So You Say You Want to Sell?
Up until about the mid 1990s, salespeople got in touch with their buyers over the phone, in person, and through direct mail or direct advertising. Then, in about 1995, a little business called AOL popped up and we all came to absolutely love hearing, "You've Got Mail". Shortly after, in early 1997, Microsoft released Office 97 which included Exchange Server 5.5. At about the same time, Yahoo! and Hotmail came about, also offering email alternatives to AOL.
But, email has actually been around since approximately 1972, as attributed to Ray Tomlinson of the ARPANET Contractor network. Almost as quickly as it came on to the scene, email faced a new competitor for preferred communication not more than a few years later.
I remember when Facebook came around, in the early 2000s (mass adoption started in ~2004-2005). Only 5 years later, social media channels started to take over as the preferred user medium (2009) and actually surpassed email as the primary channel in which people spend their time in 2007.
Source and image credit: "Chart of the Day: Email's Reign Is Over, Social Networking Is the New King" http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-social-networking-vs-email-usage-2010-4
Why We Keep Emailing Even thought It's Killing Us
While email seems like the "cool" thing to do, especially when companies like MailChimp and Constant Contact are touting a 14-23% open rate for emails ... I equate email to smoking. It's easy. You send just one mass email campaign (first cigarette), get a small handful of responses (first nicotine high), and you're hooked.
What the end user of email (smoking) is missing is the reality that over 95% of the messages they're sending are at BEST doing nothing, and at worst creating brand damage (personal, company, or both). The remaining 5% are responses akin to, "Thanks for reaching out, but I'm not interested", or "Sure, let's set up some time to talk."
And of course, there are still studies that claim email marketing has a 40X return on investment, which just makes the whole thing more like smoking because it's just like Big Tobacco getting researchers to do studies showing that there is "no hard proof" that smoking causes cancer.
Don't Get Me Wrong - Email Is Still Effective In the Right Context
I know it sounds like I'm just complaining and trying to convince people that it's the "end" for email. But that's not completely how I feel either. I just think that B2B email marketing should be left to marketers -- people who are studying the effectiveness of messaging and the data to prove which types of emails work better than others. NOT salespeople. The salesperson should only be using email-based selling if a few specific conditions are met:
1. The email has been proven to be effective,
2. The email is personalized to the buyer pesona or buyer profile, and
3. The email is delivered via sales automation
We're Reaching the End of the Email Product Lifecycle
My thought is this... it's just time for us to all face reality and accept the fact that there are way too many emails in circulation today.
- The human race as a whole gets almost 200 billion emails daily.
- The average person get about 121 emails daily.
- Business emails specifically account for over 50% of all email in circulation -- almost 110 Billion.
Source: Email Statistics Report, The Radicati Group and Entrepreneur.com
It's also time for us to accept the reality that an 75-85% NO OPEN rate, and even high, NO RESPONSE rate is unacceptable. For we salespeople to survive and remain critical to a business, we must evolve. We must find new channels for communication. We must be the pioneers for breaking through the noise email has created for us all.
PS... this is the chart from People.AI that inspired me to write this article. It shows that I have received over 3,000 emails in the first 22 days in August 2016. Counting business days only, that's about 190 emails per day. In fairness, this is indeed a bit on the high side, but I don't think it's that far off the normal mark for anyone working in B2B sales today. All that noise just makes me think and say, "Enough is enough... I'm just going to ignore all the emails I get."