The Oracle of Email Shares His Wisdom

Dear readers, the Oracle of Email is is upon us!

Mark Brownlow is the founder and publisher of Email Marketing Reports, a website for the new and experienced emarketer alike and has been called “The Oracle of Email” by reputed statistics website, marketingprofs.

Mark has been kind enough to share his views on email marketing, content writing and what gets people responding.

Where do you see email marketing heading in the next 5 years?

I have absolutely no idea. Seriously. Predictions online are very difficult – how many laughed at the concept of Twitter? Who thought Google would become so dominant back when it was just one of several top search engines? Remember Alta Vista? Hotbot?

However…email is so intrinsic to the working of the Internet that its disappearance would be a shock. Companies like Google seem to agree, given their continual updates to Gmail and the like. Which means email marketing will stay important, too.

It’s not about email marketing living off email’s continuing popularity, like some unwelcome tick. We often forget that people like and want email marketing. Ask them and they’ll tell you they don’t like “marketing mails”, but they do like getting advice, information, discounts, great deals and entertainment via email. If you’re delivering value, you’re not just marketing, you’re providing a service.

What are some of the top developments in email marketing that have surprised you?

Every year for several years was supposed to be the year of mobile email. Even so, I’m surprised how quickly it went from “next year’s big thing” to more or less normality. But marketers still have a lot of work to do here.

Everyone focuses on design for mobile email. That’s important, but “mobile” is about more than just different devices for reading mail. For example, how does carrying email around in your pocket affect the kind of content marketers should send? Can you exploit the mobile Internet for list building? People no longer need to be at a desk to sign-up online.

I’m more surprised at how slow we’ve been to exploit the opportunities that email marketing tools, software and services have made available.

There are many reasons why a sender might not implement, for example, advanced trigger messaging. But there are basic tactics that still not everyone uses, such as sending a welcome message, and then sending one that doesn’t sound like it was written by a machine.

What do you think is the most important thing to consider when creating great content?

That’s a great question and opinions are divided on this.

I believe we’ve been seduced by the numbers. Seduced into looking for a short-term high in the form of retweets and similar. So you see a focus on catchy headlines and quick, fluffy content designed to generate those easily-monitored “shares” that make us feel good.

But is that our true goal? Is the content actually creating long-term impact and influence? Is it producing new customers? More sales? More profit?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But to answer your question, the critical component is ensuring you deliver a depth of value that your competitors don’t. For me it’s all about “quality”, tempered of course by ensuring your content supports your key goals. And good writing (including, yes, good headlines) should make that content accessible and easier to market.

What do you think gets people responding to marketing campaigns?

There’s a lot of material around the classic AIDA concept: you need to get attention, generate interest, raise desire then encourage action.

Online and in email, particularly, more focus needs to go into giving people a clear path to follow, with regular reminders of why moving down this path is good for them.

Take the lowly sign-up form. How many people just invite their website visitors to sign-up for regular emails? Nobody needs “more emails”. So explain how those emails will benefit them – save them money, help them do their job better, whatever.

Do you think social media is a friend or foe of email marketing and why?

I think it’s whatever you make of it. It never feels right to deal in absolutes. I’m always sceptical when someone says, “you must use Facebook” or “Twitter is a complete waste of time”.

How you combine (or not) social and email depends on your unique situation. Unfortunately, online marketing involves a lot of “we should do this because other people do it” rather than “we should do this because it makes sense for our business situation”.

There’s definitely potential for social and email to help each other, such as using Tweets to promote your list or email to promote a Facebook competition. If I had one tip, it would be to look to converting social followers into email subscribers. Simply because email tends to be a better place to drive action, particularly sales.

So what do you guys think? Have any questions for Mark Brownlow himself? Let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • Author: maryka.burger

  • Maryka has worked across multiple industries ranging from hard news journalism to digital tech companies and advertising. She is an expert at building online presence, and offers a wealth of knowledge on digital marketing, social media and automation trends to agencies and digital start-ups.