Is email still a valuable marketing tool?

Is an email a ‘below-the-line’ (BTL) activity, or is it part of an ‘above-the-line’ (ATL) mass media activity?

Secret Marketer

When I was a junior marketing manager, a campaign would comprise a period of ATL to build awareness and credibility, before a more targeted BTL stage using direct mail, email and telesales to generate demand for a product or service.

However, I am seeing more brands using email to drive awareness, rather than close deals. I receive three or four emails from the same brand every day. I used to be paranoid about pestering customers with too many contacts in a short space of time but that fear seems to be being ignored by other marketers. Either brands are getting desperate
or believe that because customers get so many emails, they have to send four in the hope that one will be read. Alternatively, perhaps it is my old adage that because email is perceived as free, it is much cheaper to hit customers with four of them than one ad.

Social is also changing the rules of marketing. While I am a fan of LinkedIn, I am getting suspicious about how people are using it. I get 10 to 20 requests to ‘connect’ every day. However, most of these are from people I don’t know. None come with any form of covering introduction explaining why they have requested me to link up.

Because I am a nice guy, I always respond enquiring about the reason for the request. Half of them I never hear from again but the other half do come back with a detailed explanation. I just don’t understand why they didn’t use that information in the first place. After all, is this any different to your marketing proposition? If you want a customer to do something, you use your best efforts to convince them to act – so why do we treat social media any different?

My conclusion is that people are starting to use LinkedIn as liberally as they do email – list brokers are selling potential contacts as people who meet a certain criteria, resulting in indiscriminate spamming. There is, of course, the other bunch, who see their number of connections as a representation of their business muscle.