When I started violetminded in 2009, I had no idea what I was doing. Let’s be real, when we start out in business, none of us have any frakking clue. It’s the learning curve that keeps we entrepreneurs entertained in the long run.
And as much as we’d like to rail against the best practices of running a business online, we can’t. They’re best practices for a good reason: they work. Email marketing is no exception to that. It works. Dear sweet mother of muffins, it’s effective as hell for reaching your people and hawking your wares to the masses.
I learned a long time ago that the best way to figure out how a system works is to get inside, dismantle it, and examine its inner workings, which is what I’ve done with digital business building. I don’t know how many courses I’ve taken or programs I’ve been a part of that have building a list at the tippy-top of the biznez to-do.
We’re working within a system that is inherently flawed.
Inboxes are slammed with emails from our favourite people, our not-so-favourite-people, brands that we love, and lists that we felt obligated to join because we love our friends and family. Everyone is clamouring for Inbox Zero. It’s a mark of honour to have an empty inbox. We’re valourous in our attempts to thwart the internet monster and its great hoard of email.
It’s. Fucking. Crazy.
In the fledgling days of online business, emails were coveted.
“Did you see the email from our first customer? I hope it didn’t take too long over dial-up!”
(Oh dial-up. I don’t miss you.)
In this golden age of online business, emails are carefully categorized, re-routed, spammed, ignored, deleted, archived, and tagged for follow-up. Anything that we don’t immediately see goes through the equivalent of an internet sieve.
Email isn’t exciting anymore. Once upon a time, it was the most precious thing about being online. Everyone remembers their first email ever. (Well, I do. I was ten.)
If email isn’t exciting anymore and people dread receiving it… why are we still focusing on reaching a segment of our audience with the one thing that they want less of?
Answer: because that’s what we’re told to do. It’s effective. It’s easy to manage. It’s instant satisfaction when you see people clicking on your campaign and not ignoring it. An open rate of 35% is somehow something to text home about. Got tons of people on your list? Rad, you’re doing it right!
I propose we take a critical look at our messaging medium.
Email marketing sucks for digital creatives. We’re in the business of creativity and part of that is building relationships with our clients. Sending them the occasional newsletter with all the great stuff we’ve been doing is about as effective as that newsletter you sent out with your Christmas cards. The people that love you will love your updates. Everyone else will toss that shiz in the trash and not give it another thought.
For we creatives, the best way to reach our people is to write, create, and reach them on social networks (and in person, of course). I’ve built the good majority of my business through a combination of Twitter, Facebook, and referrals.
But, even though it sucks for some kinds of markets (such as designers, developers, and other commodity-based-service-oriented digital businesses), we still try and build our list.
We give out freebies to hook ‘em.
We send out monthly newsletters (to which many unsubscribe because they forgot they were subscribed).
We try to determine what we’re doing wrong.
The flaw is in the delivery of the message, not necessarily the message itself.
I kicked my email marketing to the curb. I closed my MailChimp account with no trepidation. I know it’s not right for my business or for my people.
Am I suggesting that you nix email marketing if you’re digging it and the results it’s getting you? Hell no.
What I am suggesting is this: dismantle the system and do things your way, even if it seems counter-intuitive and especially if everyone tells you that you’re nuts.