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Why is email treated like a commodity?

March 1, 2012

In our personal lives we make constant choices between luxury and no frills products. I buy a lot of own brand products but there are certain things I will not compromise on like baked beans, tomato ketchup and washing powder.

In general we follow the rule ‘you get what you pay for’. It seems in the marketing industry though there is one area where people are always prepared to cut corners: email marketing.

For some reason when it comes to sourcing an email marketing provider, the buyer’s main goal seems to be to secure a rock bottom price per email. There’s an inbuilt assumption that this type of marketing should always be done on the cheap – even among professional companies with a strong brand.   

A key part of a marketing professional’s role is to find reliable suppliers on whom you can count to deliver results and never let you down. Whether it’s a good telemarketing company, an agency to produce a new website or a CRM system, you never reach straight for the cheapest quote. It’s always a trade off to find a keen price but also to ensure that you’re working with the right people to get the best for your business. 

So how is it that we regularly see email marketing treated as a commodity? Where the only objective is to secure the lowest price per email or even choose to use freeware where possible. People rarely seem to talk of functionality, local support, finding the right email marketing partner or even how good the emails will look. If you are experienced, and design and create all your emails in house, then it’s certainly worth shopping around for a good pence per email deal, but don’t forget to look at support and functionality before committing.

I recently visited a local company with a very strong brand. Their web presence, billboard ads, internet advertising as well as their offices are of the highest quality. But they chose to send their emails via a US system for $100 a month. The system was like a Fisher Price email marketing tool and allowed them to use only a very limited number of headers and footers. It looked awful and did not provide a true representation of their brand. And a whole day could be lost if they required any assistance or support from the US team. The general feeling was: it’s email marketing so it should be cheap. However it meant that any other money they spent on their brand was being undermined and wasted by sending these substandard and unprofessional communications to their client base. To me it appeared as though they spent more money on their coffee machine, than on their email marketing: only a handful of clients would sample the coffee, but 20,000 people saw their emails.

Considering the amount of money that email marketing already saves compared to print marketing, it’s strange that people are so frugal in this area. For emails to stand out from the crowd and arrive in people’s inboxes looking as neat and stylish as they did when they left, you need to invest properly in the medium.  Email marketing is not an exception to the rule. You get what you pay for.

Posted by Jenni Malley

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