Email gets called a lot of names.
Old, Boring, Lame, Annoying, Overloaded and Dead.
But if it’s so old, annoying, boring, and lame, how come we’re overloaded by it?
And if we’re overloaded by it, how can it be dead?
It’s both confusing and disheartening to hear these things as a co-founder of a company that has become pretty close pals with Email.
Usually, we just ignore the haters. After 47 years on this planet, Email isn’t looking for your approval. Email has learned to shut-up, keep its head down and do its job. These are things I haven’t learned quite yet, so let me take a stab at its defense.
Every internal communications solution (that’s not doing email) is trying to sell a vision of an email free world.
Email is the feindbild. The thing you need to be rescued from. Or it has been declared dead so prematurely that it’s almost comical, just like the old man in the "bring out your dead" Monty Python bit.
But email is alive and well, and it’s not going anywhere.
Just ask Slack founder Stewart Butterfield, who recently called email, “the cockroach of the internet.” While at first glance it seems like an insult, it’s actually pretty high praise.
If Slack can’t kill email, then it’s here to stay.
(Note: I love Slack and if you’re sending slackable messages by email, you’re doing it wrong.)
And that’s actually a good thing. Believe it or not.
Not everyone has a problem with email.
If you told a marketer that email was dead, they would look at you sideways and say, “Oh yeah? Then why is email getting a 4x return with my B2B audience, stocking my funnel with MQLs, and creating $10.3 million in new revenue?”
Now, not all of us have the distinct pleasure of having a marketer nearby so let’s look at the evidence:
- Email has an ROI of 122% (Four times higher than other marketing channels).
- Email marketing drives customer retention for 80% of small to medium sized retail businesses (The next highest channel was social media at 44%).
- Email users are growing and projected to reach 255 million by the end of 2020 in the United States, and are currently at 3.7 billion worldwide.
- Email is just as sticky for millennials as other consumer age groups.
Those data points are backed up by the two biggest email providers, Microsoft and Google, investing heavily in new versions of email.
So here’s the 10.3 million dollar question…
Why does email perform so well externally but get called ineffective, overloaded, and old internally?
Marketers have the tools needed to make email effective and internal communicators don’t.
There are hundreds of high-quality email marketing tools that allow marketers to easily test new ideas, measure their effectiveness, and improve. This gives strategic marketers the power to create emails that cut through the noise of the thousands of other annoying emails that land in your inbox.
But, if marketers have been given a shiny red tool chest full of high precision instruments, communicators have been left to get the job done with a rusty potato.
(Note: To be fair, Outlook was never designed for internal communicators’ needs.)
Out of the box, using Outlook for employee emails makes it a nightmare to test new ideas or design anything half decent. And even if you manage to create something that you think is amazing, it’s impossible to measure how effective it was or to learn anything from it.
And who’s the fall guy for the resulting frustration?
On the bright side, this pain is the fundamental reason that we see so many communicators finding success with tools like Bananatag. They get the same capabilities (and more) as their marketing friends. It’s a game-changer.
So does this mean I'm advocating an email only strategy?
Email isn’t asking you to be monogamous. It’s okay to experiment with other channels. It’s not only okay, it’s the best practice.
Multiple channels enrich the employee experience, just like they do in the consumer experience. Diversity is a good thing: in society, in stocks, in nature, and even in employee communications.
That said, before you go on an adventure to find the holy app or the intranet of your dreams, scrape off the rust and sharpen the tools that you already have.
And then, find what other channels or tools will fill in the gaps. Better yet, use the data you collect from your existing channels to help make a case for adding an app or another communication channel. (We’ve actually had customers do just that.)
In the end, calling a channel names or praying for its demise isn’t getting us anywhere. The odds are you’re more likely to die before email gets carted off, so let’s try to make the best of it. 🙂