Salt & Pepper #14 - Is Email Marketing Dead?


Technology moves fast and, with that speed, many business tools that were once thought to be indispensable are now facing hard questions about their viability in an ever-evolving marketplace. With that in mind, chefs Kirby “Salt” Hasseman and Bill “Pepper” Petrie take on a very interesting question: Is email marketing dead?


Kirby “Salt” Hasseman

No!  Email Marketing is NOT Dead!

Of course email marketing is not dead.  This reminds me of the discussion of “Does Social Media work?”  Of course it does.  If you are not seeing returns on your email marketing, it doesn’t mean the format doesn’t work…it means you stink at it.  

On the other hand, as Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Marketers Ruin Everything!”  It’s true.  We used to be excited to get email and now it’s a chore.  It’s a fact: open rates on email are much lower than they were 10 years ago.  

But that does not mean email marketing is dead…not by a long shot.  

Stop Renting Media:  If you look at any reputable marketing guru or organization and they will still ask for your email.  They might ask you to sign up for their newsletter or they might be willing to send you a free report.  Either way, they are constantly asking for your email.  Why?   Because it is still extremely valuable!  

Joe Pulizzi, author of Content Inc. (and several other best sellers) talks about this phenomenon.  He points out that we work so hard to have a high number of Facebook followers or YouTube subscribers, and that is great, but we don’t “own” those contacts!  The platforms owns them.  If they decide to change up their rules or algorithm (think Facebook) then we can’t do anything about it.   His advice is to use those other platforms to provide value so that you can get your contacts to “opt-in” and give their email to you!  That way you are not renting the media, you own it.

So just because your spammy, all sales emails are not breaking through, don’t blame email.  It’s not the fault of email…it’s you.


Bill “Pepper” Petrie

Is the fax machine dead? How about the landline? Or how about the yellow pages? Spoiler alert: they are all as dead as the proverbial doornail and email marketing isn’t far behind. So, while I won’t declare it dead like the business tools I spoke of above, it is most certainly on life support.

Here’s the problem: email is no longer special – and really hasn’t been for quite some time. We have all seen the cartoon that shows someone from 1995 being thrilled at getting an email while dreading the snail mail. Smash cut to 21 years later and the opposite is true. The sad and unfortunate fact is that while email marketing is easy and convenient to the marketer, which is why everyone does it, the audience simply has email overload.

So, while many champions of email marketing will pore over every picture, phrase, and word for hours as they attempt to cobble together something to grab the attention of the audience, it takes less than a second for the email to be deleted. Think about your own daily email intake, which likely tops out in the hundreds on a regular basis: do you ever truly take the time to read and digest all of them? Of course you don’t, as it’s not possible to do that and function at anything more than a mediocre level. You skim, file, respond, ignore, or delete.

If email marketing is stumbling towards the grave – and, rest assured, it is – what is a marketing executive to do? There are a variety of other marketing vehicles favored by our ever-evolving target audience: photo social like Instagram and Snapchat, content marketing, experiential marketing, and direct mail to name a few. The real key is to listen to your target audience and market to them in the way THEY want, not the way you want.

Yes, there are some that still experience success with email marketing and that’s dandy. However, that success rate is sinking faster than the Titanic. It’s time to shift marketing efforts to vehicles that the audience desires.