Work Horse Vs. Show Horse — Is Email Marketing Being Undermined by the Lure of Social Media?


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About a year ago, we sparked a heated discussion over email marketing vs. social media. It remains one of the top posts on my blog. I think it’s a good idea to revisit this discussion now.  The biggest draw of social media was a recognition that we are moving more and more towards a need for sales and marketing to be conducted one-on-one, person to person. Prospects, especially in the B2B area, are demanding that messaging be highly relevant and that it must add significant value or it will be ignored, rejected and shut off. The same is also true in the B2C area but B2B is particularly plagued by a ton of noise. The only way for organizations and brands to break through is by delivering meaningful, useful, contextual and valuable content. That’s when you earn the right to be heard. That’s when the cycle of engagement begins and steadily gains momentum.

As B2B demand generation practitioners, we saw social media as the Mecca—the place where everyone will gather—so here was a channel to talk to all of our prospects at once. What’s even better? It’s free! Most of the time—at least free to play—not free to use once you add up all the resources required to engage. Plus, we all thought we could push a button, send out a bunch of automated messages and voila, prospects will come beating their way to our doorsteps.  Haven’t you thought of it like that and don’t you still wish it actually did happen? The dream of automation in social media marketing is not dead. It’s one that most of us still harbour, whether secretly or out loud. What we didn’t realize was that the social web is extremely demanding—it demands transparency, it is quick to identify “robots”, it craves humans. And soon we realized that social media is so freaking hard!

The tried and tested work horse of B2B marketing, i.e. email, got sidelined to make place for the shiny, new show horse, social media. The dream may have been to replace email and phone calls with social media but it didn’t work that way, did it? So do you think that social media is overrated? Here is one point of view, although I don’t entirely agree with it. There certainly is evidence to show that social media marketers do have reason to feel good. A study by Harris Poll last month showed that 84% of respondents believe in the power of social media marketing to help enhance relationships with existing customers and engage with key influencers such as the media. More details and statistics are available in this eMarketer article: Are Social Media Marketers Losing Confidence? The problem lies in a lack of alignment as far as an organizational social media strategy is concerned.

So, Who Wins? Email Marketing or Social Media?

Especially over this past year, email has been brought more into focus with savvy B2B marketers realizing the importance of the role it plays. The Direct Marketing Association finds that email marketing delivers an ROI of 4300%. According to this article, Forrester Research states that for every dollar spent on email marketing, the average return is over $44. Yet another study says email marketing will become a $6.5 billion market by 2018. Here’s a graph comparing different channels and their effectiveness in customer acquisition:

Customer acquisition growth by channel


But is ROI the ultimate test for the effectiveness of any tool? Does it mean you can reject one over the other? Or can they both play together in the same sandbox? Does one uplift the other? Does email marketing stand on the shoulders of social media because it is one of the best ways to increase your email list? It’s time to accept the fact that email and social media are not competitors. Yes, one is a work horse while the other is more of a show horse, but you need them both. The key is INTEGRATION of social media and email marketing—as shown in this Infographic.

Here are 2 useful resources to help your organization carry out this process of integration:

Did your organization choose to focus more on social media instead of email marketing? What were the results? Do you feel the need to change your demand generation strategy to improve conversion and heighten customer engagement? Need help with integrating marketing channels to achieve the best ROI and lead generation campaign results? Let’s discuss on my blog? Please leave me a comment.

You can also email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.   


image credit: Shutterstock

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


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