As someone who runs a curated newsletter for entrepreneurs, one question I am often asked by fellow entrepreneurs is about the futility of spending resources on a service that does not bring revenues directly. It is a valid question given that I spend over two hours everyday curating content for my subscribers. So what is the rationale behind spending resources on a property that does not bring any tangible returns? The answer to this is social credibility.
Before I elaborate on my answer, it is important to take a look at why newsletters are important. According to a recent study conducted by Radicati, there are nearly 2.9 billion email users in the world - that is more than the number of Facebook and Twitter users combined. With such a massive reach, it is a surprise that email marketing is not spoken of in the same breath as social media marketing or SEO. If "social media" can be an industry, so should email marketing be.
Besides reach, another important reason I am bullish about email newsletters is the decentralization of control. Unlike social media where Facebook and Twitter have the discretion to control what content gets seen and doesn't get seen by its users, email is basically a chronologically ordered list of content that needs to get seen by the user one way or the other. Of course, there are similar controls that exist in email as well (like Gmail's recently launched inbox tabs). But for a wide majority of users and purposes, the inbox layout has stayed the same and will continue to do so.
This presents a terrific opportunity to build credibility. The open rate of an email is dependent on two factors - the sender's name and the email subject. A recent study conducted by MailerMailer showed that personalizing the subject line alone helped increase the open rate by close to 3 percentage points. The sender name plays an equally important role since the open rate here is defined by the credibility the recipient places on the sender. That is exactly why spam emails from a sender named 'Barack Obama' gain higher open rates than one from a regular Joe. Keeping the subject line constant, emails from people you trust get a higher open rate than emails from people you do not.
Given these factors, it becomes quite obvious why an email newsletter is important for every business. Customers are more likely to trust a business that sends them periodic useful non-spammy emails than businesses that collect emails solely as a means to distribute marketing mailers. And when you are able to build customer trust, you win their patronage for life.
It is time marketers stopped calling Facebook and Twitter alone as medium for social communication. Email, one of the primary digital platform for communication is still one of the most social platforms around. And by mastering this medium, businesses are more likely to earn a loyal customer than they might on Facebook.