing. The recipient typically has no idea when they might receive an email from you. Even if you send them an email at the same time, on the same day, every week you have no idea whether or not it’s a good time for the recipient to receive that email. They might not be thinking about the topic you want to engage them on, it might be a particularly inconvenient time, their inbox might be overloaded. The point is you, the marketeer, are in control of whether or not you send and email and to whom. It is out of the consumer’s control. Therefore it is an interruptive, outbound activity – no question.
Now, I suspect that some email marketeers will point to the fact that permission-based email activities are targeted at people who have shown an interest in an area of expertise, and have therefore “signed up” to receive additional information as and when you see fit. It’s true, this can be a bona fide marketing technique, but it’s outbound not inbound, even with permission.
Technical Permission Versus Emotional Permission
A final comment on permission-based email. Whereas permission-based email is infinitely more acceptable than spammy email blasts, alas, the technique is now so widely abused that its effectiveness is surely in terminal decline. If you offer to send an ebook or a white paper to a person if and only if they give up their email address, and if you then proceed to send promotional emails to that individual, you haven’t truly engaged in a permission-based relationship. Not in the way that Seth Godin envisaged when he coined the phrase “permission marketing” all those years ago. Sure you have technical permission (i.e. they ticked the box), but you don’t have emotional permission. Many of these people don’t actually want to receive further emails from you. Imagine if you gave your prospect 2 different ways to receive your ebook or white paper: (A) Please give us your email address and we’ll send you the eBook. We’ll also continue to stay in touch with you via email. Or (B) Click here to download the ebook. Please contact us if you have any questions or if you’d like further information. I don’t need to tell you which option would be more popular. That’s why more than 50% of so-called permission-based emails still don’t get opened.
That’s not to say such an email strategy would not work in terms of driving revenue. Even if only 10% of your emails get opened, if you send enough emails, and if enough of those 10% convert into customers, then you may well earn a living. But you need to think about the long-term impact of continuing to send emails to the 90% who are not interested. You are spamming them (yes, even though you have their “permission”, you are spamming them). This means you are annoying them. This means, in their eyes at least, that you are damaging your reputation and credibility. And of course they will tell their friends. So before you embark upon a faux, permission-based email strategy, think about your long-term objectives.
The Importance Of Email
In summary, you need to think very carefully about how you deploy email. I believe that email kicks in very powerfully at the consideration and conversion stage of the customers’ journey, at which point it becomes an integral part of your CRM strategy. But higher up the funnel, where it’s all about driving awareness and familiarity, your best interests (including protection of your brand), are best served via a robust and systematic inbound marketing strategy.