Does regular emailing for your product/company still work?

Last night (mid March) I discovered that a friend had gifted me a game on Steam, just after Christmas Day. There was a notification from Steam about this in my gmail account, and gmail had labelled it “Promotions”. I don’t check my “Promotions” folder much these days due to the quantity of email in it.

This got me thinking: it seems that many companies has learned that email lists are important. They all want to “keep me informed” or have a “personal conversation” with me. From the last 24 hours alone:

  • Netflix tells me Mad Men Season is here (for the record, I don’t care)
  • The New Yorker sent me a daily dispatch (I don’t care - I subscribe to the New Yorker and read it when it digitally arrives each week)
  • Flipboard notified me of something (I don’t care - I tried Flipboard a couple of years ago and soon stopped using it). It seems it is a daily notification.
  • Three different online poker rooms have tried to tell me something they think I should know (my software is for online poker rooms - for dev and testing I’ve signed up for all of them. I don’t care about their daily marketing)
  • An online taxi ordering service is telling me they’d like me to spam my friends about their service - and they’ll pay me for it. I used that service maybe once - I don’t recall.

That’s created such a quantity of daily email that I’ve stopped paying attention to most of it - instead I rely on gmail to filter it for me. Sure I can unsubscribe, and I do from time to time, but I’m thinking of typical consumers to whom I want to market - do they also receive such a daily dump so large they tend to ignore it?

Perhaps this volume has significantly damaged the marketing value of email campaigns?

Has anyone in this forum measured whether email campaigns are losing effectiveness?

I run a daily newsletter with ~95k subscribers, 48% open rate, and around 30,000 clicks on items in the newsletter… every day of the week. That’s fairly unheard of, but it works for us and our readers because we actually provide unique, interesting content that is exclusive to the newsletter 7 days a week. We have fun facts, trivia, a comic, a reading list of links, and of course a list of our feature articles for the day.

We spend a lot of money building unique and custom content to keep our newsletter subscribers engaged, happy, and interested in opening the newsletter every single day. When the newsletter goes out, our traffic spikes by a few thousand concurrent sessions for the next few hours. When we have a glitch and the newsletter doesn’t go out, my inbox lights up with complaints from readers who are upset that they didn’t get to read our newsletter with their coffee in the morning.

As far as I can tell though, that’s really rare. There are a few newsletters out there that people might open regularly, but for the most part, people are just sending emails that increasingly get ignored.

Because almost all marketers are sending out nonsense that benefits them, rather than benefiting the readers.

The one exception is the coupon email. Every time we go shopping, my wife searches through her email for coupon codes to whatever store we’re at… she’s subscribed to almost every newsletter ever from every store. And she pretty much always has a coupon code for 10 or 20% off our purchases.

Customers like coupons. That’s why LivingSocial and Groupon did well, before getting too greedy and losing track of what made them successful.

So yes, to answer your question, yes. It really has.

But if you provide true value to the customers, they will make a point of seeking out your email and opening it. Whether daily, like mine do, or finding a coupon code later when you need to buy something.


I’m kind of biased (read: very biased) because I sell an email marketing product, but I’ll chime in anyways.

Even like your comment on Netflix emails, personally I’ve found them to be pretty relevant to me. Surprisingly relevant. Usually TV seasons for shows that I’ve binge watched.

Aside from the Netflix one, nothing immediately comes to mind. The vast majority of promotional email I just don’t read. Although I did recently get an abandoned cart type reminder email from bing with a coupon code that expired in it.

I kind of fancied myself immune to such email since it’s basically what I do for a living, but that email actually got me to pick up the phone and call in. It was kind of crazy.

I don’t use the gmail tabs. Very comfortable with my current workflow and don’t really need the tabs to help me get through my email faster. I think most email marketers thought that they would spell the end of email marketing as we know it - but they haven’t really had that impact.

If anything, they may even help a little bit since people have a stronger buying intent when they drop into their promotional email tab at whatever frequency they choose to do that.

I’m sure that consumers probably ignore a lot of email. But yet email still works. Almost seems to me like there’s a resurgency in email in recent years with products like, and increase in behavioral email usage, lots of new email newsletters cropping up, etc.

I think they are still effective if done right. I run a small niche jobboard and every week I will send out a newsletter with the newest jobs, upcoming events, and am now starting to include the community discussions (community functions are still very beta). And - I think this is very important for my newsletter - I include a personal introduction. I might write about what’s going on in the niche or I might even write about my own personal life.

I started it about 3 years ago and now it includes a bit over 8.000 subscribers. With a click-rate of about 10% I’m very happy with it, and people who have found jobs actually stay on the newsletter to keep up with what’s going on. And now when I tell people about what I do I actually get comments like “Oh, yeah, you send out those newsletters” so people actually know the newsletter but not the website! People will forward the newsletter to friends and family, and every now and then I will get a request “How do I get on the newsletter list? Someone sent it to me and I want to get it, too.”

And a website is semi-passive in the sense that you have to wait for people to visit it, whereas the newsletter you can do active communication. So in that sense, it has been an important part of my website.

I think it’s important to figure out the added value for the newsletter, for you and your customers / readers.

Is that the last season of Mad Men? I gotta go binge watch that!