row of mailboxes
Email marketing is alive and well in 2017 — if you do it right PHOTO: Daria Nepriakhina

Every marketing team worth its weight in retweets knows the value of email marketing. Even those who believe that email is dying a slow death admit that — for now at least — email marketing still works. 

But for the naysayers, here’s where email marketing stands in 2017. 

The Abridged Case for Email Marketing

Building an email subscriber list enables you to engage a little more intimately with the targeted segment of your audience that actively wants to receive your messages. 

A lot of research has gone into quantifying the value of email marketing. According to Campaign Monitor’s calculations, for every dollar spent on email marketing in 2016, marketers could expect an average ROI of $44, up from $38 in 2015.  

What’s more, email continues to deliver extremely competitive response rates. Research by Statista reports that the open rate for emails in 2016 was 13.1 percent, although that number shot up to 18.8 percent when the emails were personalized. 

But here’s the question: aside from those transactional and personalized emails that we’re always being instructed to send out, what else can you do to leverage your list of email subscribers? 

1. Share Exclusive Content

To keep your subscribers from unsubscribing, you need to give them value. 

Sure, you may be giving them first dibs on your latest product or exclusive access to your soon-to-be-published ebook, but that’s the kind of exclusivity that grows stale pretty quickly.

Instead, consider crafting content for your subscribers’ eyes only. That might include writing whole blog posts within your emails, or hosting live webinars that only your subscribers can attend or replay. 

Not only will this keep your subscribers engaged, it will make them feel like they're part of your brand’s inner circle. Speaking of which …

2. Build a Community

Joining your email newsletter should be easy, but once they’re signed up, your subscribers should feel like they’re part of a semi-secret society. There are a number of ways to create such an atmosphere:

  • Give your subscriber base a name, and use that address to address your community in emails, on social media and in other content. 
  • Let your subscribers have a say on minor decisions that will impact them by asking them to weigh in via exclusive surveys or polls. 
  • Provide your community with a dedicated platform like a forum or intranet where members can discuss your brand and support each other. 
  • As mentioned above, produce content exclusively for your subscribers.

Be warned, though, that turning your subscriber list into a community takes time and consistent effort. You’ll need to nurture each subscriber's interest in your brand at its own pace until it turns into fandom, which is no small feat.

3. Start Micro-Engaging

Sending out an email blast is macro-engagement. To start micro-engaging, you can encourage your subscribers to respond to your emails with their answers to a question you pose, or to ask questions themselves. Once a handful of subscribers respond, you can engage them in a one-on-one conversation. 

Such a granular level of engagement may be time consuming, but it’s a great way to turn your subscribers into loyal fans. 

4. Extend Your Reach

Relying on social media platforms alone to deliver messages to your fans is a bad idea. That’s because Twitter and Instagram’s algorithms may not favor you, while Facebook’s plot to destroy organic reach on its platform definitely won’t. 

To enhance the reach of your best social media posts, you can send out email blasts alerting your subscribers to them. But be sure to reserve such alerts for social posts that you expect to do extremely well, since sending out emails for everything you publish can land you in trouble, as I’m about to explain.

Keep it Classy

Now there’s nothing wrong with getting more out of your email subscribers, as long as you don’t slide into spammer territory. Not only is spam bad for business, it’s also illegal in many states, as well as many countries across the world.

So while you want to maximize the strength of your email subscriber base, always be sure to plan your email marketing campaigns with value — and moderation — in mind.