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Email Like It's 2012, Not 1999

by Karen Talavera  |  
April 9, 2012

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Three areas of email marketing that have evolved
  • How to modernize your email marketing for success in 2012

Though all things Internet seem to move at the speed of light and come or go overnight, commercial email marketing is, impressively, approaching its 15th anniversary.

I remember becoming involved with email first in 1999 and being impressed by the creative and technical possibilities—even though dial-up Internet connections still outnumbered broadband!

Although anti-spam software and abuse-prevention delivery rules have often thwarted the channel's technical capabilities since its early years (video in email was possible in 2000), no excuse justifies emailing like it's still 1999.

After a decade of following so-called best-practices, we should examine the core components of our email programs to be sure we're applying contemporary thinking and capabilities rather than simply running what worked (or was assumed to work) in the past.

Many best-practices are far from evergreen, and if they are not examined continually they become the No. 1 reason an email program slowly degenerates into mediocrity and produces diminishing returns.



Opt-in permission was a much-supported standard of early email marketing, but it was not legally mandated in the US. The result? To develop email lists, marketers often disregarded permission, favoring quantity over quality and adding email addresses to their files via all possible means—co-reg deals, list swaps, compilation of data from directories or prospect files, etc.

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Karen Talavera heads Synchronicity Marketing and writes about how to successfully use email, social, and content marketing on the Enlightened Emarketing blog. You can also follow Karen on Twitter (@SyncMarketing) and Facebook for daily tips and links to emerging email and social media marketing trends, facts, and research.

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  • by Andy from Benchmark Email Mon Apr 9, 2012 via web

    Great article! Is it wrong that I was secretly hoping it'd turn into an email marketing like Prince article? I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I know it would include a lot of purple...and the communication tool formerly known as email. At the very least, I'm hoping I planted a seed (cough cough hint hint).

  • by Kathy Mon Apr 9, 2012 via web

    Great article. Thanks, Karen. I work for cinemas and we have over 10,000 subscribers on our weekly e-newsletter list. However, unrelated to the unsubscribers, only about 1,500 - 1,800 ever open the email. Do you know what the average "open" rate is?

  • by Amber King Mon Apr 9, 2012 via web

    Email marketing should evolve as well. What works in 1999 will most likely not work today.

    Thanks for pointing this out Karen. Great article.

  • by Stephanie Tue Apr 10, 2012 via web

    Thanks for posting Karen. Love the comparisons between what works now and what worked in 1999. This truly is the time of taking chances and surprising your target population with the new and unexpected.

  • by Kelly McIvor Wed Apr 11, 2012 via web

    Good article but it misses out on another huge change in the way email is consumed - via mobile device.
    With so many people using their mobile devices for reading email as well as scanning to weed out the less important email marketers need to adjust many things about their techniques including:
    - Keep subject lines short. They won't get truncated but they also may not show completely. The effect is the same.
    - Limit images. Many Android phones don't display images as a default. If your messages is embedded in an image it will be lost.
    - Create mobile-friendly email designs. These are flexible designs that allow the email client to shrink or expand the email depending on the screen size of the device.
    For more on a mobile email strategy go here:

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