What is the biggest challenge with email marketing? “Getting email results” is the obvious answer – and I hope that’s the first thing that popped into your head. But… is that REALLY the biggest challenge?


The biggest challenge with email marketing is something so simple you’ll be shaking your head here in just a second. Really.

It’s this: most people don’t realize that the results they are getting are lackluster at best.

How does this happen? Well, email service providers like Constant Contact perpetuate the idea that blasting advertising emails out to lists of people is “marketing.” (It’s not. That is advertising via email – which is quite different.) They play on your desire for “easy” and maybe even your desire for “cheap,” and they tell you that email has the highest ROI of any advertising tactic. That last bit is true, by the way; email DOES have the highest ROI of any advertising tactic you can undertake – but that still doesn’t make it “marketing.”

Here are three things that email service providers like Constant Contact simply don’t want you to know:

Number One (and possibly the most important):
You will improve your email results by a factor of ten or better if you create meaningful calls to action (CTAs) in your emails, with a 
follow-up nurturing sequence for each person who takes you up on your call to action. That’s “engagement.”

According to the Email Marketing Trends Report, the number one objective of marketers is to “increase clickthroughs.” That’s what we call engagement.  When people click through, something in your email interested them. The goal is to engage them, after the click, and in any subsequent communications. You can’t increase engagement with simple advertising emails.

Advertising, by its very nature, does not engage, doesn’t start a conversation. Advertising is presenting. Sending the same email to a bunch of people on a list, regardless of whether they’ve done anything to express interest in the topic – that’s advertising, and that’s all that most of the simple/cheap email providers allow you to do.

Number Two:
Auto-responders and lead nurturing are NOT the same thing.

Constant Contact, and many email providers like them, may allow you to set up auto-responders – an email or series of emails that get delivered to a specific list. The way it works in CC is that you attach an auto-responder (single or multiple emails) to a contact list, and you “set it and forget it.” When someone gets into that list (because they subscribe to it or you manually add them), they start getting the assigned auto-response emails.

Okay, that is a step forward, but nowhere near the capabilities that will double, triple, or quintuple your email engagement – it’s just automating the old batch-and-blast approach. Think about it this way: in Constant Contact, you add a lead to a list that has an auto-responder assigned to it – a series of three emails, each with a call to action. Sounds good so far, right? Except – what happens if your lead takes your call to action – or if they don’t take it? You end up crafting a series of emails, each with a DIFFERENT call to action, because you don’t want to keep telling people to do something if they’ve already done it, and there’s no way to handle that within an autoresponder. Here’s why it’s just bulk email sending (batch and blast): autoresponder emails get sent regardless of the actions your leads take.

With lead nurturing, on the other hand, you can send a series of emails suggesting a single call to action – and suspend that sequence automatically once they take the action, and automatically start them into a different sequence to deepen the engagement based on the action they’ve taken.  Nurturing is done in response to your leads’ agenda. Autoresponding is done according to your agenda. See the difference?

Number Three:
Triggering emails and email sequences in response to your leads’ real expressed interests (through their clicks, downloads, pageviews,  etc.) is the best way to increase engagement with those leads – and engaged leads are more likely to become customers.

Here’s the rub: you can’t do that with Constant Contact and their ilk. Looking at click-throughs on an email is only the beginning of how your leads are engaging with you – and it might not even be the real information that you actually need. We have multiple customer stories of how an email click-through was totally misleading and did not indicate the actual potential of the lead.

Fortunately, in WPMktgEngine, we have many ways to trigger emails, nurturing sequences, and even internal notifications of lead activities – but Constant Contact doesn’t have that capability – and you miss out on the opportunity to blow the roof off your conversion rate goals. When your actions are in response to your leads’ actions, you can double, triple, even quintuple your email results.

Simple, easy, and affordable – all are important words to small businesses; I know this from my own personal experience as well as from talking with hundreds of small business people. I get it.

But the first step to solving a problem is admitting that there is a problem. The problem here is that simple and cheap email service providers are, by and large, providing email results that they’ve managed to get folks to believe are great results. They’re not. They’re just results – not spectacular, not phenomenal, not blow-the-doors-off results.

If you’re okay with that, I get that too. Life is busy. On the other hand, I know how important customers and revenue are to you, and I know you want to do everything you can to get more of both of those things. If you can still have simple, easy, and affordable while getting better email results and more flexibility, wouldn’t you want that?

Of course you would.

Oh – here’s a bonus. Many email service providers would like you to continue to believe that open rates are important metrics. Stop that. 🙂 I wrote you a post about that a while back.

About Margaret Johnson

Margaret is a business and technology veteran who started marketing accidentally nearly three decades ago - when she was five and a true marketing prodigy (ahem). When not coming up with awesome ideas, presenting webinars, or teaching about marketing, she's living with two cats, a crotchety fellow, and a house full of antiques and collectibles. She does not use Pinterest.

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